On 26 July 2019, The Quint published a story on adult survivors of child sexual abuse. That story documented, largely, the CSA that a woman called Vidhi* suffered more than 30 years ago in a small city in Rajasthan and her coming to terms with it, as an adult. The story also detailed how Vidhi and her husband, both of whom live in Washington DC, America, are attempting to file a case against her perpetrator today – with the help of a confidante right here, in New Delhi. You can read the story here. What follows are the latest updates in both Vidhi and her confidante Nilesh’s* lives.
On 1 September 2019, Vidhi officially wrote to the NCW, India, from her home in Washington DC.
She told them what she had done so far – that she had filed a complaint with the national Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) cell. That she had contacted the Ministry of Women and Child Development, who informed her that her case could not be registered under the POCSO Act as that law had not been enacted when the incidents had happened (something The Quint had also reported in July 2019).
That the Ministry told her to contact the NCW to help her file a case of rape instead.
Vidhi was doing just that, she told the NCW in her email. She wondered – would the NCW offer her assistance with filing an FIR in the concerned police station?
“I am living in the United States and I am therefore far from India and also I am very much afraid for my safety if I return to India….,” she wrote. “My attacker (-) is an extremely violent man, as he showed by beating me for years during my childhood. Also, he has a reputation in my family for being violent, and for this reason my elderly parents are very frightened of him. I therefore ask for your assistance in registering the FIR for my complaint.”
(A screenshot of that email can be seen below)
A screenshot from Vidhi’s email.
(A page from Vidhi’s statement to the NCW can be seen below. Names and locations have been blacked out.)
A screenshot of a page from Vidhi’s statement.
Vidhi also sent the NCW a link to The Quint’s article featuring her story.
A screenshot of the article.
What happened after said email?
Vidhi says she got no response.
Her husband Stuart* and she then sought Nilesh’s* help in India.
“I printed Vidhi’s email to the NCW and submitted it to Room No 1 of their office in Jasola. I was given a sealed copy with a receipt number and the promise that something would be done,” says Nilesh.
It is on the basis of that 7-digit “receipt number” that the husband and wife have been calling the NCW for updates – but none have been provided till now.
“I don’t know if they’re going to do anything,” is the increasingly-resigned sentiment that pervades every email communication from them.
Why Does She Need the NCW?
Vidhi doesn’t want to come back to India until the NCW has registered her FIR.
She says she has spoken to some cousins her age who remember the late 70s and early 80s quite vividly – the time of her abuse. They remember, for instance, that when Vidhi’s father had come back to their Rajasthan home to pick up some of Vidhi’s stuff that she’d left behind, her alleged rapist apparently held her father at gunpoint.
“He threatened my father to stay away,” recalls Vidhi from her conversation with the many cousins who now live, spread out across continents. That is why, she insists, she cannot go public yet and cannot return home. What if they hurt her old parents?
Meanwhile. What Has the NCW Been Up To?
The Quint spoke to the National Commission for Women’s NRI cell which, technically, should be handling her case. The Quint was informed that her complaint had been transferred to the Rajasthan wing of the organisation, since that was the state where the complainant and the accused were based at the time of the alleged abuse and where the alleged abuse had taken place.
However, when The Quint spoke to the counsellor supposedly overseeing Vidhi’s case, she asked for a “case number” since the receipt number Vidhi had been given would apparently not help.
One was subsequently redirected to the Complaint Cell which provides “case numbers” for all complaints that come to them. The officer this correspondent spoke to, however, checked records and found that the complaint hadn’t come to the desk at all.
The NCW logo.It was finally understood that the case, while it had been “received” by the NRI cell and the Rajasthan wing, had not been forwarded to the complaint cell’s registration desk to give it a mandated case number so that proceedings could actually begin.
It has now been a month since Vidhi submitted her complaint.
The last time this correspondent spoke to the NCW, however, officials promised to have a case number within the day.
Meanwhile, what of Nilesh himself? How did he get involved?
As previously detailed, it had started with a strange email in April. An email from Vidhi’s husband who mentioned how hard it had been to track him down. The purpose, they had said, was “to warn you of the potential dangers to your son’s well-being”.
The rest of the information exchange spread itself out, in instalments, over months – the fact that Vidhi’s alleged abuser was her own cousin. That this cousin had eventually had a daughter who Nilesh had been married to, for years. That Nilesh was still connected to the alleged abuser since the latter was grandfather to his son. That he may have separated from his wife – but his young son lived with her, and therefore, saw her parents often.
Nilesh didn’t know what to do. Was his son really, occasionally, co-habiting with a serial abuser and rapist? The story of Vidhi’s torture at his hands – the whippings, the digital and penile rape, the threats to throw her into a brothel if she didn’t keep her mouth shut – horrified him.
So, Nilesh helped.
At the time, Nilesh had told The Quint he intended to file a contestation to the custody settlement that had his son living with his mother. “I have to do something to get him out of there,” he had said.
How Nilesh’s Ex-Wife Reacted to Her Father’s Alleged Abuse
Since July, when Nilesh’s claim was admitted by the court, he has been attempting to send court summons to his ex-wife Sneha* – each time with little success. “I gave her a heads-up,” says Nilesh, which began with him sending a photo to her.
It was a photo of Vidhi and Sneha’s father, back when they were much younger, and living in the ancestral property in Rajasthan where Vidhi alleges all her abuse took place. Sneha didn’t recognise Vidhi – Vidhi’s immediate family had hurriedly moved her out of the house to cover up “her shame” – but she did recognise her father.
“I told her, ask your dad about the girl in the photo. He’ll be able to tell you everything.”
It didn’t end well, says Nilesh. Sneha’s father – now a septuagenarian – allegedly claimed that the girl, his cousin, had at the time been raped by a a neighbour – causing her to move out.
“He accused Vidhi of being of ‘low character’,” says Nilesh.
Even when Stuart himself wrote Sneha an earnest email pleading with her to help (The Quint has seen the email exchange), there was no help forthcoming.
Child sexual abuse is often perpetrated by members of the family. Image used for representative purposes.
“When the first summons (which said I was contesting her claim because of her father’s crimes) was sent to her, she had someone say she didn’t live there. The court tried a second time – this time the summons actually went to that ill-fated house in Rajasthan where her family still live. They, too, claimed, none of the people mentioned lived there,” says Nilesh.
What does he plan to do next?
“Make a third and final attempt by sending it to her workplace. If she still refuses to accept them, I’ll make a list of the excuses and file a writ petition,” he says firmly.
(This story will be updated as and when more details emerge.)