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Conversations about sexual violence against children a must, writes Priyanka in CNN column

The actress shared inpiring stories about about 'fighting rape stigma' from her recent visit to Africa as UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

Priyanka Chopra at Isibindi Safe Park, Johannesburg

Keyur Seta

Priyanka Chopra was recently on a tour to Africa as the global goodwill ambassador of UNICEF where she met child survivors of sexual violence in Zimbabwe and South Africa. The actress has now written a report of her visit for CNN, titled 'Priyanka Chopra: This is how you fight rape stigma', to create more awareness through the stories of survivors. 

During her trip, she met several victims and community workers. On one such visit to the AFRICAID support centre in Avondale, a suburb of Harare, the actress was especially moved by the disturbing tale of a 21-year-old sexual abuse survivor, Tanaka, who was raped multiple times during her young years by different men, including someone who pretended to be a saviour. 

“She was first abused by her cousin, when she was just 6. At 15, she was drugged and raped by a neighbour while her parents were at a wedding. Extremely depressed and fearful, she was sent to live with a pastor who offered support. But he, too, sexually abused her, until she ran away and moved in with an aunt and uncle. The cycle of abuse did not stop there: Her own uncle raped her and infected her with HIV. Everyone she thought she could trust took advantage of her. Not being able to bear her life anymore, she attempted suicide,” writes Chopra. 

The actress intends to inspire everyone through these stories as she talks about how the young girl is now using her own experiences to help others. Chopra writes, “Thankfully, there is light to be found in Tanaka's story; she is now using her experiences to counsel and support HIV-positive adolescents in her community. She is a community adolescent treatment supporter with Africaid, an organization supported by UNICEF that provides specialist services for children living with HIV."

She also shares how the girl now aspires to be a psychologist after finishing school in order to support those who are fighting the same battle.  

The victim is just one among the millions who have suffered the same trauma. The statistics put out by Chopra are staggering. “Around the world, data compiled by UNICEF show that 120 million girls under the age of 20, that's about 1 in 10, have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives,” informed Chopra.  

Chopra says that sexual violence against children needs to talked about a lot more. “And while it might feel uncomfortable, we, as a society, need to have difficult conversations in our homes, in our workplaces and within our communities, so that together we raise awareness that sexual violence against children is happening and, collectively, we help put an end to it.”

The Quantico actress has previously written columns for publications like Elle, New York Times and Hindustan Times among others.

Meanwhile, here's a video documenting some parts of Priyanka Chopra's Africa visit.