It was a hide-and-seek game the six-year-old was forced to play to escape from her uncle. After repeated sexual assaults that left her with multiple injuries, she was found hiding in a dry well. Rescued after 14 hours, she was moved to Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), Ludhiana.
"The patient was unconscious, her blood pressure not recordable. Her rectum and vagina were torn and about three feet of the small intestine prolapsed out through the perineum. There was a lacerated wound in the frontal region and multiple bruises all over the body," the four DMCH doctors who operated on her stated in a clinical brief that was, later, documented in the Indian Journal of Paediatrics in June 2009.
Dr Sushil Budhiraja, paediatric surgeon who led the team, says the case was reported in the journal to demonstrate the severity of the violence a child might be subjected to during sexual assault.
"Operating repaired her rectum, vagina and perineum but what about the mental scars? In our system, there is a major limitation of psychological follow-up of such cases, though the patient was for some time supervised by a paediatric psychologist," he says.
Problem of secrecy
Dr Budhiraja has not seen many cases of child sex abuse come to private hospitals such as the DMCH, and among those that do, some are severe enough to require surgery.
"At times we suspect sexual abuse but don't ask for details. The child is not able to tell us the story and the parents prefer not to," he adds.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, which was aimed at ensuring stringent provisions to nail the offenders abusing children, has only made the problem of secrecy more profound, say doctors.
"The cases coming to doctors or child helplines need to be reported to the police. Families avoid it because the police are not seen as sensitive to these issues," says Dr Simi Waraich, consultant psychiatrist at Fortis Hospital, SAS Nagar.
"Fearing legal complications, the parents think the problem is best kept under wraps but the long-term psychological effects can be damaging, as some victims may require both medication (if they develop obsessive compulsive disorders (OCDs), bipolar depression or other psychiatric problems) and regular counselling," Dr. Waraich said.
"Sometimes, children repress the memories of abuse but they manifest, later, in their life in the form of panic attacks, depression and psychiatric disorders."
The post-trauma complications make follow-up imperative, says Dr Harshindar Kaur of Rajendra Hospital, Patiala.
Citing the case of a girl (12) from a Patiala village, whom a daily-wager had raped, she says the victim had developed obsessive compulsive disorder and she would keep washing her hands or taking bath, thinking she was dirty.
"I have been to more than 150 villages in the state, counselling families to stop female foeticide. The women tell me why give birth to one who is not safe either at home or outside," she adds.
Read:HT impact: Patiala deputy commissioner orders probe
The HT story highlighting the plight of innocent daughters of drug addicts and alcoholics in Punjab elicited various responses. Here are some of them.
As fathers become devils at homes, and toddlers give out painful cries; as mothers struggle to save the girls, and tears trickle down their eyes; as the land of Gurus loses religiosity, and drugs invade us with all their might; my hands go up in despair to ask Nanak, when will you listen to their plight?
PRAVEEN SINGH, PATIALA
The report “High on drugs and liquor, men prey on infant, young daughters in Punjab” (May 9) based on the case diaries of Dr Harshindar Kaur is a shocking picture of society. Alarming equally is the insensitive medical examination of the victims.
ASHWANI K MALHOTRA, LUDHIANA
Unite against drugs
Drug menace is not a sickness but a symptom. The 17 Nawanshahr panchayats’ coming together to fight drug abuse is a step to appreciate and emulate. The administrative machinery might hit a snag because of faulty political mechanism but our collective awareness and united effort will save our children.
TEJWINDER KAUR, PATIALA
Punjabis were the people who defended woman’s honour at any cost but now I am petrified to read about the rape of innocence in the land. We have sold our Punjabiat, our soul, to the devil of drugs and alcohol, which brings out the monster in civilised men.
SHAILARJEET KAUR SARKARIA, AMRITSAR
Infants pay the price
Drug trafficking in Punjab involves higher ups and their protected brood of minions, so who would want it stopped, even if infant and young daughters of the state are paying the price. Blinded by drugs and alcohol, their fathers have turned predators. For the victims, economic independence is the best rehabilitation.
KB SHARDA, VIA EMAIL
Expose drug traders
The reporting of druginduced incest and child abuse was fearless. I hope you will dig further and find out the drug traders responsible and why they are free to corrupt society. Let us know how they are able to hide their illegal earnings. Expose them and tell us why public is afraid of them.
TC SAINI, VIA EMAIL
The fall of man
The doped and drunken men’s preying on daughters is a sign of Kalyug, the age of downfall. The politician-mafia nexus is to blame solely for the tragic scenario in Punjab. Unless the punishment is strict, the crime will increase.
MANJEET SINGH, SAS NAGAR
The next poll issue
It is an irony that every political party, police officer, and official agency in Punjab condemns drug menace, yet the crime flourishes, making children now the indirect victims. It could only mean that these parties collude with the traders. Drug abuse is so extensive that it might be the only issue in the next Punjab elections.
RAGHUNATH CHHABRA, CHANDIGARH
Unsafe even in the house
Why always the daughter should suffer? Why is woman not safe even in her house? The Patiala shocks me the most, since the victim is left with no one to trust. The incidents shame the father-daughter relationship.
SIMREET CHAHAL, SANGRUR