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A mother shares her history of child abuse with her son, revealing how women of all ages are unsafe in our society. A must read.
#ShareYourStory is an initiative by Breakthrough to bring the conversation around sexual harassment into families; to get women talking about the harassment they have experienced with their family members, especially sons (or other boys and young men.)
If you would like to be a part of the #ShareYourStory initiative and create more changemakers, share your letter to your son (or young friends, nephews etc.). You can write a post or send us a short video at email@example.com. More details here.
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Nights are always special. The deepest feelings and desires are the children of the night. What we are before the world in the bright of the day is a mask which is taken off in the darkness of the night.
Nights are very beautiful in another way. It is when the night arrives that we realise that we have lived another day of our life. Nights are for gratitude and they are filled with hope for the days to arrive – our plans take shape in these moments of hope.
And the nights these days, I know, are some such nights for you. In a couple of weeks, one of the most important and beautiful days of your life will be here. I know you are excited and so am I. My little boy will be married. You have been a brilliant son and a good friend to me and I am sure you will be a wonderful husband and a great dad too. Never give up on your family because no matter what, they will remain your biggest strength.
Before I proceed, let me warn you that this one isn’t going to be a pleasant one. Do you remember the girl pal in the first letter I had written to you? She is back today and wants to speak her heart out like never before. I want to thank you today for honouring me by sharing with me the most important decisions and the worst dilemmas of your life. So, as someone who is so close to you, I want to share with you the most unpleasant experiences I have had in my life. It will not be easy – read it when you are prepared for it.
Nights are special and beautiful. But sometimes nights are the most frightening when the demon in you wakes up. Nights are most disturbing when sometime you fail to fight the demon. And that is when the worse happens.
It was one such night when a demon in someone had woken up and was lingering somewhere close to me. For the background, my parents had my sister and me with hardly any time-gap and so both of us shared a bed with my parents which I am assuming was a bit uncomfortable. This demon for various reasons had to stay with us in our house permanently and since the house had only two rooms, my parents would put me to sleep on the same bed as this demon so that they could sleep a little comfortably with my little sister.
That night, I do not even remember how old I was. I remember waking up in the middle of the night when I felt someone pulling my hand and trying to touch me all over in a way that scared me. As a child I thought may be it was in his sleep and I tried pushing him away. But every time I did, he inched closer towards me. He touched me inappropriately – not just on that night but every single night that followed after that. I was scared of him and was never fond of him. My mother always thought of it as my misbehaviour towards him and hence, I was petrified to share these things with her.
I did not want to get beaten up or made fun of. So I kept quiet and this demon killed me bit by bit every night until one night when I felt nothing. I think I had gotten used to it or something. What it was I do not remember. But I remember not feeling a thing after that night. It went on for years. I do not remember when or how all this stopped. I have no recollection except the night when it started and the night I felt funnily nothing. I remember another night when I dreamt of the walls of my house painted with red blood when I woke up realising him pulling my hand towards him.
This was not it. We were four kids and it became difficult for my mother to manage things on her own. So she hired a domestic help – he must have been in his teens. I remember that evening. My mother had to go to visit a friend just around the corner which was literally two minutes away from my house. So she left us at home where the kids from the neighbourhood had joined to play with us. The helper guy was also a part of our games always. I do not remember what we were playing.
Suddenly, this guy initiated a new game and very quickly he and I were out from the game. Whilst others continued, he took me to another room in the pretext of teaching me a new secret game. In the room, he told me that as per the rules of this new game we both had to take off our underwear. I denied. But he managed to convince me that it would be fun and that nothing would happen. I fell into the trap and if not the worst, something really bad happened. That night I tried telling my mother of this and the pain I was going through. Without paying too much attention or trying to probe further, she asked me apply some coconut oil and assured me that my pain will be gone. I was scared. I did not know how my mother would react if I spoke further. I was quietened again. And I lived with this secret in my heart always until now when I am revealing this to you.
