“When I first met the author of this article, she seemed perfectly normal to me. The right amount of happy, the right amount of sad, the right amount of crazy. Little did I know that behind the cheerful smile of hers was a terrible past forcefully subdued. As a friend, there was nothing I could do to help her deal with the abuse except encourage her to pen it down so she’d have some closure. We at MTTN applaud her for having the courage to speak up.” – Shaista Salam, PR Officer
The author wishes to remain anonymous, publishing her story via MTTN to reach her desired audience.
Perpetrators of sexual abuse often erroneously believe that children are too young to understand what is happening to them and would hence never speak out. While the former may be true, children carry the memory of this trauma way into adulthood.
I’m unsure as to how I’m supposed to tell this story. Nevertheless, let me walk you through the technicalities first. I was four years old, living in India, in a joint family. Chacha, Chachi, Bua, Phupa, Dadi, cousins – you name it. I was a high spirited kid; someone who loved the smell of damp earth after the first monsoon rains and licked chuna off walls just because it tasted more exciting to me than my mum’s aloo-bhindi. I loved playing in the sun, arguing with the kids in my locality about who’s going to ride the bicycle next or who’s going to bat or who’s to become the ‘den’ in the next game of Hide-and-Seek. Concerned mainly with collecting the most number of marbles and playing cards, mine was a carefree world indeed.
So there I was, in this big house with several elderly cousins to keep me entertained. I do not know when the abuse started and I do not remember all of it, but I do know that three of my brothers were involved. They must have been 14-17 years old then. One would take me up to the terrace and go down on me. Another would coax me into sucking on his wanger, assuring me that he’d give me that pack of playing cards I so badly needed to complete my collection. The third one holed me up under the blankets and stripped me down. I do not remember how often the incidents took place and whether I detested it or not. For me, a child of four years, all that mattered was the triumph with which I could show off my playing cards and marbles to my envious friends. I didn’t know what was happening to me was wrong. I didn’t realize the moral implications that came along with my triumph. I was a child, an innocent victim.
My family moved abroad after kindergarten and up until just before I hit puberty, I was no wiser to anything. When I eventually did realize what had taken place years ago, the shame and guilt that came with it was overpowering. For a very long time, I felt alone and broken. I used the past as an excuse to feel sorry for myself and alienated myself from my family. I particularly blamed my mother, for having had allowed such a depravity to take place right under her nose. My mother worked full time then and as a result of her busy schedule, she seldom had time for any conversations. Add in the blame quotient and my relationship with her spiraled down exponentially. I blamed her, without rationale, for not protecting me.
Now, as I look back to all those teen and pre-teen years wherein I was confused and aghast, I realize proudly how well I dealt with my distress. I never told anyone up until I was seventeen; in response to which I was promptly asked never to repeat the story again by a close friend. Even in school, I could never bring myself to talk about what happened with my best friends. Not that it was their fault, I just wasn’t ready yet.
I have read stories about individuals requiring therapy because they weren’t able to cope with the trauma and I’m so thankful I had the vigor to keep myself together.
Fast forward to a year into Manipal and I found some wonderful friends whom I confided in and mourned the loss of my innocence. Finally the colossal rock lifted and I wasn’t afraid to talk anymore. I do not feel the want to be silent anymore now and although I have not fully come to terms with the idea of people knowing my name and my story, I know that in the near future, full disclosure might even be a possibility.
As for my brothers, I see them when I go back to my native place and I wonder whether they realize I remember. I wonder if there were more like me and whether they feel even the slightest bit of remorse. I do not hate them and I may never know whether they seek absolution….for the most part now, I’m okay and that’s all that matters.
Note: My friends tell me I must talk to my parents but I’d rather not stir up old memories. However, just because I have chosen not to open up to my family that does not give you a justification to stay silent if a child or a teenager or even an adult is being sexually abused. Take care of your family and take care of your friends. Speak up and put a stop to it NOW. Please.
The author hopes this can help others speak up against child sexual abuse as well.