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Help is Hard to Find for Child Sex Abuse Victims in India

That's not very good therapy," said Gupta.

But counselling is vital, Gupta said, especially for learning how to cope in a society where families are closely-knit and where it is difficult to avoid a former abuser after the abuse has stopped.

"The amount of family gatherings and festivals you have to meet your abuser in -- there is no scope for not maintaining the relationship," said Gupta.

In India, as in many countries, family ties are of paramount importance and get-togethers are large and frequent. Young women and men often live at home with their parents and other family members until they marry.

"All the time," said the young woman who had sought help at RAHI, which means "wayfarer" in Hindi, when asked how often she met her abuser.

When she told her parents about the abuse about a year ago, her guilt-stricken father had lamented that the two branches of the family were too deeply enmeshed for ties with the abuser to be severed.

But with counselling, she said, life has become easier.

"I used to look at him like I'll kill him, and now I look at him with pity or forgiveness," she said.

What's harder to bear, however, is the fact that her little sister plays with the son of her abuser and often visit their house.

She believes the breakdown she suffered that led to her finally seeking help was triggered by her sister turning eight -- the same age her own abuse started -- and a feeling that she would be unable to protect her.

"I can't be with her 24/7," she said. "But if I have a good communication relationship with her then half the job is done."

The group has its limitations as Gupta herself admits -- so far it has only managed to reach out to women from middle-class, English-speaking backgrounds.

For the millions of poor children who suffer sexual abuse, counselling of this nature is rarely an opti
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