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He could see that she was terrified. Something told him that he had to talk to his daughter and find out the reason behind her behavior.
Trigger Warning: This deals with child sexual abuse and may be triggering for survivors.
Being a counselor and psychotherapist, I come across cases of domestic violence, breakups, mental illness, career confusion, parenting challenges, and many more. It is not an easy job, since the suffering of the people leaves behind a tiny scar on us, listeners as well. Fortunately, it has made me understand the issues of other people around me better, and my response to people in my life is well calculated due to my knowledge of the pain people go through.
The most painful experience I have come across in my career/life is of people who have been abused as children. The guilt, the confusion, and the anger for issues that have been unresolved in the abuse they have gone through in childhood are very traumatic and severe. Unfortunately, most of them hold themselves responsible for what happened to them.
One of the most heart-wrenching incidents was shared with me by not a counselee but a friend who is a counselor herself.
She once narrated how abusers use the innocence and lack of vocabulary skills of the child to take advantage of them with her own experience so that I could help those who seek counseling for child abuse. She also gave me permission to narrate this incident or to write about it without revealing her name because her parents were no more. As long as they were alive, she never shared this with anyone. So let us call her Kali.
In her childhood, Kali lived with her mom, father, and brother in quarters where people were like a huge family even though they lived in separate homes. There were shops inside the compound where even young children went to buy things. One of her neighbors was close to her family and showered her with lots of gifts and love. Kali too loved the neighborhood uncle a lot because he was very nice to her.
One day he brought ice cream for Kali. Her mother told him, “Sorry I am not allowing her to eat ice cream since her tonsils are giving her problems”. So the ice cream was given to her brother while she sulked in a corner.
After a few days, Kali had gone to a shop to buy a book and a pencil. Since her brother was busy, she had gone alone. When walking back to her home, she met the uncle. He held her hand and led her to a secluded corner.
To this day, she says that she never expected anything bad to happen to her since this person was always nice to her. He said nothing and she too did not resist because she never felt the need to. But her confidence and trust were broken soon. The way he was touching her made her very uncomfortable and at times he hurt her as well. She was sad and confused. Soon he walked away in the direction of her home. She was in shock for quite some time before picking up her bag with the things she bought and walking towards her home.
There she saw the uncle coming out of her home smiling. He pinched her cheek quite hard and walked away. As she entered, she saw her mom was very angry and looked as though she was waiting for her. Again there was a lot of confusion in Kali because she did not know the reason for her mom’s anger.
Slowly she tried to tell her mom what happened, “Amma the uncle is not so nice. He was bad to me today”. This child aged around 6 years had no proper words to describe what had happened so it was not clear. More hurt and shock awaited her when her mom responded, “Uncle did the right thing. It was not he but you who are bad and don’t listen to elders when they tell you to do something”.
Kali did not know why her mom was not protecting her. On the other hand, she was reprimanding her for being bad. Kali was lost and sad for a few days but then she started living her life as usual.
But, more trouble awaited her when the uncle started coming over on the pretext of helping her with homework since her mom was busy in the kitchen in the evenings. Her parents were very happy about his help. Her brother went with his friends to a nearby place for his tuition and her mom was busy in the kitchen. Dad was at work. Kali was left to the mercy of the uncle who kept abusing her. Unfortunately, her mom gave the uncle permission that if she did not do her homework quickly or listen to him he could punish her and she did this in front of Kali. The child felt hurt, abandoned, and lost.
One day Kali’s dad was watching television and lovingly pulled Kali into his lap. To his shock, rather than responding happily, Kali started shuddering and crying, sending both her parents into shock.
Her father was more patient and wise than her mother. He slowly put her down beside him and gave her some time to calm down. He could see that she was terrified. Something told him that he had to talk to his daughter and find out the reason behind her behavior. When he asked her why she was behaving in this odd way, she blurted out, “I don’t like to sit on your lap. I don’t want tuition from the uncle who makes me sit in his lap. Mom said I should listen to him, but I don’t want to. He hurts me often”.
