Abusive Households and Juvenile Crimes


“Overcoming abuse doesn’t just happen; it takes positive steps every day. Let today be the day you start to move forward” – Assunta Harris


Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person.

In short, someone who purposefully harms another in any way is committing abuse. There are many kinds of abuse encountered by adults, including: physical abuse, psychological abuse, rape, sexual assault, verbal abuse ,elder abuse, financial abuse, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse


  1. Physical abuse can be any act of violence (accidental or intentional) that results in an injury to a child. This may include punching, kicking, shaking, stabbing, throwing, biting, choking, burning or hitting (with an hand or an object, like a belt or switch).

Physical abuse can result in:

Bruises, blisters, burns, cuts and scratches

Internal injuries, possible brain damage

Broken bones, sprains, dislocated joints

Emotional and psychological harm

Lifelong injury and/or death

  1. Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. Most victims and perpetrators know each other. Immediate reactions to sexual abuse include shock, fear or disbelief. Long-term symptoms include anxiety, fear or post-traumatic stress disorderSexual abuse can be included in physical abuse, but it isn’t entirely just limited to physical. Sexual abuse can be physical and non- physical in nature. It involves rape, touching or making a person see or do something without their will. Sexual abuse is often used to assert dominance by the one who’s inflicting the abuse onto the victim. Even though many are reported, there is one particular form of sexual abuse which goes unnoticed especially in the Indian society, which is Marital Rape. Marital Rape in India is not classified as a form of Rape, hence, not identified as a crime.


  1. Verbal and/or emotional abuse refers to a situation where the abuser uses knife-like words to wound a person’s self worth and motivation, inflicting harm on their emotions.


  1. Mental/ Psychological abuse is when a person ignores another person’s mental well being or existing factors that can trigger them and wear them out. One of the most prominent forms of mental/ psychological abuse is Gaslighting. Gaslighting refers to manipulating a person by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. This is the most common type of mental abuse which goes unnoticed because of the lack of awareness of the same.


Juvenile crimes are the ones which are committed by under aged civilians. The abuse faced by these children may or may not result in them committing crimes.

Juvenile meaning in Indian constitution is that if a child is below the age of 18 so under the Indian Laws, Section 2 (k) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 defines “juvenile” or “Child” as a person who hasn’t completed eighteenth year of age. 


How do these forms of abuse turn into juvenile crimes? 

Nirbhaya Rape Case, 2012:


The infamous and heinous 2012 Delhi gang-Rape case involved a rape case and fatal assault that occurred on the night of 16th December 2012 in Munirka, a neighborhood in South Delhi. The said unfortunate incident took place when Jyoti Singh (Nirbhaya), a 23 year old physiotherapy intern, was brutally gang-raped, beaten, and tortured in a private bus in which she was travelling with her male friend. There were six other people in the vehicle, including the driver, all of whom raped the woman and beat her male friend. Eleven days after the assault happened, she was transferred to a hospital in Singapore for emergency treatment but unfortunately died two days later.


The decision of the trial in the court of law mentioned:


Death sentence to the four convicts

Juvenile convict served the maximum imprisonment of three years under Juvenile Justice Laws as applicable, since he was less than 18 years old when the crime was committed

Four convicts finally executed on 20 March 2020 after exhausting all legal options available to them.

The history of the juvenile amongst other convicts revealed that he had ran away from his home in UP at the age of 11.

He was reportedly a victim of child sexual abuse, which is why he ran away from his home at an early age. 

When he was in the Juvenile conviction centre, according to his Juvenile counselor, he showed no remorse whatsoever of the heinous crime he had committed.

Teenage is known to be one of the most crucial stages of an individual’s life, where the individual’s personality formation begins.  Since he ran away at a very young age, it may have caused him to think about and make sense of his past abuse the best way he could by himself at that age, channelizing it into believing that sexual abuse is “normal” as no one was around as a parent figure to guide him.

 As he ran away from home at an early age, there’s a high probability that he was not exposed to any form of education let alone sex education. Moreover, due to the vulnerable age group and lack of parental guidance, there is always a risk of having a bad company, which would’ve influenced him to become a person who would commit a heinous crime, showing no remorse for the same afterwards.


Alcohol and Illicit drug abuse:


Evidence has been found that if the mother consumes drugs or alcohol while being pregnant, the child too becomes addicted from the very beginning.

