According to the National Study on Child Abuse that was carried out in 2007, over 50 percent of the child respondents reported an exposure to one or more forms of sexual abuse, whereas over 20 percent of them had faced it in severe forms. The survey remains the largest of its kind in the country thus far, collecting information from over 17,000 respondents across 13 states.
Reema Ahmad was sexually abused by her cousin when she was six years old. Rina D’Souza was abused, also by a close relative, when she was seven. It took both women more than a decade to be able to acknowledge and speak about their ordeals. Ahmad and D’Souza both described feeling a sense of guilt, which persisted long after the abuse was over. In a conversation in a living room in Delhi, they recount their abuse and their journey to recovery. They discuss how families ought to react to survivors, and how law-enforcement authorities could deal with abusers.