Pursuing Justice for Child Victims of Sexual Offences

Registering a police complaint of sexual offence against children is just the first step in the long process of seeking justice. As a parent, trusted adult or CWC-appointed support person of a child victim of sexual offences, we are expected to accompany the child as they pass through the justice system. It is a system comprising of various stages spread out over an indefinite period of time. And for someone who experiences it for the first time – it may be confusing and overwhelming. And if you feel overwhelmed, so does the child.

Aarambh India’s “Things to Know When Pursuing Justice for Child Victims” Series hopes to enable you to prepare yourself to support the child as you travel through the system. Shielding the child from scenarios that may re-traumatize them, ensuring child friendly practices are followed and empowering the child to deal with the system can go a long way in assisting the court in the prosecution of the accused.

Child safety and child protection are active state of affairs. The best-laid systems and guidelines do not make a child-friendly atmosphere. It is an ideal that you need to constantly work towards.

  • Ensure that you and the child knows in detail about the justice system and the procedures to follow. E.g:- if the child is being taken to court for giving the statement, describe that scenario that is going to unfold in as much detail as possible.
  • Speak to the child about the rights that they have – the right to ask for a break, the right to refuse consent etc. This should be done age-appropriately.
  • When speaking to the child about procedures – use the word ‘may/maybe’ and ensure that there is room to expect the unpredictable. Each case plays out in a different manner. And it is important that the child is kept in the loop of this unpredictability. eg:- tell the child you may be called to the court another 3 times or maybe more.
  • Ensure that the child is never thirsty, hungry, restless, and anxious. This can be done by ensuring that the child eats regular meals, carrying some food and water with you at all times, engaging the child in simple activities like mobile games and constant conversation with the child.
  • Know the rights and responsibilities of everyone involved – child, the police, the judge, the lawyers, doctors, nurses, you etc. If they are not being implemented, ensure that there is course correction through appropriate interventions. If you are the support person, ensure that the parents and trusted adults are aware of this as well.
  • If the child ventilates or expresses concern – listen to the child patiently and respond gently and appropriately.
  • At the end of the day, when a procedure is complete – ensure that the child is taken to a park or a beach where they are engaged and their minds cuts off from the experience in court. Promise them this and once you have, it is important to keep this promise.
  • As a parent/trusted adult/support person, you yourself must remain calm, composed and patient no matter how frustrating the proceedings can get. The child may mirror any display of restlessness or anxiety on your part.
  • It is good practice to keep a professional counselor involved and have regular sessions with the child in case there is a need to.
  • Justice must not be the only goal of the rehabilitation of the child victim. As the child journeys through the justice system, it is important to focus on other aspects like psycho-social wellbeing, education & vocation etc. The aim of all these processes is to give the child a sense of closure and the minimize the disruption caused by the incident of the offence.



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