After a year’s wait, the counselling room at the district child protection unit (DCPU) became functional on Tuesday. The room is meant for counselling of children who are victims of crimes under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act and need a quiet, private place to tell counsellors about their experience.
The unit also got a district child protection officer, Ritu Rani, recently. She had joined in December and conducted her first inspection on Tuesday. She was earlier deployed as counsellor in the Child Care Institute (CCI) in Sonepat.
The DCPU falls under the purview of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). The Hindustan Times had reported in its December 7 edition on the lack of infrastructure at the CWC office in the old Sales Tax building near the mini-secretariat. The district administration has also hired translators and counsellors for the CWC.
CWC and DCPU staff members said victims take time to open up and rarely understand or communicate their feelings after child abuse. They need privacy and proper counselling to develop confidence in officials.
The counselling room will be made child-friendly and a small chocolate machine will also be installed in it soon, said additional deputy commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh. The aim is to provide an environment where children feel free to speak, he added. The department will also have video conference facility soon to record victims’ statement, Singh said.
“We will beautify the counselling room soon with vibrant colours and stickers to make the child feel at home. Children should feel at ease when called for counselling. Toys would be kept for them to ensure they are occupied and feel rejuvenated,” he said.
Each counselling session requires time and privacy. “A victim who used to come to us was seen feeling uncomfortable while talking as we never had a separate room for counselling. Due to lack of infrastructure, counselling was conducted in any office room found unoccupied at the time. When office staff used to occupy the room, we had to ask them to leave, which used to hamper work,” said Sunita Sharma, district programme officer, women and child department, Gurgaon.
“Police officials often confront the victim or ask them to recollect the experience immediately, which often leads to trauma. We encourage the victims to express themselves in a safe environment in the presence of parents. Or if they want, to avoid telling (about their experience) in front of them,” said Shakuntala Dhull, chairperson, CWC.