As a child sexual abuse survivor, very often my traumatic childhood experiences trouble me. I get violent dreams of being trapped in vacuums, or someone following me and pushing me into some dark infinite universe or revisiting the sites of my abuse in my dreams.
These dreams have been troubling me for quite some time and I decided to see a therapist. I have been extensively working on myself and on my trauma healing.
The amount of abuse and trauma I faced growing up has impacted and wounded me deeply. I am on the path of healing now and it is important that I share my story, so that someone else gets courage reading it. I am narrating an incident that I had suppressed for a long time – something that deeply scarred my formative years.
I don’t exactly remember the date, but it happened to me at a family wedding. The perpetrator was my own cousin. He was my eldest uncle’s son, someone I trusted a lot growing up.
My cousin was academically excellent, very well-mannered and came across as a thoroughly decent guy to the world. I trusted him immensely and would share all my secrets with him. My extended family used to say that we were ‘soul brother and sister’.
Anyway, when the wedding came around, all of us in the family went to our ancestral village to attend it. We were to stay an extra couple of days after the wedding. (Traditional Assamese weddings are usually spread over three days till the final reception.)
Our entire extended family had shown up. As a young and aspiring fashionista, I craved junk jewellery and had just gotten a new pair of payal (anklets) for the wedding. Once we reached our village, we showered and dressed in the new clothes that mom had recently bought for us. Excited, I showed my new piece of jewellery to the cousin I so looked up to. Surprisingly, he scolded me. It was beyond my comprehension as to what had gone wrong.
He wanted to know how I could possibly think of wearing ‘such things’ to a village wedding – what would people think of me and my family? He also went on to say that ‘payal’ was a piece of jewellery worn by wayward women – and so on and so forth. I had no clue as to what was happening. After this incident, my mood was ruined for the whole wedding.
At night, when the wedding festivities were over, we retired to our rooms, tired and sleepy. Due to the large number of guests who had stayed over, several of us had to share rooms. I still remember that about a dozen of us were sharing a room, lying on beds and some mattresses on the floor. What happened next, scarred me for life.
My perverted cousin came and slept next to me. After some time, I could feel his hands moving up my thighs, even as something hard was constantly being rubbed against my back. I was shocked and my brain froze. I didn’t know what was happening and why it was happening. He continued doing what he was doing, possibly thinking that I was in deep slumber. It stopped when someone entered the room and switched on the lights. I was relieved when it stopped. I immediately woke up and looked for my mom.
That year, during winter vacations, the same thing happened all over again. He would come and sleep next to me under some pretext, claiming that he wanted to share some stories with me – and instead, molest me.
I was afraid every time I was alone. The fear had reached such an extreme that I refused to go to our village. I used to pretend to be sick whenever my parents discussed the possibility of a vacation in the village.
I could not share these incidents with anyone at home. Even today, no one knows that such a thing happened to me. Recently, while I was working with my therapist on a trauma healing session, I shared the incident with her. I told my therapist that I still remembered what I was wearing when it had happened and what my abuser was wearing.
I could not come to terms with the fact that the man who had supposedly ‘scolded’ me for wearing a piece of jewellery was a sexual predator.
When I returned home from the wedding, I found it hard to put the incident behind me. I tried hard to keep up with my studies, but found it difficult to. That year my marks dipped; from previously holding the third rank in class, I slipped to 11th. I felt like I couldn’t share what had happened with anyone, fearing that no one would believe me, My cousin was thought to be ‘a good boy’.
Life went on for the both of us.
Later, he was diagnosed with a serious medical condition and moved to Delhi to stay with my uncle. A few years later, we learnt that he had tried something similarly perverted with my cousin in Delhi and was thrown out of my uncle’s house.
Many years later, one of his brothers, during a random conversation, began to talk about how women “want to be sexually touched” – and that how, even amongst our cousins, there were many women who were “high on hormones” and just wanted some “sexual attention”.
I was horrified, realising that this pervert had discussed his molestation of his cousins in a way that appeared to justify his actions.
I did not say anything then but I severed all ties with him. I have not gone back to my village since, and these are the reasons why. It brings back memories of what had happened to me as a child.
I only wish we were taught what child sexual abuse was in school. Probably then, this would not have happened. In most cases even today, it is mostly members of the family who perpetrate sexual abuse. We need to teach our children today what safe and unsafe touch is. We really need to ensure that our children grow up in a safe environment.
(Megha is a professional social worker in the thematic area of gender. She tweets @kashyapmegha007.)
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