53% of children in India are victims of sexual abuse, out of which, most abusers were known to the child and were trusted. Most did not report the matter to anyone. Why? Speaking about sexual abuse is considered taboo in our society and the victim is always accounted answerable. Here’s the story of Sutapa Patre, who despite having faced sexual abuse all her life decided to fight for her rights and become a role model for others.
Here are some more stats to show how profound and gruesome sexual exploitation and human trafficking is. And mind you, these numbers are only India specific. Globally, almost 80% of the human trafficking is related to sexual exploitation, while the rest is bonded labor. India is the hub of these crimes in Asia. Illegal procuration of minor girls for sexual exploitation and/or bonded labor rose drastically by 416% between 2009-13. It was 237 in 2009, while the number increased to 1224 in 2013. Appalling isn’t it?
Sutapa’s own house brings back memories of trauma she’d faced as a child; memories she cannot erase…memories that will haunt her for life…memories that makes her the resolute woman that she is today. As a child, Sutapa had faced sexual abuse from close relatives. When she tried to confide in her parents, she was asked not to reveal it to anyone in case the family name was blemished. Amusingly, she was told to dodge her abusers when they came around. One day, she decided that she’ll not allow the pains to bother her. Sutapa decided not to stay shut. She took up training in Wenlido, a system of self-defence that involves physical and mental techniques in fending off attackers. The moves can help tackle sexual, verbal and physical abusers. It’s specifically designed for women. She mastered the art so that no man could ever violate her again.
Over a period of time, what started as an expedition of self-defense, gradually transformed into her extending a helping hand to others who have undergone the same predicament as her. Sutapa has empowered hundreds of girls and young women across West Bengal by training them in Wenlido.
“In most cases of sexual abuse, the tormentor is someone from the family. I grew up tormented. So I wanted to help others so that they didn’t go through the hell like I did” adds Sutapa.
Sutapa’s journey out of her village was cakewalk. Born into a famer’s family in Kamalpur village of Sunderbans, eyebrows were raised when she left the village for her education. Though her parents were supportive, neighbors and relatives questioned the decision. “What was the need to send a girl to school?” was the unanimous demand. But none of this deterred Sutapa. Alongside her education, Sutapa trained in Wenlido. Once she got a trainer’s certificate, she started sharing the martial arts form with other girls.
“Wenlido teaches a woman to not only apply physical moves but also mental techniques to ward off attackers. Unlike other forms of martial arts, many moves of Wenlido can be picked up in only three sessions.” she said.
From schoolgirls to homemakers, many have benefited from Sutapa’s lessons.
Sutapa has set up Amader Prerana in 2008 with the vision to help girls and women stir a greater sense of value and confidence within themselves. Sutapa takes keen interest in the day-to-day activities of the organization as she helps women realize their power and capacities.
Sutapa wants to work with 5 to 10 schools so that more girls can be trained. Sutapa dreams of a violence free world where women are viewed as equal citizens with valid claims to justice and freedom.