By Rakshita Joshi
Child Sexual Abuse is one of the most heinous crimes against one‟s body and soul. As a child, I never realized that I was being victimized, stigmatized and traumatized and that these incidents would impact the intimacy of my relationships as I grow up. I grew up in horror and my silence, never questioned.
I was six year old, when I was sexually abused by a neighbor for almost three years. As I started resisting, I was sexually harassed by the same person for another six years. Lack of awareness about causes and consequences of abuse is more profound in a country like ours which strengthens the secrecy surrounding the abuse, as it did in my case. For a long time, I held myself responsible for it. I thought that I had an affair. In my adolescence, I received immense attention from the opposite gender across all ages. I craved for it, yet despised it. I was ashamed of myself. There were repeated incidents of sexual abuse by few others, unstable relationships with family and friends, especially with my parents. I had a distorted opinion about love, relationships and intimacy. Often, I felt suicidal. It is bewildering to acknowledge that I was vulnerable to substance abuse, addiction to pornography and promiscuity. The entire cycle of shame and guilt, rage and confusion and ambivalence made me self-destructive. I was extremely vulnerable and that resulted in another sexual assault. I was raped when I was sixteen. In an event that frightens us, our body‟s response would be to either fight, escape (flight) or freeze. I froze in extreme shock. I couldn‟t tell anyone.
I was partly raised by my aunt. I grew up with her from when I was an year old till I was ten. I had strong attachment with her, not with my parents and the abuse would occur when I‟d visit my parents during vacations. I always felt abandoned. I always felt that my brother was more important to them. Around the same time, she survived a major paralysis stroke and it left me paralysed. Isolation and loneliness was persistent. I had nobody to turn to. I was surrounded by people; aunts, uncles and cousins. Yet, I was alone. I never had a sense of belonging. I was vulnerable because I desired to be held, to be hugged and to be loved. I wanted attention. Little did I know that I was innocent. I was very scared to tell anybody. I felt dirty. I felt bad about myself. I felt I was a curse to my parents. In the whole process, I became my parent; a parentwho is extremely critical.
I was eighteen when I first recognized that I was a victim of child sexual abuse. It pained me and I felt helpless. My prolonged silence caused despair. I couldn‟t get any help. I still suffer from anxiety issues. I am still, to some extent, a mixed bag of self-conscious, emotionally sensitive and unstable personality and at the same time, an intelligent human with false pride. There is a deep fear, fueling an ego, changing the dynamics and perceptions of emotions. I‟m filled with contempt.
Even now happiness seems to be a crime; expectation, a burden; imagination, a horror. Often I think of ways in which I can end my life. I don‟t do it voluntarily but I do let my mind sway. I feel hopeless about something or the other. I spoke to every person I could. I wonder if I understand what support is or perhaps I fail to tell someone what I seek. The constant isolation
makes me wonder if I ever had any friends. I blamed myself for that. Everybody has a life and their own priorities. I have a career, parents who support; financially I am not so bad. But there is a void. And I try frantically to fill it but nothing seems compatible. I have a life which anybody might envy. But there is emptiness. I didn‟t feel it much before. After knowing the truth, revealing the truth, and caught in the dilemma whether to rebuke the person who caused it fuels a fear. I seemed more pleased with the elated ego and arrogance I often showed before. It is fearful to be humble, threatening to be truthful and easier to live a life of pretense with contemptuous interpretations of events which hurt.
Amidst the mess, it was a child’s dream that gave me hope; a reason to live, a reason to change. I clinged to my academics and that became my identity. Things seemed to settle down with time. I believed I was selfish but I tried to change. I tried to make everybody happy, yet miserably failed. I sought validation for my character and I believed the lies. I was in a seemingly happy relationship which lasted for three years. I had confided to him that I was sexually abused as a child. But it all blew up when I was, again, sexually assaulted by him. Yes, by the very person I loved and trusted the most! It didn‟t stop at that. I was more devastated when I saw neither guilt nor pain in him. Rather, he used the fact that I had been sexually abused as child to justify his act. He seemed very agitated and blamed me for the situation. Well, I was the one who didn‟t want to get engaged right away. I was assaulted when I cried to him and begged an apology for no mistake of mine. Families were aware of this and people had to be answered and he is a good story teller. While I battled with Post-Traumatic-Stress- Disorder, he was engaged and soon, he got married to someone else.
After this incident which occurred on 20th January 2016, I had only questions to guide me. My past cried out to be resolved. I decided to fight. I wanted to know the damage my past had done to me and I‟m still, fighting a long battle. I reached out to few people I thought would help but most turned away, indirectly. It hurt me more to hear that I ruined someone‟s life. It hurt me when my calls were not answered. It hurt me when I asked them to help me find a therapist and I didn‟t hear from them for months. It hurt me when they reply without compassion. It hurt me when I confronted my parents about it because they responded like it was my fault. Longing for intimacy and affection was my fault! But then, someone helped. I took my chances but found a good therapist. I took a leap of faith and I found a good friend.
I still find it hard to accept that it happened with me and I suffered in silence, suppressing all my pain, agony and humiliation. I was just a little girl, wanted to be held, wanting to be loved. But I will not give up. I will be there for that little girl if there is no one else. I promise to free her from the prison of guilt and shame. It was not her fault.
I pray for the strength to endure this journey, to fulfill the longing of her heart, deeply wounded yet deeply beautiful, to love boldly and pursue her desires passionately.
She walked alone
On stem and stone Ate the leaves Crawled without bone
Ugly they called her Uglier she felt
The leaves she ate
Looked uglier when she left
Alone and scared She built a nest Wound the threads Around herself
Wrapped in the shell She felt warm
She imagined a world That would never harm
Little did she know
That a seed would grow And the cocoon around her Was a hardened dough
The warmth soon turned Into a heat which burnt There was no air
But a soul which yearned
She put her strength
To break the tent
But the fear she had
Had weakened her strength
“Ugly” they would call her Uglier she would feel Blinded to hope,
She was not bereft of zeal
She flew now
From flower to flower Bathed in the sweetness That was unknown to her
“Beautiful” they called her
And beautiful she was
She was the caterpillar Now a beautiful butterfly…