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I somehow woke up and all I could see was my uncle in front of me with his pants undone. My shirt was ridden up, exposing my chest, and my trousers were undone as well.
Trigger Warning: This has child sexual abuse, violence against women, and may be triggering for survivors.
Growing up our parents always try to make sure that we are raised in a protected environment. They try to shield you from the monsters who are waiting to pounce on you whenever given an opportunity. But little does one know that these monsters do appear, and they appear at the most unexpected of times and there is no one to protect you then.
I have faced four monsters in four different stages of my life, and all of them have left a deep scar.
I was a child with no idea of the word ‘consent’ and no knowledge about good and bad touch. So, when a guy from my colony stopped me while coming back from my dance class and squeezed my breasts. I stood there completely numb. I watched that person run away while I tried to process my jumbled thoughts and emotions. Little did I know that it was just the beginning of what was going to happen to me.
I used to believe that the washroom was my safe place. It is a place where I used to think, vent, and come up with ideas. I had no idea that this safe place could be taken away from me by someone filming me while I took a bath. And that someone was my friend’s father. He showed me the video while I was visiting my friend, and asked me to go to a hotel with him or else he would leak the video online.
I needed that video to be deleted so I took matters into my own hands. I was waiting for an opportunity to get my hands on that mobile. One fine day when he was not around and I happened to be there in his house with my friend. As soon as I saw his phone, I took it and threw it in the gutter.
Life moved on and even I tried to do so but other things were planned for me. Being a very passionate dancer, when my dance teacher asked to come to practice on an early Sunday morning, I was elated. Turns out there was a photo shoot going on. I was in the green room. I was changing costumes when my teacher’s father came from behind, started feeling me up, and inserted his fingers inside me. I still remember the words he said to me that day, “I am the luckiest one to have sex with you because you are so tight.”
I stood there with tears pouring down my face. I could feel the pain but I could not comprehend my emotions. It was as if someone had shattered my soul and I was finding it so difficult to put the pieces back together. I ran out of the room without my pants on and I could hear people laughing at me, but I didn’t know what to say. This time I decided to remain silent.
I went to a hostel for my plus one and life was going well, until we had an outing and I went to stay at a relative’s place. It was my last night over there and I was in a deep slumber. I somehow woke up and all I could see was my uncle in front of me with his pants undone. My shirt was ridden up, exposing my chest, and my trousers were undone as well. I’m not sure if I was raped or not, but I ran out of the house locked every door from outside; and spent the rest of the night on steps.
You see, standing up is not an easy task, and that night it took all my strength to do so and run away. This time as well, I stayed quiet because of ‘ghar ki izzat’.
This incident left a really deep mark on me and killing myself was on my daily to-do list. I used to think of ways to harm myself constantly. Despite these dark thoughts circling me I decided to give it another shot and moved back to my hometown for graduation.
I am a dancer and I always need a makeup artist with me. There was this one time I had hired a new makeup artist and he took pictures of me while changing. When he approached me with those pictures and started to touch me, I snapped. I beat him up, shattered his phone, and ran away.
I confronted him last year and he said: “I didn’t know why I did it, but I didn’t know that it would affect you this way so I continued with it.”
I chose to remain silent all this time because of the one response I heard from my grandmother, “Tumhari body zyada developed hai, isliye aisa hua tumhare saath.” (Your body is more ‘developed’ for your age, that’s why this happened to you!).
These incidents have taken away a huge chunk of me. I have been diagnosed with clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD. But the moment I spoke up about my story, I felt empowered; relieved, free from all the haunting memories and happy. And that is when I understood that whatever happened was never my mistake and it is time to stand up for myself.
Today, I am a sexual abuse activist and I understand that my story is tough for people to read or listen but I am extremely proud of myself.
There are days when I struggle with coming to terms with what has happened, but then there are days when I feel like a queen who was brave enough to go through all of this. And I am sure there will come a day when I will be able to rise above everything that has tried putting me down. Till then I will keep fighting, I will keep trying.
Image source: tortugadatacorp on Pixabay
Sahithi Mannar is an adult survivor of child sexual abuse, a dancer, a sexual abuse activist, and mental health warrior. read more...
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