Leaving behind a chain of trauma

Chain-snatching victims may take years to feel safe again; friends & family can help or hurt

Published: 13th March 2021 06:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th March 2021 06:03 AM   |  A+A-

chain snatching

For representational purposes

Express News Service

CHENNAI: It's been two years since Kavitha’s* five-sovereign gold chain was snatched while she was walking home in Kilpauk. Ever since, the 45-year-old hasn’t walked on the street, and doesn’t use the road alone. She either travels with her husband or son, or takes an autorickshaw. 

Hers isn’t an isolated case. The bike-borne duo who stole her chain were arrested. But for victims like Kavitha, that isn’t enough to heal the trauma. Psychologists say counselling and an understanding family go a long way in easing victims’ pain. Almost 98 per cent of chain-snatching victims are women.

Kavitha, who works at a private company, didn’t have much support from her family at first. “I had disturbed sleep. Once, while I was cooking, my husband entered the kitchen and touched my shoulder. I didn’t notice him until then, and shook in fear and broke down,” Kavitha recounted.

She added that her colleagues heard about the incident, and either started judging her for not being careful, or advised her on how to walk on the road. “Victims would experience physical and mental pain, as many households blame them for the missing jewellery. For most victims, it’s also humiliating as they fall on the road and dirty their clothes. The incident leaves them in shock.

They might not go outdoors, and would blame themselves, feel helpless, and have disturbed sleep,” senior psychologist Dr S Abilasha told Express. Abilasha added that such trauma can result in PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)wherein, even several years after the incident, victims get flashbacks. Most victims later accept that it wasn’t their fault.

Christina*, a resident of Royapettah, was on her regular walking route on RK Salai at 6 am when a bike-borne duo blocked her, threatened her with a knife, and took her gold chain. “It’s been one-and-a-half years since. Initially, I stopped going for walks. It took me almost a year to get back, that too only with my husband. I have also stopped wearing jewellery,” said Christina.

About a year ago, snatchers attempted to steal a chain from CP Lakshmi Kantha (61), from Villivakkam, but failed as she raised an alarm. But what left her traumatised was that nobody came forward to help. “I was shouting, and people on the road just stared at me. The people from a house in front peeped through the window and shut it,” said Lakshmi, who now  only travels on autorickshaws and keeps her neck covered with a scarf. 

Speaking about the importance of moral support from family, Abilasha said, “Relatives must reassure the victim that it is not their fault instead of blaming them. Some families might increase the victims’ fear saying she escaped this time without injuries, but may not be so lucky next time. Such statements could prolong the recovery period.” Abilasha added that in several foreign countries, victims at crime scenes are given counselling, but here, many people even think professional help is unnecessary.

M Priyamvadha, associate professor at the Department of Criminology, University of Madras, said Central government schemes like ‘One Stop Centre’ (OSC), from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, are aimed at providing a space for counselling and redressal for women victims. 

“While the scheme is working well in places like Delhi, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the awareness about it is low here. It is not even necessary to contact a specific number to get help. A woman can dial ‘100’ and say she needs help. They would redirect her to the nearest OSC for consultation,” said Priyamvadha.

* Names changed


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