Then, there was a neighbour demon. He had a beautiful collection of music. I think I was around ten or eleven years old when I would go to their house to listen to all the music he played. One day we were rummaging through the cassettes and played something we thought was nice. A few minutes into the song, he asked me to shut my eyes to be able to enjoy the music more intently. I immediately followed what he told me. After a while I felt a hand going up my leg and that is when I remember running from there and avoiding the neighbour demon as much as I could.
Well! There was another demon (and this makes me feel like the world is filled with them) when I was in my teens – I think thirteenish. This demon managed to trap me emotionally into agreeing to do things that I should not have. I will confess that I would enjoy the physical intimacy I shared and may be that is why I never thought of talking about it to anyone. But somewhere I feel I was wronged and taken for a ride. I do not know if these are solaces to rid me from the guilt I go through.
I checked with a professional for the meaning of child abuse and had described this incident to him to comprehend whether this is covered under the technical meaning of the term – child abuse. He answered in the affirmative as the demon in my story was much older and I was not even an adult then. It was that day that I got rid of some of my guilt. Because all along I knew it was not right, but I still did it. I do not know what I was trying to seek there night after night.
Beta! I do not know what to say now. I cannot describe in words what damage these incidents have caused to me. To be honest, my mind is blank. But I feel disgust and pukish as I recount these incidents in this letter. And yes! I want to scream and cry. I am big enough now and I know that none of it was my fault. But it has turned me into this insecure personality – I cannot easily trust men. I have spent the most important years of my life dreading the nights and I still do. Nights scare me. Darkness freaks me out – you know about this. I cannot stop thinking about the small girls who are going through what I went through inside their houses.
My parents became extra protective when we were outside the house. For instance, they would never let me take the corner-most seat in a movie theatre (even when I was 31), would never allow me to sit in the front seat of a cab with a stranger driver, would ensure I was covered properly while sleeping in the trains, have my brother stand behind me when we had to wait in a queue, check on me every half an hour if I was out post ten in the night, tell me about all their fears when I decided to live alone – the list is endless. But not once did they cared to check if I was safe in my own house and my neighbourhood. Not once did they think if allowing relatives to stay with us for the sake of helping them would do any harm to their kids. I have always been against relatives staying with us permanently – this takes away from the essence of a family. Moreover, I can never trust them with a lot of things.
All I want you to realise is that you and your wife will be parents someday. (Please share this letter with your wife as well). The world is filled with demons – not just the night ones but there are a few walking in the bright of the day too. You need to be the protector of your kids from these demons. I am writing this letter to you so that you know that most demons will be inside your house – a relative or a friend or colleague. You can never figure who the demon is because they will always look normal. Never leave your children (especially your daughter, if you have one) in the custody of strangers – be it your help, relatives or your best friends.
When I was growing up, no one taught me the difference between a good touch and bad touch. These are important lessons that you have to impart to your children when they are ready. Some experiences make you feel dirty and grotesque – I felt so dirty that I cannot describe them in words. The memories from these incidents still make me feel that way. These experiences should be avoided as they take away a lot from a person.
You need to take extra care of your girl child. For a daughter, her dad will be her world. For her, a mother is someone who she will always be comfortable discussing her physical discomforts with. Be a friend to your daughter who she can approach in her most scared, harrowing and distressed moments. There is a bad world out there. Be her comfort in the thorns. Never dismiss anything without paying enough attention.
Another important thing is please listen to your wife when she feels uncomfortable around someone. We women have been through some or the other unpleasant experience and unconsciously, we have developed an invisible antenna through which we can, most of the times, sense the ill-intention in another person, specially when it comes to physical abuse. Please trust her instincts in matters such as these. She could be unreasonable sometime. And that is when you need to sit her down, talk to her, understand the reasons for her fears and clear her doubts to comfort her.
Please be there for your wife and daughter when they need you – no matter how young or how old they are. After all, if not you, who will they turn to?
Let us face it! Women, irrespective of their age, are unsafe.
Cover image via Shutterstock
Traveller, Author, Dreamer. Storyteller at Storywallahs.
Left a high flying corporate job to tell stories
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