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I realized that this was wrong, that what my uncle was doing to me was not right. The term sexual abuse still hadn't entered my mind. I started feeling ashamed and scared.
Trigger Warning: This deals with child sexual abuse and may be triggering to survivors.
It started when I was about seven or eight. He was my uncle, my father’s cousin.
My father was on a tour and my grandparents were also not in town. Wary of spending the night with her daughters alone, my mother requested my uncle to sleep the night in our house for the three days that my father would not be there. While my mother slept in the master bedroom with my other two sisters, for some reason, I was supposed to share my bedroom with him, though we had separate beds.
I never thought it was out of the ordinary. He was always a fun uncle, joking and playing around with us. Though he was my father’s cousin, he was closer in age to us. This was not the first time he was staying the night. He had stayed over before. The two families were very close, and there were regular comings and goings between our house and theirs, which was just a couple of lanes away. He would come after the Hindi news would get over on Doordarshan leave by 6 in the morning to go to college.
The first two nights passed without any incident. On the third night, I remember him getting into my bed and humping me with the clothes on. Of course, at that time, I had no clue what humping was. I thought it was a game that he was playing with me.
Since that night, my uncle would sexually abuse me periodically. There was no set time or pattern. Sometimes it would be months before he touched me. It usually happened on afternoons when we would visit their home, and our mothers would be busy. He would get on top of me, rub against me till he came.
As an innocent, I continued to think he was playing a game. He would not force me or try to kiss me on my mouth. I would go with him willingly as he made me believe this was a special game that he was playing with me. He made me believe that I should be flattered that he had singled me out for attention, for he was very popular amongst us cousins. He made me promise to keep it a secret.
As I reached close to puberty, he tried to make me touch his penis. I didn’t want to do it. That was the first, and the only time, he threatened to tell my mother that I was doing naughty things. Even then, I did not realise that what was happening was wrong. After this incident, while he did not make me touch him again, he started fondling my private parts directly rather than through my clothes.
Things started changing when I hit puberty. He would try to suck my budding breasts and fondle my privates even more insistently. By now, I started feeling more and more uncomfortable. I realized that this was wrong, that what my uncle was doing to me was not right. The term sexual abuse still hadn’t entered my mind.
I started feeling ashamed and scared. I was ashamed of the way he would touch me, and how helpless I was in stopping him. He was physically bigger than me and the threat of going to my mother still hung over me. I was scared of my parents saying that somehow I was responsible for my abuse. BTW, I still did not know that this was abuse. I just instinctively knew that this was wrong.
I started avoiding going to their home, for he would usually do his deeds there. I started avoiding meeting him at our home as well. I would either hide or else, say that I was busy studying. I made sure that I was never ever alone with him. Over a while, he took the hint and stopped trying to get me alone.
But, he was still a relative, and the families were still close. Even though now, my skin crawled whenever I saw him, I had to see him, talk to him, and be polite to him. Thankfully a few years later father was transferred and we moved to a different town. My interactions with him dwindled down to almost nothing. Only when I went to college and became more aware of the world, I realised that when he would touch me and hump me was, in fact, sexual abuse.
Though I didn’t realise it at that time, it left an everlasting legacy. It still comes back to haunt me. I hate being touched unasked. My sexuality was damaged. Even when I am with my husband, whom I love a lot, there are times when his touch reminds me of those days. I withdraw from my husband’s touch and fall deep into melancholy. Earlier, I had kept the abuse hidden from him, but when my melancholy started affecting our life together, I gathered my courage and told him the truth. Hoping and praying that he would not blame me for my past. My husband realized, that my withdrawal from his love-making is my past casting a shadow on my present.
I still do not have the courage to take the name of my abuser. Nor do I have the courage to post this with my name. And yet, am I writing this post, for the whole world to read. Maybe as a catharsis, to purge me of the memories of when I was abused. To purge me of the fact that I was a naive fool. One who was a willing participant in her abuse.
It has taken me many years to realise, that the abuse I underwent from my uncle’s hands was not my fault. My only fault was not having the courage to go to my mother. I, like many young girls, was scared of my parents. I did not trust my parents or their love. I did not trust that they would have supported me, come what may. But then I was eight, and an innocent.
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: tzahiV from Getty Images Signature Free for Canva Pro
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