For a victim, psychological recovery is not just about healing through pain and trauma but is influenced by various other factors such as sexually transmitted infections, reproductive tract infections, addiction and HIV/AIDS. Hence psychological rehabilitation comprises of a combination of trauma counseling, peer counseling, group counseling and barefoot counseling. Hence the routine chamber-based forms of mental health intervention is not appropriate. It has to be a very flexible model customized to suit the unique individual needs

Prajwala has thus constructed a therapeutic shelter home for victims of commercial sexual exploitation, which provides a wide range of holistic services in the areas of education, healthcare, recreation, and counseling by a dedicated team of staff. The shelter is an environment where vulnerable women and children rescued from various stages of the trafficking process can heal psychologically, be educationally and economically empowered and have access to effective channels of social reintegration.  The shelter operates a 24-hour residential rehabilitation program for mental, spiritual and emotional healing and development, with two homes: Astha Nivas (children’s home) and Asha Nikethan (adult home).

Sujatha‘s father expired during her childhood, and her mother worked in a different village doing road construction labor. So she lived with her one and only brother, who was married but his wife was also working outside of the home. Sujatha‘s brother had a job but did not take good care of the family, which faced a very poor financial status. At the age of 16, Sujatha decided to find work at a local shop in L.B. Nagar. One day, the shopkeeper raped Sujatha, which continued on three more occasions. Sujatha feared disclosing the rape to her mother, because the shopkeeper threatened to kill her family members if she told what happened. During that time Sujatha became pregnant, and during her fourth month she felt extreme stomach pain. She went to the hospital with her mother and the doctor confirmed the pregnancy. When Sujatha‘s mother asked her what had happened, Sujatha explained and her mother sent a complaint to the L.B Nagar police station. Yet the case did not get resolved and Sujatha‘s brother refused to allow her to stay in the home. With nowhere to live, a superintendant informed Prajwala about the case and Sujatha was referred for rehabilitation at Asha Nikethan, where she is actively participating in all the home activities.

There are five non-negotiable guiding principles and minimum standards of care that are integrated in thought, word and action of every aspect of the safe shelter:

  1. All care processes in the home ensure that the basic human rights of the victim are upheld and respected. This includes the rights to dignity, to not be re-traumatized or re-victimized, to informed choices and confidentiality, and to self-determination and participation.
  2. The care components are inclusive and able to address the needs of each individual through a continuum of care opportunities for all life domains of victims.
  3. All services are accessible to every victim and are designed in a manner that facilitates people who may be facing more vulnerability to have an equal access to services.
  4. The care components are gender-friendly and focused on the psychological recovery of the victim. Services recognize gender-based vulnerabilities and risks, are developmentally appropriate, and ensure that the rehabilitation of the victim is paramount
  5. All aspects of the shelter are accountable and subject to mandatory external standardized care process audits.

Once a victim has made the initial decision to rehabilitate, it is the responsibility of the program team to sustain her interest through visual manifestations, giving tangible evidence of feasible, viable options to survive with dignity and re-integrate. The stay of the victims at the home is used to help them to understand and assert their human rights, regain their self-worth and make decisions in their lives according to the options they themselves define.

Over the years, Prajwala has made significant impacts in the area of psychological rehabilitation:

    • Since the shelters intervention began in 2002, we have had 4926 admissions into Asha Nikethan and 2007 in Astha Nivas. This year, 223 more admissions were added to Astha Nikethan and 18 to Astha Nivas.
    • 185 women have participated in life-skills training sessions on a monthly basis, including functional literacy and numeracy classes.
    • 6780 women have been reintegrated into society after staying in Prajwala’s shelter home, and 1827 children from Astha Nivas have been mainstreamed.