In 1997, I was in Delhi directing a production of my play TARA when I happened to meet Anuja Gupta and Ashwini Ailawadi of RAHI. A year later, we met again and they proposed I write a play on incest. At that time my knowledge on the subject was little and insignificant. But I had a good feel about them and their work and I immediately said yes to the project...
I am deeply indebted to RAHI for making me write ‘30 Days in September’. I have been truly enriched. I hope the people who opened their doors to me, will accept this tribute to their courage, honesty and inner strength. Thank you, my friends, for making me see that your journey could well have been mine, or anyone else’s. All of us were children once and all of us loved, respected and trusted the adults around us who were in charge of our lives. That love could well have been, or it might have been, or it has been, reciprocated with abuse. This is the story of us.
Mahesh Dattani, Indian Director, Writer and Actor, on writing ‘30 Days in September’, (October 2001)
It's difficult to sum up my experience with RAHI. It's hard to talk about something and put in words how RAHI has changed me as a person. It is a part of me and forever will be. One month is a short time, but one month changed everything; who I am, how I see myself, how I see other people, how I talk to people. It is essential, especially if you are a woman, to stand up for what you believe in, in today's world. RAHI didn't just teach me about Child Sex Abuse, it taught me to stand up for myself no matter what. It taught me to be more open and compassionate. It also opened my eyes to a new world, a world we so often, unknowingly, and rather conveniently ignore today. One doesn't realise just how sheltered one is until you're exposed to the (forgive me for being blatant here) horrors of the big bad world. It really is a big bad world. RAHI has made me even more determined to do whatever I can to change it. Little steps and the smallest actions matter. People today are almost impossibly ignorant, they refuse to talk about things that make them uncomfortable, turn a blind eye towards undeniable realities. But I am fierce, and RAHI brought out that ferocity. CSA, sex education, be as they may uncomfortable topics, must be talked about. And I talk about it, with my friends and family, I'm starting small, but I have started. Bob Marley's lyrics come to mind right now - "Get up stand up, stand up for your right. Get up stand up, don't give up the fight." I will, now and forever fight for the rights of women, I will help break the silence surrounding CSA. This is what RAHI has taught me. It was an unforgettable experience, it is a part of me, and I cherish it.
Shreya Chaterjee, Summer Intern 2013
RAHI was not something I had expected would happen for me. Mostly because of the issue it deals with, the atmosphere at home about sex and sexual abuse, and sexual abuse of children being something that I had never given much thought to. The beginning of the internship brought disturbing images to my mind. Nevertheless I opened myself to the discussion.
We conducted day-long outreach programs in public spaces like Janpath and this was the best part of my internship. My initial fear before going for the outreach was whether I will be able to put across my ideas to people with sensitivity. As I began, this fear subsided and I carried on with more and more spontaneity in the interactions with the public, some of which were reassuring and some abysmal in terms of ignorance or a complete denial of CSA’s occurrence. We were familiarized with the framework in which our general public thinks.
CSA is something that affects everybody and not just the survivor. It reflects certain values which if not facilitate but will create conditions of sexual abuse. Apart from patriarchy, the process of marginalizing the weak i.e. the children, is also a system that allows sexual abuse to happen. From a psychological perspective, I learnt the lasting effects that CSA can have on one’s self and personality. The person could imbibe certain qualities which are in defence of the repressed memory of the trauma. I also learnt how to initiate conversations with children about sexual abuse and how the child indicates having been sexually abused, all of which was very informative. I was shocked to know that most of the abuse takes place in the home environment with relatives and known people as abusers. This made me wonder about the safety of my own children in the future and safety of all children. Before RAHI, I underestimated the importance of talking and valued big structural changes over a personal connection with people where they just talk about their own views. The latter is a very important part of our culture and can keep abuse at bay. As long as people are made to feel comfortable while talking about sexual abuse, we cannot expect changes to happen. Transformation is a slow and surprising process. We never know when CSA meets its end along with its underlying oppressive value systems. Till then, “Talk, talk, talk till it stops!!”