The seven-year-old rape victim
As journalists, we are told to be neutral, to leave our emotions aside and not become part of the story. There comes, however, a point when you just cannot write the word-by-word account without getting emotional. Your fingers refuse to proceed with the story as if not writing it would somehow reverse time.
My breaking point came when I was asked to edit a story about a seven-year-old girl raped in Dera Ismail Khan. When one works for a newspaper, one can argue that coming across rape cases can become a routine.
But this case was different. Though the girl survived the gruesome act, was treated and thankfully not killed by her family ‘in the name of honour’, there was a very disturbing side to it. The accused, who was later arrested, had a pigeon net on a rooftop and would invite the neighbourhood children to come and play there every day.
He took our seven-year-old victim to his roof to ‘play’, leaving the rest of the kids behind.
That unsuspecting innocent child did not know what lay ahead of her and fell victim to this man’s monstrous desires. According to the story filed by the reporter, the investigation officer “speculated this was not the first time the accused assaulted a child”. This means there was a possible paedophile in the neighbourhood who lured children to his house and sexually assaulted them.
Parents then proceed to demand justice for their families, aid and treatment. The rapist might be convicted for the felony. What this punitive action cannot do is erase the moments that traumatised that seven-year-old for life.
Did her parents and those of others not think for a moment to inquire about whom their child was spending time with?
In situations like these, parents are just as much at fault as the accused. They put their children in a situation where anyone can take advantage of their innocence. In a society where such horrific incidents are commonplace, parents need to be vigilant.
Whether it’s the child working at a workshop, the babysitters in our homes or the children employed as domestic help, all parents must be aware of the possible dangers out there. They should routinely ask their kids if someone is trying to get too close to them or doing something that is making them feel uncomfortable. And they should create an environment at home where children do not shy away from telling their parents if someone has tried to abuse them.
Our media and society also needs to highlight these issues. With rising number of child-rape cases, these issue need to be taken from the printed copy of a newspaper and presented on TV, as dramas, to create awareness in the society. Schools must also hold seminars involving both parents and children while teachers can play the role of a parent in the classroom by informing the students about the dangers. It might take a long time for something such as sexual assaults to be outrightly spoken against, but the taboo needs to go.
Maybe, just maybe, if one of the children in that neighbourhood had told his/her parents about the paedophile, the accused would not have had the chance to rape.
Read more by Farah here or follow her on Twitter @batool_farah