(New Delhi) “When I had applied for Masters in Social Work, it was still a new course. The course covered all the areas: women’s rights, child rights, health, education and Psychology. This was a challenging but very enjoyable course. I have been counseling survivors of sexual assault, rape and domestic violence for seven years. My first task is to understand what the victim wants, which is determined through pre-counseling. We, at Shakti Shalini, provide a shelter home for security and counseling.
There has been a change in attitude of the police after the Nirbhaya incident. The situation is slightly better now. But sometimes when the complainant goes to the police directly, they refuse to register a complaint. If they make a complaint through Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) or an NGO then the police take the complaint seriously and are even supportive. In cases of rape of minors, the police is helpful and supportive. But they generally try to avoid registering cases involving live-in relationships.
Sometimes, victims are not comfortable with the police because of their tone. For instance, they ask “tera naam kya hai” (what is your name) and we ask “aap ka naam kya hai” (what is your name). It is the same question but very different way of asking. These are some of the experiences. In cases of minors, we provide support till the case is over. In other cases, we support for as long as they need us. Some of them may already have a lawyer so they may not need a lot of facilitation.
We handle a lot of domestic violence cases too. We provide simple counseling to inform them about their rights, how we handle cases, and how the legal process works. A lot depends on the complainant. There are some complainants who don’t want us to meet their husbands so we stop after a simple facilitation. But if the complainant wants that we should speak to the husband then we have a simple process. We send a notice to the husband. We send at least three notices for them to appear. Then we try to have a telephonic conversations, and if we don’t get a response even over the telephone, we make home visits to ask him to come for a meeting on a certain date. We don’t end the matter after listening to one party. After talking to both parties, the matter may get resolved amicably. Usually, if there is a dispute between family members they try to avoid sitting together. When they are here and in front of each other, they talk and get an opportunity to fix the relationship.
Sometimes we get harassed by the accused but it is part of the job. It has happened to me a couple of times. Once an accused was constantly asking me to stay away from his matter. I told him that if he tried talking to me after 5 pm or tried to attack me, I would lodge a formal complaint against him. After that he backed off. I talk in a respectful manner and the same is expected from others as well. My family is very supportive and understands my work and commitments.
The job occasionally affect your personal life. When we are alone and evaluate the current situation then sometimes we feel there are only problems in our society. The positive outcomes of our cases help us to restore our faith. As a counselor and as an individual, I have a simple message: whenever we are working with a case, we should not be judgmental. I really like the concept of Shakti Shalini where we work on gender-based violence. We need to work with the problem no matter the gender. We need to keep our approach simple.”
(Shakti Shalini is an NGO in New Delhi working on gender-based violence.)