Whilst we are interviewing Renu she receives a phone call. On the other end of the line is a girl from a provincial town in the North India. She was raped by a married man. The girl confided in her mother. Unfortunately mothers often don’t believe the reports of their daughters, or are under such pressure from society that they can’t do anything about it.
The girl’s mother discussed the situation with the village priest, upon which they decided that the girl should undergo a ritual for cleansing and telling the truth. This was to take place the following day. To test the truth she would have to touch a glowing hot metal rod! If the young woman burns herself on it, she is declared a liar!
The girl knows that this test is nonsensical. Renu explains her her rights on the phone. The village is too far away for an immediate extraction. Instead she is given instructions on how to flee from the situation and explains what measures have to be taken.
The importance of calling a national paramedic upon coming to the main road is emphasised. Every unofficial transportation poses a great risk, such as a taxi for example. When a victim flees on her own, the risk of being abused again is big!
A state hospital is in general considerably safer, as it is under strict surveillance and control. Once there, the abused girl would have to undergo a thorough physical examination, as it can provide vital proof of sexual exploitation.
Renu stresses that every woman in this situation should get examined. Unfortunately most women do not know of it, or are too frightened to take this step.
Samadhan has an innovative and modern setup. It is a crisis intervention centre with a 24h helpline, from which women in danger receive immediate help and advice on the phone.
Simultaneously up to 50 women can be housed here. Samadhan offers a five year training program. It is about the empowerment on every level: one to one and group therapy is offered for traumatic rehabilitation as well as education in an area of inclination and interest. The aim is to enable these women to live self sufficiently in both living and workplace.
By broadcasting their work in radio and television programs, Renu informs women in the region about this extraordinary way out. In the awareness-camps many more women are reached that would have otherwise never heard of Samadhan.
Yet it becomes apparent on the campus that a much larger, stationary centre for women is needed, in order to provide even more effective help for the women that are in need of much more than legal guidance.
Samadhan has many enemies. Rapists of the saved women will stop at nothing trying to harm Samadhan or even implicate Renu, in order to get her imprisoned.
These men are involved in human trafficking and want to stop Samadhan from saving the women. They would rather sell them abroad or into Indian brothels. The list of enemies, which has accumulated over the last 35 years of work for women, is very long.
Accordingly the safe house is comparable with a stronghold, with its high walls and obstructed views by using curtains and frosted windows.
Renu and the women have often been victim to an attack.
When the house was first built, a large expanse of meadows had surrounded the house. The women used this green space at their leisure, free of concern. Meanwhile a lot of construction work has been done in Dehradun and the surrounding nature has been replaced with new buildings, exposing the safe house to new dangers.
Now they can be watched and filmed from there, and once they were even attacked on leaving the premises. Luckily the attack failed, thanks to the quick reaction of one of the women, holding her umbrella between the acid attacker and herself with the other women. Some of the acid still managed to burn one of the women on her leg and foot, but the worst had been held off.
Samadhan releases the women after their empowerment and graduation into their new, independent life, without any expectations. The only promise they are asked to make, is to help other women in need. It is essential that they cut their connection to Samadhan completely, so they would not be targeted by Samadhan’s enemies.
This is another point which illustrates the importance of a new centre for women in need, with a greater expanse of land that warrants a higher level of security.
The demands for Samadhan’s services grows continuously by touring through the rural areas with the mobile intelligence bus (awareness-camp, public relations), that reaches out to more women daily.
Therefore we know that we can provide very effective help for these women of India by building a women’s centre in Dehradun in North India, which provides space and protection for up to 300 women in emergency situations due to domestic violence and sexual exploitation.