Tamil-Canadian group tackles shame and stigma around childhood sexual abuse

The group, called 'Abuse Never Becomes Us,' seeks to break the silence of survivors of abuse through education, outreach and support.

‘Abuse Never Become Us’ (ANBU) was founded by two survivors of sexual abuse to help others break their silence

Tharsiga Elankeeran (left) and Jenny Starke (right) are longtime friends who started ANBU together. 'The aim is to empower survivors to speak up because silence is another huge perpetrator that keeps this sort of stuff going,' explained Elankeeran. (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

Tharsiga Elankeeran can list many reasons why someone in the Tamil community might not speak up about experiencing sexual abuse as a child.

Tamil culture is very focused on family, she explained on CBC's Metro Morning. "Oftentimes...[abuse] happens within the home and oftentimes it's someone you know."

"If you speak up, [you feel] you're going to ruin the family name, you're going to bring shame upon the family, no one is going to marry you."

Elankeeran and longtime friend Jenny Starke, both survivors of sexual abuse themselves, decided to start Abuse Never Becomes Us (ANBU) to help start the conversation and connect people with much-needed support.

Though sexual abuse is a global problem, Elankeeran and Starke chose to focus on their own community because, according to Elankeeran, "we believe in [it]. We have come so far given the history of the community."

Among Tamils, Elankeeran said a language barrier also comes into play when discussing the issue.

"I haven't met anyone who really knows the language to talk about childhood sexual abuse, to talk about body parts and [name] the body parts that are often violated," she said.   

ANBA aims to fill in those gaps with education and awareness-raising.

The organization provides peer-to-peer support, runs programs for survivors, and recently created a video to shine a light on the issue.  

With files from Metro Morning