Soon her mom, who was still not catching up with her daughter, interfered, “You don’t like anyone stopping you from eating ice-cream or asking you to study. Since uncle is trying to make you a good girl, he is not a nice uncle anymore huh?” Luckily for Kali, her father stopped her mother and encouraged her to talk.
Both her parents were in shock as she narrated in a child’s vocabulary what uncle was doing. It was too much for her mother now who ran into the bathroom and started vomiting.
Finally her dad got to know that the other day when uncle had rushed to her home he had told Kali’s mom something that made her angry with Kali, “I saw Kali eating a local ice-candy on her way back here. I remembered that you had said that she shouldn’t be eating ice-cream. So, I reprimanded her and threw away her ice-cream. She will be upset since I was a bit angry and scolded her. But you know that I did it for her own good. Hope you don’t mind”. Naturally the mom was grateful to him and angry with Kali.
Being a small child Kali did not have the right words to complain. Moreover, when her mom told her that what Uncle did was right, Kali was shocked, confused, and hurt.
Soon after her father had a physical scuffle with his neighbor in which both men got hurt. They did not lodge a complaint with the police for some reason Kali has no idea about today. But, somehow her mom and her dad were never again cordial as before because her dad couldn’t forgive her mom for not taking care of Kali properly. He held her partially responsible for his daughter’s suffering. He quickly got a new job and moved to a new town and never brought it up with his daughter ever again. It took a long time for Kali to be comfortable being near her father or brother. She would cringe whenever they touched her, and that would upset her father a lot. He even stopped looking at her mom directly eventually. Even after Kali got married, her father never changed.
As for Kali, she says that she struggles with all of her relationships due to her past experience. Though physically she is completely OK, emotionally she has never recovered. She has sought help from many psychiatrists and counselors, even becoming a counselor helping a lot of people with their relationships, but she still struggles with the demons of her past.
It is very cruel how the pedophile predators use the innocence, trust, and lack of maturity of a child to satisfy their lust. We as adults and parents should always give the child the benefit of doubt and protect them. We should give them the confidence to speak without interrupting. I have observed that children start with some story or incident and eventually they start telling about something that is bothering them, like bullying at school, a person they fear, or something they are confused about and want to know more about. Listening to children will help keep them safe. Let us become aware and alert and keep the innocent Kalis safe.
Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month [CSAAM] is about taking back our power, our lives, even if it is years after it has happened. It’s a violence that preys on the fact that a child is vulnerable to both – the abuse itself, and to the guilt a predator burdens them with, effectively silencing the survivor. Add to that the fact that in majority of cases, the predator is someone the child knows socially, possibly in family, and who takes advantage of that fact.
We need to take this power away from these predators, and reclaim it by speaking up.
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Image source: OkinawaPottery from Getty Images Free for Canva Pro
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I am Farida Rizwan, 55, Counselor and Psychotherapist working as Senior Curriculum Developer with Chimple Learning. I am ardent blogger @www.chaptersfrommylife.com and share my life experiences of surviving breast cancer 3rd stage for read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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In the last few days I was having a conversation with my younger sister about relationships, and she said something which hit me hard.
I have seen a lot of people feel uncomfortable sharing their age, but I have no such hesitations. I am 32 years old and my younger cousins tell me that I belong to the ‘old generation’. If you are born in the year 1990, you are still considered among them, but if a year less – 1989, you are from the old school.
Being an elder sister, my cousins come to me seeking advice about studies, career and relationships, but when I try to help in the way I understand, the only reply I get is, “Didi, leave it, you’ll not understand it. Aapki generation aur hamari generation mein bahut fark hai. (There’s a lot of difference between your and my generation).”
In the last few days I was having a conversation with my younger sister about relationships, and she said something which hit me hard. Though she is from the new generation and I am from the so-called old generation, we share a lot of mutual thoughts and interests. We spoke about love, how the generation born after the year 2000 perceives love.
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I confess that SATC (Sex and the City) has a special place in my heart. I must have watched the 6 seasons and every single episode at that, countless times. Seriously, there was nothing like sitting back with a glass of wine, a bar of dark chocolate and an episode of SATC, after a hard day at work. It renewed me. Made me laugh.
So much so, that I even ended up going for the special SATC bus tour when I visited New York in 2019.
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