Crime against women is of utmost concern to the nation. Such crimes, that render severe punishment, continue to take place in large numbers due to common negligence among the youth. Social media also plays a role in accentuating these crimes and therefore creating an atmosphere of tension and fear.
Like every other city, state, and nation, sexual assault cases are also being registered in our City of Destiny. Children as young as 11 years have been victims of sexual assault. With an aim to protect its people, the Disha Police Station as an integral part of the Visakhapatnam City Police has been diligent with its measures. Annually, April is observed as the Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Therefore, Yo! Vizag brings to you a closer look at how Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Dr Prem Kajal, and her team, deal with sexual violence, assault, and create awareness.
The unconventional learning, from our conversation with the ACP, was that these crimes happen irrespective of age and gender. Victims of sexual assault, of both physical as well as non-physical in nature, are not always women. Though they form the majority, it cannot be overlooked that men too fall prey to sexual assault crimes and frauds.
As the top cop started sharing her various experiences, she said, “Crime against women is a zero-tolerance offence, and the most common scenario witnessed is outraging the modesty of women. Recently, there are also a number of assault cases stemming from the victim’s personal love relationships. Especially amongst the younger generation.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns, according to the police officer have had a major impact on how sexual assault crimes increased. “Online classes have led to an increase in the number of cases registered. It gave children easy access to social media accounts at a very tender age. Giving them a way to interact with strangers, they have been prone to the unfortunate scenarios of sexual assaults online. Parents also brought their children for counselling during this particular time.”
The punishments for such cases have reportedly been very stringent. The Disha Police team in Visakhapatnam ensure minimum response time and maintain the confidentiality of victims for all their cases. They take up the extreme cases of sexual violence while other misdemeanours are taken up by the City Police.
Checks and Balances
Speaking about how they stop these heinous crimes from happening, ACP Dr Prem Kajal pointed out the awareness programmes the police conduct at three different levels.
- At the school level where sexual education has been made mandatory. All students, along with the teaching staff, are educated about ‘good touch and bad touch’. Students are also taught how to respond in case of an emergency. The official emergency contact numbers are made clear to every student.
- At the college level, steps against ragging, eve-teasing, and crime against women are strictly employed. All boys, girls and teachers are educated regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. This ensures safety is observed even after they step out of college.
- At the community level, with the help of the Mahila Police and Mahila Mitras, every area in the city is visited and awareness programmes are conducted. This helps spread awareness around sexual assault crimes.
Apart from the various awareness programmes, the government has also set up the Disha One-Stop Center at the King George Hospital (KGH). Anyone can directly approach this centre for registering complaints and counselling. A special lady Sub-Inspector, along with social counsellors, is always available at the centre to help victims at ground zero. They even provide temporary shelter for victims in dire situations.
The Disha Counselling Centre, at the Swarna Bharati Stadium, is yet another helpline cum awareness centre. The officer pointed out that it’s not always the children who need counselling. “Most of the cases received here are in regards to victim-blaming. Parents sometimes heavily restrict their kids from going out and this hinders their freedom. Such parents are brought for counselling at this centre.”
The Disha Police team also conducts the ‘Save The Girl Child’ campaign for various communities in Visakhapatnam. As they believe that change starts from within, the team also conduct this campaign for the police force and makes sure attendance is compulsory.
Confidence building mechanisms
Even after receiving justice, the aftermath of such crimes can be difficult to cope with. Victims at times are not accepted back into society or are troubled by the accused. “These crimes can have a very serious impact on the mental health of victims. To ensure they get back to their normal life without any fear, we have certain measures in place. Our Mahila Mitras make periodic visits to the victim’s house and make sure she is not being troubled by the accused. Both before his arrest and even after he is released from jail,” the ACP said.
The Disha Police team also makes it their responsibility to avail victim compensation by writing to the Visakhapatnam District Magistrate and ensuring complete justice is met for all their victims.
Act immediately, be mindful
People who attempt such heinous crimes are mostly from the victim’s circle of acquaintances. The top cop said that 80 per cent of the time, the accused is a known person. From auto drivers to family members, anyone could have bad intentions. It is important to trust people, but even more important to maintain a personal space or boundary which may not ever be crossed by anyone.
On a personal note, Dr Prem Kajal says, “Vizag is a very safe and secure city from all perspectives. But sporadic incidents may happen despite regular vigilance. My only request to all of you is to be aware and mindful at all times – on and off social media.”
We are there for you
Despite living in a safe city like Visakhapatnam, it is important for everyone to be aware of the helpline numbers in case of an emergency. From No-contact centres to toll-free numbers, the Disha Police are always within your reach. Promising a quick response, the Disha police are available 24/7 at the below contact numbers.
- Dial 100 – just dial 100 to reach out to the police near you.
- Disha App – the Disha app has an option for SOS – which can be used in case of extreme emergency. You will be tracked with the help of GPS and rescued.
- 112 – Central Toll-free number
- 181 – Domestic violence helpline number
- 9493336633 – City WhatsApp number
- 9121211100 – Cyber Mitra WhatsApp number
Time and again, assuring that Visakhapatnam is a safe city, the police officer requested people to be mindful of any potential danger, immediately respond, and reach out to the police in case of any emergency. This need not be regarding their selves but if they see that someone else is also getting into such a perilous situation. With the widespread of social media, beyond boundaries, danger can come from the outside too. It is not just the duty of the police to keep this city safe from violence, but also the duty of the residents to ensure a safe environment. Let us all act together, stay alert and be safe.