The strength and resilience of a survivor of sex trafficking
When Priya* was in her early teens, she was introduced to the world of social media and mesmerized by it. She enjoyed making friends and communicating with new social connections.
That was how Mezbaan* came into her life. His sweet talks and friendly nature made her warmly attached to him. She had no knowledge that she was groomed online by a sex trafficker.
There are hundreds of teenagers on social media like Priya who are unaware of the traffickers. Traffickers have mastered the art of disguising themselves and making social media as hunting grounds. They target young impressionable minds, hailing from less favourable backgrounds and manipulate them emotionally with the prospect of a better life.
Moved by his cajoling online, Priya met Mezbaan one evening with the hope of a new beginning. She could barely recollect what happened to her - she was drugged and raped by Mezbaan.
When the drugs waned off, Mezbaan showed her naked photos and videos and threatened her to keep silent about that evening, otherwise, her photos and videos would be released on social media. She was told that she should be available when Mezbaan calls her.
Within a few days, Priya was gang raped by Mezbaan and four of his friends. She was assaulted for days at a stretch.
Unable to bear the torture any longer, Priya decided to leave her home and stay with her elder sister in another city for a while. But her painful experience did not end there. Her worst fears had come true.
Within a few days after her departure, her photos and videos were leaked on social media. What Priya tried so hard to hide from the world, laid out in the open.
When her family found out, they supported her and filed a First Information Report (FIR) at the local police station in July 2020. Mezbaan and his four friends were arrested.
The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) referred the case to VIHAAN to help Priya with counselling, care and legal support. Priya was in a state of shock when our social workers met her.
Priya received months of counselling, therapy and home visits from VIHAAN’s team. It helped her cope with the trauma, live an everyday life and concentrate on her studies.
We took up her legal case and assisted her in visiting the court whenever required. After a few months, Priya received an interim victim compensation of INR 2,00,000.
“I did not know how to start my life again. It felt like I was surrounded by darkness and no hope. VIHAAN gave me a lot of courage and motivation. They cared for me and helped me heal and recover", said Priya.
During the lockdown, VIHAAN provided her with a smartphone to attend online classes. She worked very hard and secured 61 percent in her secondary board examination. It was a celebratory moment not just for Priya, but for the whole team of VIHAAN.
Priya began to slowly regain her faith in herself and started to rebuild her life.
After facing all these hurdles, Priya came across an incredible opportunity at her school. In April 2023, she was selected by her school to participate in an online session ‘Pariksha pe Charcha’, led by the Prime Minister of India.
Pariksha pe Charcha is part of a larger initiative, ‘Exam Warriors’. Held annually, the initiative aims to strengthen students’ self-confidence and support them in managing their stress and staying healthy. It provides an opportunity for students, parents and teachers to interact with the Prime Minister on various topics related to life and exams. Students are chosen through a competition across India.
When a letter of appreciation arrived from the Prime Minister’s Office for Priya's active participation in Pariksha pe Charcha, it again called for a celebration.
Now, Priya is in standard 11 and she says,
“I want to continue my studies and become financially independent. I want to help other girls so that they do not suffer like me. Thank you VIHAAN for making me so strong", said Priya.
Because of supporters like you, survivors like Priya are able to regain their faith in humanity, rebuild their lives and pursue their dreams.