LEADS, a national NGO operational since 1978, has been devoted to rehabilitating child survivors and addressing the structural issues that obstruct proper child protection in Sri Lanka.
LEADS stands out as a singular agency providing specialised residential therapeutic and psycho social care for survivors of child sexual abuse, along with legal guidance, policy and family work. The holistic approach adopted by LEADS in dealing with the effects of child abuse and neglect and the dedication of staff towards this cause has led to a number of success stories over the years.
Little Theatre Group and its Director Angelo Pereira has developed the drama – ESCAPE, based on six true stories of survivors of child sexual abuse. The drama would also be interspersed with monologues addressing aspects surrounding the issue; How do you help a child who is sexually abused? Can you make their experience go away? Can you heal them somehow from their wounds? What is available in our system to support a survivor? A survivor of child sexual abuse will also speak on the issues faced and the aspect of dignity.
The monologists are: Jayanthi Kuru-Uthumpala, Kumudini David, Dhanan Senathiraja, Chevaan Daniel, Hans Bilimoria and Roshan Mendis.
Commenting on the event, LEADS CEO Roshan Mendis said: “The drama ESCAPE is an effort to bring the realities and complexities of the issue of child sexual abuse to the fore and advocate for action among the key leadership from all sectors, of our nation.”
“The old adage about sticks and stones seems to imply that the most lasting damage is caused by broken bones. However, the sad reality, I have come to realise is that, the wounds and damage of child sexual abuse runs deeper than the bone and the scars penetrates to the very soul of a child, even into adulthood and beyond. Often I have seen that since the wound is not physically evident, we brush it aside as non-existent or minimise it. Little realising the cost and impact of such suppression, upon society; Causing low productivity as a result of emotional distress manifested through workplace conflicts, family breakdowns and inter and intra personal dysfunctionality. It is time to take the needed steps to arrest the damage through appropriate means and justice not only legislated, but active and seen to be done, to rid this terrible evil from our shores,” noted Mendis.
Children are universally believed to be the epitome of innocence. Yet the reality that is not so readily acknowledged is, that this very ‘innocence’ has rendered them the victims of vulnerability. Recent statistics indicate an alarming increase in child abuse-related complaints, those received from January to July 2016 being 6,548, while the year 2015 showed a total of 10,732 reported cases, with many cases going unreported.
Most people think that we need to warn children to be careful of certain places, but we fail to warn them of the expected safe places, which unfortunately is where abuse also happens. The fact is that abuse is not just a ‘stranger danger’. Sadly, child sexual abuse is prevalent in the very places one would think the child is safest. In the home, in the neighbourhood, in schools and even in places of worship. Most of the times the perpetrators are known persons. Someone with easy access and trust. Ironically, which in most instances is why an adult to whom an incident is reported struggles to believe the story.
Parents and children need to be made aware. There needs to be an environment where we can talk about these issues openly without any stigma attached. We have to face the reality that this is an issue in our society and needs to be openly addressed. In order to address the dire need to advocate against gender based violence, it is time we showed solidarity for such vulnerable children on a wider platform, and worked together in making Sri Lanka safe for both women and children.
The drama will go on boards on 7 and 8 September at the BMICH and will be by invitation only. If you need further information, please call Diordre on 0773 187652.