Priya* is the second child in her family of three siblings. Her father passed away after an accident when Priya was just 12 years old. Her mother is employed as a cleaner at a local temple. She leaves for work early in the morning and returns late evening. Priya’s older brother married soon after he turned 18 and settled in Colombo with his newly wedded wife. Priya and her younger brother were left to themselves. There was no one to look after them or even cook them a proper meal.

These difficulties severely affected their education; so, Priya and her brother decided to give up on school. She and her brother suffered tremendous feelings of insecurity, loneliness, depression and mental anguish They did not have anyone to share or listen to their problems.

A kind-hearted lady in Priya’s neighbourhood observed these struggles and invited Priya and her brother to play with her kids and spend time with them with the hope of comforting Priya and giving her the childhood, she deserved.

During this time, the lady’s husband returned to Colombo from his work commitments elsewhere. As usual, Priya played with her children, even during the time the lady went to work.

On such occasions when Priya visited them in the lady’s absence, the lady’s husband made an unsolicited invitation to Priya, saying, “I like you. Can you be with me until my wife returns?” Priya immediately refused and stopped visiting them. However, this man repeatedly insisted that Priya be with him and persuaded her to converse with him.

Consequently, this man sexually abused Priya for six months in exchange for the promise of marriage. He also threatened that if she revealed anything about their encounter, he would “not marry her” and even “commit suicide.”

The man continued to send text messages to Priya, asking her to visit him whenever his wife left for work. One day, a text message this man sent caught the attention of Priya’s guardian. Then, Priya’s guardian immediately filed a complaint with the Police for sexual harassment. After learning of the complaint, the man committed suicide.

For her protection, the court ordered that Priya be handed over to the Nandavanam safe home.

At Nandavanam, she received psycho-social counseling and gradually showed signs of improvement. Her fears, anger issues, and insomnia slowly faded.

She also gradually regained her confidence, became more enthusiastic about her studies and developed an ambition to be a teacher.

“Today I am safe, and I’m able to continue my studies from a home called ‘Mahadeva’”, Priya said.

LEADS’ officers have instructed Priya to remain in the home as returning to her native village may endanger her safety.

Overall, Priya remains optimistic, saying, “I will surely achieve my goals”.

*The name of the child has been changed to protect her identity.

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