In 2018, police arrested Ricki Dahlin at gunpoint for trying to force her way through a barricade in a stolen car, which was a GMC Sierra. A gram of heroin (drug) was found in the center console and a palm-size .380 handgun on the passenger seat.

 “She has absolutely no regard for the law,” one exasperated-sounding prosecutor said at September 2018 bail hearing.

However, from Dahlin’s perspective, it’s the law that had not held up its end of the bargain.

Born premature along with being diagnosed with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (a group of conditions that can occur in an individual whose birth mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical as well as behavior and learning problems), Dahlin said she was sexually abused as a girl. She remembers letting her mind go blank when the abuser would begin touching her. “Blacking out,” she calls it.

By age 13, Dahlin was drinking and abusing drugs.

“People often look at us as just some drug addicts or junkies, ‘they deserve to be in jail.’ It goes way deeper than just that,” Dahlin said. “We are broken. We are trying to fix ourselves.” 

Underage drug abuse may also occur due to peer pressure, or escaping one’s familial problems for some time.

Once the teen starts abusing drugs, the feeling of relaxation or satisfaction that drugs gives the individual is what keeps them going, leading to addiction.

In the case of Dahlin, we can see that she suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, because her mother abused alcohol. Moreover, she was sexually abused as a girl too, which may have led her to indulge into drug abuse, so as to cope with her pain better.


Child sexual abuse case:                                                    

Kiran was just in third grade when her father, Rahul began sexually abusing her first. Adults near Kiran, including her mother, started suspecting that Kiran was indeed being abused, but failed to offer help. When Rahul turned his attention to her little sister Christy, Kiran felt there was only one solution left for the entire situation, and killed her father. 


Child on child sexual abuse:


Amie Zyla, a 17 year old, made a plea to the team of House Subcommittee- on Terrorism, Crime, Homeland Security, and Investigations- in the year 2005. Zyla was sexually assaulted at age 8 by a 14-year-old friend of the family named Joshua Wade. Nine years after Wade (the assaulter) was convicted in the juvenile court, Zyla was horrified to see his face on their local news channel. Wade was then finally arrested for luring children into his apartment and videotaping dozens of them in his shower.

A unique insight into why young children sexually abuse other children was revealed in a study.

The research was on boys aged 10 or under who have molested siblings, classmates, or friends. It found that they’re invariably born in the families in which abuse, violence and neglect has become routine over many generations.

The study found that those boys (in the study) were unable to form healthy relationships as an obvious result of neglectful as well as hostile parenting. Even before starting their school, they were very anxious, angry and detached; bed-wetting, nightmares, self-harm and eating problems were quite common.

All of the boys in the study started abusing after being sexually abused themselves. They had all perpetrated serious sexual abuse against several children by the time they received specialist help. This wasn’t childhood experimentation: their victims were very young- as young as six months; penetration and violence were quite common.


What happens to the Juvenile after they commit the crime? How does the justice system work with Juveniles?


The Indian justice system keeps Juveniles under tenure of punishment for 3 years, even for heinous crimes.

A child below the age of 16 is not tried, even if the crime is heinous, whereas a child aging from 16-18 years would be tried as an adult for a heinous crime, but shall not receive a death or life imprisonment sentence.


Let’s take a look at an incident which occurred in Chennai: About 3 years ago, about 33 Juvenile offenders escaped an observation home in Chennai, which raised a lot of questions of Juvenile the Justice System in India. It also seems like the observation homes are not very looked after, and are often not offered with educational or vocational activities as the offenders have a short tenure.

After they are released, they go into the same environment that made them to offend or the environment where they feel unsafe. This has a high probability of bringing the Juveniles back to square one, making them prone to commit crimes again.

To avoid this situation, it is essential for the Juvenile Justice system to have some reforms, such as collaborating with Child Rights Organizations, setting up recreational activities, providing qualified juvenile counselors to the observational homes, and ensuring that after the tenure is over, they go through psychological evaluations to make sure the offender does not commit the offence again. Otherwise, the Juvenile Justice would not really be justice; it would remain stagnant and would not really have an actual impact.

In a nutshell, the Juvenile Justice system should focus on reformation rather than punitive action as these measures impact the mental health and wellbeing of the juvenile through adult life.


Mahima Pant 

Faculty Geography Optional

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