Eighty per cent of rape victims are likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder due to the associated stigma if not kept out of public eye.
Such disorders can be avoided if the privacy of victims is maintained, says Dr Pulkit Sharma, a consultant clinical psychologist and psychoanalytical therapist at VIMHANS.
Unlike the West, India does not a have a set protocol for the rehabilitation of rape victims. Maintaining privacy is also not the priority of the authorities as was evident in the case of the 13-year-old rape victim who attempted suicide for the third time on Monday. The girl had been kept in the general ward of AIIMS.
Experts say psychological rehabilitation of a rape victim must start from day one, and the first step towards it is to maintain confidentiality. “One must not wait for physical injuries to heal. Psychological counselling should be a part of the set-up,” Sharma said.
Rape victims should also be treated by one set of doctors as it takes a lot to build trust after what has happened. The entry of visitors should be restricted and the victim should not be kept in a general ward.
“There is a clear guideline among several laws, be it The Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act or the newly amended rape law, about the identity of the rape victim. The identity cannot be disclosed.
The hospital must do everything to protect her. By keeping her in the general ward, the hospital violated the norm. Moreover, we didn’t know whether she was taken to the intervention centre or not,” said Amod Kanth, general secretary, Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre.
“Our counsellor was informed of the attempt to suicide by the mother of the girl. She was worried about the stigma as she was kept in the general ward. Everyone in the ward was curious about her.
The hospital handled her suicide attempt very casually, especially when she is a victim of sexual abuse and was shifted to AIIMS for better treatment and handling,” Raaj Mangal Prasad of Pratidhi NGO said.
One of the NGO’s members managed to meet the girl briefly at AIIMS but was later asked to leave by the hospital authority.
Experts say rape victims need constant monitoring, sometimes for years, after they leave the hospital. Some of them may even require anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication.
The role of family becomes very important. “Family members need to be counselled to deal with rape victims. They must know what not to discuss in front of him/her, not leave them alone and learn to control their emotions,” said Sharma.