This blog is authored by Suresh Chhetry, Country Director, Healing Together Nepal and Advisory Member, End Violence Partnership’s Safe to Learn Initiative. It was originally published on the Global Partnership for Education website .
Suresh is an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse working to help other victims of abuse to heal from their trauma. He explains, through his own story, how education can be pivotal in preventing sexual violence on children and adolescents, and how everybody can help.
My history of abuse
I am an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse. At the age of seven I was sexually abused by a father’s friend, and then by my teacher, for several years. I thought that it was normal, as it was happening to each and every friend of mine in the village.
Even recently in my adult life I have come across someone who grew up in a nearby village that was sexually abused by the same teacher.
Nepal is a beautiful country with its natural blessings and the land of Buddha but it has a traumatic history and systemic issues which enable environments where violence against children is often allowed to go unchecked, including within the education system.
I have been a teacher for 8 years and my experience is that the education system in Nepal is more teacher centric rather than students centered.
There are efforts to address this and put children’s safety and learning at the center of their educational experience, but more must be done: now.
I want to make sure that what happened to me does not happen again, to my children, or any other children around the world. This is why I am so happy to be a part of the Brave movement to end the sexual violence against children and adolescents. We need movements like this and our children deserve it.
My healing and becoming a survivor
After and through my time of abuse I also experienced poverty, malnutrition and disease. I was afraid of people, I was in a dark and lonely place, I felt like a victim. So, when I left my village to study, I felt relieved. I started to learn martial arts, dancing and acting, they helped me to feel a sense of myself, and to build my self-esteem.
In time, as I started to heal and receive mental health support, I was able, more than 20 years after my first experience of violence, to start talking about what had happened, and to start being compassionate towards myself.
From then I went on to become a healing advocate in Nepal through Healing Together Nepal, where I have been training teachers and community leaders to support survivors, as well as to break cycles of trauma and violence. It is through this work that I’ve learned how much opportunity lies within school communities to end violence against children.
The universal nature of violence in schools
The issue of sexual violence in schools is a global one, and one that effects both boys and girls, everywhere around the world. It is estimated that 246 million girls and boys experience violence in and around school every year.
In some countries, up to 54% of children report experiencing physical and/or sexual school-related violence.
And according to UNICEF, “One in 10 girls under the age of 20 have been forced to engage in sex or perform other sexual acts”.
Role of education system in preventing violence
Situation of the sexual violence on children and adolescents can be prevented when schools are safe when teachers and children learn about sexual violence. School education is crucial to change the society and to end child and adolescents’ sexual violence.
If the schools are safe, if the children are taught about their rights and are treated with respect, I believe this will change the face of sexual violence. It is critical work with not just teachers, and school leadership, but parents and communities who are aware of stories of childhood violence and its consequences.
It is because of my belief that education can be the solution, despite my experience at school, that I teach and that I am joining the global initiative to end violence in and around schools as an advisor, Safe to Learn.
Safe to Learn is an initiative dedicated to ending violence in and through schools so children are free to learn, thrive and pursue their dreams.
Join the movement
Now, is the time to act to end sexual violence on children and adolescents. So, we are coming together as the Brave movement, with allies and supporters, to take bold, brave actions.
Let’s come together to end this most inhuman, silent pandemic of all time. Let’s all be Brave now, so children can be safe. #BraveMovement
Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash