A young girl with a hearing disability was drugged and gang-raped by at least 22 men repeatedly over a seven-month period at the apartment complex where her family lives in Chennai, India, her mother told police.
Police quickly rounded up 18 of the 22 men, including an elevator operator, gardener, housekeeper, electrician, security guards and plumbers in and around the apartment complex where the girl’s family lives in Purasawalkam, according to the Times Of India. The men range in age from early 20s to late 60s, according to the Economic Times. Officers reportedly are looking for four other suspects.
There are conflicting reports about the girl’s age. Times of India reported the victim is 12, while other outlets gave her age as 11. She was examined and treated Sunday at a hospital, which determined she had been raped by multiple men, according to the paper.
The girl told police that an elevator operator named Ravi Kumar, 66, first sexually assaulted her when she arrived home from school before she entered her family’s apartment. She said Kumar raped her in a vacant apartment. A few days later, he invited two other men to rape her, she said.
Police said the three men videotaped the second assault and threatened to release it if the girl talked about the attacks.
Later, Kumar reportedly allowed more men to join the assaults. They would inject the girl with sedatives and force her to drink “drug-laced soft drinks” before raping her, the Times of India reported. The routine went on for seven months, according to police.
“This continued [until] the girl on Saturday told her older sister, a college student on a visit home from Delhi, about the trauma she was going through,” police said. “The sister informed their parents, who filed a complaint with the Ayanavaram all women police.”
Sherin Bosko, co-founder of nonprofit Nakshatra, told local Indian outlet DT Next that she hopes the trial is over quickly for the girl’s sake.
“In this case (and all others), I hope that the system is kind to the children and ensures a speedy trial,” Bosko said. “We need the same kind of anger for all cases of child sexual abuse.”
Other activists condemned the crime, and pointed to the increase in sexual abuse of children and women in recent years.
“Sexual attacks against [disabled female] children continues in Tamil Nadu. In Sivagangai, a 17-year-old hearing impaired girl was raped and killed in a village, while another such instance has happened in Aynavaram,” S. Namburajan, the state general secretary of Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled & Caregivers, told D Next.
Namburajan added: “We condemn these attacks and urge the state government to conduct mass awareness programs to curb this.”
India has seen an increase in sexual violence against women in the past decade, including the 2012 fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi. More recently, the country was in an uproar after an 8-year-old girl was gang raped and murdered by eight men in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state in April.