An Online CSA Story by Vaishnavi Arya

Mehek was a 7th grader. One day, her friends were excitingly talking about Facebook, a new social media application in which people get to be friends with people around the world. She went home and made her ID on Facebook. Within days, she started getting friend requests from a number of persons. Her mother taught her to stay away from men. This indirectly meant that there is no problem with females. So, she started accepting friend requests from people, even accepting requests from unknown females and started chatting with them. 

One such friend was Shruti. Shruti was a college student in Ahmedabad. She was like an elder sister Mehek never had but one she always longed for, helping Mehek through all the problems and difficulties. 

One day Shruti started telling Mehek about her Boyfriend and problems she is facing with him. Mehek felt wonderful. She thought Shruti, being an elder, is asking for her advice. So Mehek advised her and next day Shruti informed her that after following her advice, Shruti had made amends with her boyfriend. Mehek was very happy that she helped her. 

The very next day, Shruti asked Mehek something which rose her suspicion. Shruti asked Mehek, “Whether you have any sexual experience”. At first, Mehek got uncomfortable but later when Shruti assured her that such kind of chats are common between friends, Mehek relented, she thought she is safe with a female. So, she started sexting with Shruti. At first it was not very descriptive, just a few comments here and there. But worse was yet to come. 

Shruti started sending private photos of her boyfriend to Mehek. Mehek was disgusted and asked her to stop sending these photos. Shruti, again, reassured her that these things are common between friends and asked her to send her private photos to her. To which Mehek refused and stopped replying to Shruti.

When Mehek didn’t reply, Shruti started bullying her, posting negative posts about Mehek, sharing Mehek’s secrets with her classmates, she even trash talked about her individuality and character. She spread rumours about her by chatting with her school mates. Shruti even threatened her that if she won’t send her photos then she would morph her normal photos to sexual ones and post them on internet and on her school’s chat group. 

After reading these messages, Mehek got baffled, how can someone so sweet change into someone so monstrous? It was something she was not able to comprehend. Mehek’s life got changed, no one talked with her at school, even her cousins started ignoring her. 

Mehek did not know what to do, she had no idea how to deal with this problem. Her mother, Anupama, was a simple house wife, she didn’t even know what internet is, let alone Facebook. Her father, Avinash, is a government officer who is posted out of her home town so there is no way she could tell him. She has one elder brother who is studying Engineering in United States, and anyway he is a guy, how can she share her issues with him? She cannot talk with her teachers because they are neither friendly nor they would believe her another thing she knew telling anything to her teacher would result in involving her parents. Mehek thought that suicide is the only option for her now to prevent public humiliation of her and her family. 

Meanwhile Shruti, somehow, got Mehek’s private cell phone number and called her. Mehek panicked and switch of her phone, but Shruti is continuously demanding photos from her. Her life has become a living hell where she is dying a very slow and painful death.

One day when she came back from her school, she found out that her brother is coming back home for a few days. For a second, Mehek got a glint of happiness in her eyes but then she went back to her gloomy self.

Mehek’s mother is confused with her daughter’s behaviour. She knew that Mehek is a very fun loving, bubbly girl. She loves her brother, but she does not seem as happy as she used to be whenever her brother used to come back for holidays. She thought that maybe, maybe her teenage hormones were doing their trick. 

Then came the day of her brother’s arrival. Her brother was studying engineering at United States. He adored his sister. He had brought a number of gifts for her sister. When he booked the cab, Suraj tried calling her number, but it was switched off. He thought that maybe Mehek switched off her number because she took her cell phone to school. When Suraj reached his parent’s home, he found that Mehek’s phone is lying on the dinner table. Suraj was not able to understand why Mehek had switched off her phone. 

When Mehek came back home from school, she seemed gloomy to Suraj. She just hugged him, thanked for her gifts and went back to her room. She came back to living room only for her dinner. She seemed more interested to go back to her room instead of finishing her dinner. After dinner, Suraj tried to talk with Mehek by asking her if everything is fine and how is school? she reassured him that everything, including the school, is fine. She is just tired from all school work and wants to go to bed early. Then she wished him Good Night and went back to her room. 

All these things seemed suspicious to Suraj. He tried talking about it to his mother but she brushed him off and told him that he is overthinking and its just exam pressure which Mehek is trying to handle. However, Suraj was sure that something is off and decided to investigate.

Next morning, at breakfast Suraj tried to observe Mehek’s activities. She was off about something. Her school socks had went missing and she is arguing about it with their mother. After a while, Mehek went to school, without having her breakfast. Suraj found all these things strange and ask his mother about this. She said, Mehek had been like this for a while and she is fed up of Mehek’s constant bickering, then she went back to doing her work. 

After this, Suraj decided to investigate in Mehek’s room, which used to be pristine, has now damp smell. A huge pile of dirty clothes was lying on the room’s floor, everything was out of its place.

Suraj thought, puberty or not, this is not normal behaviour, something is wrong with Mehek. He tried to find some clue in her room, but found nothing of importance. Then he decided to check Mehek’s cell phone. He knew that checking her cell phone is violating her privacy, but he needed to know what is wrong with Mehek. So, he switched on her phone. As soon as the phone started, messages started coming on her phone screen. It seems that Mehek had not switched on her phone from a long time. When Suraj opened the inbox, all messages were from same number and the person was threatening Mehek to send her intimate photographs. At once Suraj understood whole matter. 

When Mehek came back home, Suraj called her to his room. When Mehek went to his room, she saw her phone in Suraj’s hand and started shaking out of fear. Suraj understood that Mehek is afraid and asked her to sit on a chair. Then he showed her messages on her cell phone from the unknown number and asked her what the matter is. Mehek started sobbing out of fear. Suraj reassured her that her brother is with her and he will protect her no matter what happens but for doing so, he needs to know what actually happened. He told her that if she is not ready to share her problem with him at the very moment, then he would understand and that he would be always available whenever she feels like telling him. Then he guided her towards her room and let her be. 

That evening, Mehek told Suraj everything, how she became friends with Shruti and what happened afterwards. Suraj patiently listened what all Mehek wanted to say and how she will never trust anyone. Then he explained Mehek that she is actually a victim of “child online sexual harassment”. Mehek asked her what it is? 

Then Suraj introduced her to the concept of Child Sexual Harassment and how, with advent of technology, it had enhanced to Online child sexual harassment. He told her how she herself must try and first act for protecting herself from these predators. If somehow, she is trapped then what can she do to protect herself. 

Even when Mehek begged not to tell their parents about it, Suraj informed their parents about the matter, mother was devastated, but their father, told them that they should make a police complaint about this. 

Then their father and Suraj went to police station and filed a complaint against the “Shruti” who was harassing Mehek. A few days later their father received a call from police saying that they have traced the mobile number and IP address and have also arrested the accused. Hearing this, Suraj and Avinash rushed to the Police Station. When they meet the accused, they were shocked to see that Shruti was actually their neighbour, Vinay. It was Vinay, who made fake id in name of Shruti and sent friend request to Mehek. He was harassing her knowing well that she will not tell anyone about anything. Later, charges against Vinay were proved under POCSO act and he was sent to Jail. 

Mehek also understood that no matter what happens, her family will always stand with her and she can share everything with them.

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