As the world continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, Amita Swadhin is worried about another global health crisis.
“I think we should all use the phrase global pandemic to talk about child sexual abuse,” Swadhin tells Yahoo Life.
According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), Every 9 minutes a child is sexually abused. Swadhin was one of them. In 1991, at the age of 13, she told her mother that her father had been sexually abusing her for years.
“I was raped more than 400 times in my house, between the ages of 4 and 12. And my mom, like a lot of parents who are in shock and probably trying to do the right thing – belatedly but trying – my mom called a therapist and she didn’t know what mandatory reporting was. It is,” says Swadhin.
Mandatory reporting required the doctor to alert the authorities, and for Swadhin, that experience only added to his trauma. “Social workers, police officers and prosecutors descended on our house. And I use that word intentionally because that’s what it feels like,” says Swadhin. “They threatened to jail my mother, who was a victim of my father’s violence for more than 16 years.
“It was a really hard extra layer of violence from the state when we really needed community support,” she explains. “My mother is also an immigrant from India. …we needed our community to come together and protect us and we didn’t get that.
Now 30 years old Swadhin has turned her personal pain into activism. After receiving a fellowship from the Just Beginnings Collaborative, Swadhin traveled around the country for a year and a half, interviewing LGBTQ and people of color who have survived child sexual abuse. She recorded 60 stories in 15 different states and began uncovering emerging trends from that date. out of that, mirror memoir was born.
“Mirror Memoirs uses the audio archive as a building block, then spins that into tools to organize the stories. So we have an outside wing of our work that takes data from stories and clips and from our community. Beyond educates people,” says Swadhin.
“For child sexual abuse survivors to come out, I think it’s a parallel process of coming out or coming out of the non-binary — two other pieces of my identity,” says Swadhin. “Our intervention in rape culture is about uplifting what we think are some of the most vulnerable survivors, who are often left out of movements to end sexual violence. We are particularly concerned with the Black and Indigenous view of child sexual abuse. Spirits focus on transgender, intersex and nonbinary survivors,” says Swadhin.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention It is estimated that one in four women at birth and one in 13 boys experience sexual abuse in childhood. US In the U.S., a child of the non-conforming gender higher risk for abuse.
“We must seek the leadership of transgender women, especially transgender women of color, to be the face of our movements to end child sexual violence,” Swadhin says.
To address the insidious nature of childhood sexual abuse, Swadhin routinely invokes the systems that allow it to flourish. While state services are designed to offer help, Swadhin says many survivors of sexual abuse are victims of sexual violence from the state.
“Many of our members, we have more than 500 members across the United States, were raped or sexually assaulted in state custody, whether in a police station, in prison, in a juvenile detention center, in an immigrant detention center or even Even a state-run psychiatric institution, staffed, by members who were licensed by the state to exercise authority over them,” says Swadhin.
“We have to learn how to care for each other and build networks of trust and care with each other,” she explains.
One way to empower children to build safe and trusting relationships is by giving them the tools to express what is happening to them. According to Swadhin, many children who are being raped or sexually assaulted only disclose it to the other child. This is one reason why she remains a staunch supporter of inclusive sex education curriculum.
“This includes education on the global epidemic of child sexual abuse, as youth are already experiencing this violence,” she says. “Young people are already talking to each other about it. They don’t have the training to support each other when mental health is poor. They often don’t know that their experience is sadly unique. No, that this is part of a public health crisis, and that we need to better equip our youth.”
Mirror Memoirs is one of several coalitions fighting for policy changes that will create safe and supportive resources for children who are sexually abused. Swadhin knows the grief that comes with addressing sexual trauma. She also knows how important community is to addressing sexual violence, promoting healthy relationships, and finding a way to heal.
“For most of us who were raped or sexually assaulted as children, especially by members of our family or in our homes, it is very difficult to learn these basic things, but we have to figure out how. How to strengthen our ability to be in relationships, because that is really the only thing we have to depend on for our healing and our health,” says Swadhin.
To know more about Amita Swadhin’s work and upcoming Archives project, visit mirror memoir.
-Video Produced by Jackie Cosgrove
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there is help available. RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7 for survivors with free, anonymous support. 800.656.hope (4673) and online.rainn.org.
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