I’ve always been good at lying to myself. Even if I did not wish to believe it, there is simply too much evidence to ignore. The black dress that didn’t fit me after I talked myself into buying it. My being upset after I told myself that I’d be fine with receiving a little criticism on my latest article. My abhorrence to being touched, even accidentally, by anyone around me when I thought a childhood experience would not affect me once I stopped thinking about it. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes lying to yourself is the only way to protect your mind from being hurt more than it already has been but there comes a time when you need to wake up and accept the reality for what it is.
I was molested as a child. No, my parents did not know. And no, it wasn’t by anyone I “knew” – I don’t think that I will ever understand what makes a grown person hurt a child in such a way, so, no, I didn’t know that person. Not even a little bit, not at all. I’m not even sure if I remember the details, sometimes I even wonder – if my recollection was just a horrible dream. What I do remember is that after this “event” occurred, I spent the next week in a daze, going about school and studies without actually taking in a thing – caught in an endless nightmare with no signs of waking up anytime soon.
The thing that horrifies me isn’t that this happened – It’s a big world, with both good and bad in it and sometimes the bad can outweigh the good. What horrifies me is that it’s more common than you’d think. Fear of rejection, being singled out for discrimination, or simply the thought that nobody else will understand, keeps more people silent than you could imagine. While writing this piece, my sole source of motivation was a friend, a writer herself and it was only when I shared the article with her, that I found out that she’d been through this harrowing experience too. My shock at this discovery made me wonder – why did I expect there to be visible signs that would disclose a person had been molested?
Maybe because at times, it feels like I have a mark on me – something that sets me apart from other people. Whether it’s my uneasiness and discomfort in the company of strangers, particularly men, or trust issues with a lot of people in my life. And why wouldn’t anyone who’s undergone molestation have a hard time trusting people? While working on this article and slowly sharing our stories with each other, my friend and I both agreed that it’s very hard to come to terms with this incident. One day, you’re just trying to forget it ever happened and you do succeed to some extent until something happens to bring the nightmare to life again. The next day, you remember, in fact, you re-live it while shying away from every accidental brush of someone’s arm in the Metro. It’s a constant battle in your mind – you keep wondering, what was it that set this person off? What did I do that made this person hurt me? And if it’s a person you trusted, then for sure, it was something you did.
As, Shubhra Shahare, an Urban Company counsellor said, “It’s very common for people who’ve suffered molestation to blame themselves. In fact, the first reaction is always guilt because it is simply less hurtful than considering the alternative – that the person you trusted violated your trust in such a way.”
Break The Silence
What really helped was talking about it. I started when I first discussed the idea for this blog with my colleagues and since then, I don’t think I want to stop even if I could. Talking, writing and even reading about it is strangely liberating – it’s a huge relief while saddening, to know that I’m not alone. There are several women and men who underwent this and are now recovering and taking back their lives for themselves. They are sharing their stories and their journey to happiness because it helps. Their stories, your story and my story – these will probably be someone’s first ray of hope and tell them that they’re not alone, while guiding them on how to begin their process of healing.
Try talking to your family, whether about the incident and its effect on you or even your feeling towards your family after it happened. If you were abused as a child, it’s probably likely that you’re angry at your parents for having been unable to protect you, or in some cases, believe you when you broke your silence. Child sex offenders are masters of manipulation and often situate themselves in the family in a way that children find it very hard to raise their voice against them. Even if children voice their concerns, their family might ignore them or react with disbelief. As Shubhra says,
While, in a lot of instances there was no way that the parents could know what was happening, ignoring it after learning about it is the worst thing that you can do as a parent. It’s crucial to understand that a young child or even a young adult might talk about superman or exaggerate their day at school but they will never sexualize an interaction with an adult. Ignoring their plea for help can leave your children with truckloads of emotional baggage that they carry into adulthood.
What The Law Says
Besides talking, one action that we think could really help you or anyone around you who survived molestation, is to bring the perpetrators to justice. You’re not obligated to do it, but exposing such monsters to the society is important to ensure that no one else has to undergo this ever again. How you do it, is up to you. It could be telling your family members, talking about it on public platforms, or pursuing legal recourse.
As Sonam Chandwani, a lawyer on Urban Company says – “The laws are very clear on sexual offences committed against women and children. Needless to say, there cannot be a better way of getting justice than to approach the legal courts. A lot of parents and family members do not speak out because they believe that they are protecting their children from societal discrimination. However, the identity of sexual abuse survivors is kept strictly confidential in legal trials. Also, if parents do not speak up, you could be putting someone else’s child at risk of going through the same thing.”
We know it’ll probably be a long uphill battle, but it’ll be worth it as you can finally rewrite the wrongs done to you or your children. If you do decide to take this step, we would be proud to offer the services of our lawyers at your disposal. Especially in cases of child sexual abuse, it is important that parents take the mantel and ensure that the molester is suitably punished. After all, your child relies on you to protect him/her from such people and taking a legal step against such people will go a long way in restoring their faith in people and helping them heal.
Yes, I was molested. I have trust and intimacy issues, and will probably do for a long while. But I broke free and so can you. Just have faith and talk about it. To us, or the people who love you or a counselor. Share your story because it IS more common than you think. Yes, there will be some people who will judge you, and most will view you differently. But this change does not have to be for the worse. Having survived molestation in all its ugliness and brutality has contributed to the beautiful individual you are now and it’s time to share yourself with the world. We promise it’ll get better.