How One Woman Broke The Silence Around Child Sexual Abuse In India

Siliguri: She was 14 when her private tutor allegedly sexually assaulted her. He told her that it was her shame, that she was a bad girl, and that no one would believe her. She kept quiet.

Growing up in a middle-class family, she believed its honour rested on her shoulders, and that she should not do anything to bring shame to the family. She remained silent.

The silence endured for 22 years before she realised the shame was not hers. She spoke out, and when she did, her abuser was arrested.

Debolina Saha (she asked that we use her real name), who was until recently a corporate lawyer based in Hong Kong, is now hoping for justice in a child molestation case, in which the accused was arrested 23 years after the alleged crime and is now out on bail. “Justice is all I want,” she said, speaking to Article 14 from Maryland, where she had gone to be with her husband, an American citizen.

Having lost her job as a senior associate in a U.S. law firm in Hong Kong during the pandemic, she is currently focussed on her non-profit initiative called Internship Bank, which she started in December 2019 to provide internship opportunities to young women from lesser known colleges and financially challenged backgrounds.

Even as a 14-year-old, Saha showed promise as a student at the prestigious Loreto Convent in Darjeeling. She aced her studies and extracurricular activities both. Jitesh Ojha was hired as a private tutor who came home thrice a week to help her with science subjects when she was a student of Class IX.

The abuse did not start in a day. “At first, it was a casual side hug,” recalled Saha. “It did strike me as odd, but nothing to make an issue of.” In a matter of days, the casual hugging gave way to more aggressive sexual assault acts and before she could realise, he digitally raped her.

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