You can probably guess by the title, what this blog is going to be about. Yes, this isn’t an easy blog to write, but it has been a long time coming. For those who aren’t aware, a few months ago there was worldwide social media phenomenon where people were sharing the phrase “#MeToo” indicating that they were victims of sexual abuse at some point in their life. Following which, stories about Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey came to light. No, I’m not some celebrity who has a lot of following nor am I a privileged person with enough backing of sorts to face what I have for the last 20 years. So, who am I? I am, quite literally, for a lot of people, the girl next door. Let me rephrase that. I’m the Indian girl next door. Why the emphasis on Indian you may ask? Well, sex is a taboo topic in the Indian community. No one talks about it openly and if anyone does they are looked down upon. So, you can imagine what talking about sexual abuse can be like. No, this is not a blog to start a revolution of sorts, it’s just a chance for me to improve my mental state of mind and get this horrible part of my life out.
I’m most definitely going to face some backlash for writing this because of the reason above. Things like this are best left unsaid, which I suppose is something that a lot of Indians probably feel and are probably told to do, but writing about bullying was therapeutic for me and offered me the chance to tell my side of the story and get it out of my system. Just to be clear, I wasn’t ever told to not say it, I just chose not to for multiple reasons. But it was mostly because I was and still am ashamed of what happened to me even though I shouldn’t be as I did nothing wrong. I feel dirty with even the slightest thought of it. But because writing about bullying helped me in so many ways and helped me be a better person I’m hoping this will be the same. It won’t be easy and I hope and beg that you don’t judge me for it. I have a lot of (extended) family members and close friends who don’t have the slightest inkling towards what I’ve been battling for years. With all the courageous men and women out there who are sharing their stories, I’d like to share mine. Here goes nothing.
At the ages of 7, 12 and 16 I was sexually abused. On three separate occasions by 3 different men. No, I didn’t know any of these people. The incident that took place when I was 7, I didn’t have the slightest clue as to what was happening just that I wasn’t comfortable with what was going on. I remember being at the local store with my family. We were shopping for a birthday gift when a man came and stood between my parents and I. He kept blocking my way and then jokingly asked what I was looking for. As a 7 year old, it didn’t occur to me that this person didn’t work at the store. Yes, I was always told to not talk to strangers, but given how the conversation started I assumed he worked at the store. In those days, I lived in the Middle East and store uniforms weren’t a common thing. I responded to his question and said that we were looking for a gift for a birthday. He told me to follow him as he’s got a big gift he would show me. He took his time taking me through the aisles and before I knew it we had somehow reached the public toilets in the store. I was confused and unsure about why we were there but he made up an excuse to say he needed to go and asked me to wait. He didn’t look satisfied and walked out. We were in a quiet corner when he took out a handkerchief from his pocket to distract me. I stared at the handkerchief and from the corner of my eyes I could see that he was unzipping his pants. Just so you know, between 1997-1998 there were a lot of kidnappings taking place where I lived. When he’d taken his handkerchief out I had thought he was going to kidnap me and I had fully ignored him grabbing my hand and well you can figure out what happened. Amidst all of this I had spotted my brother who’d luckily come searching for me but was still a distance away and as soon as our eyes locked I ran to him. With the growing age, my mind had put a block on it. But as I grew older and started learning about things, only then did I realise the extent of what he tried to do to me.
At the age of 12, was probably the worst experience of them all. I kept trying to get away from the man, but he kept following me. It literally felt like I could run but I couldn’t hide. This ordeal went on for a good 20-minutes. It was so horrible that I got home that night and felt so sick that I made up an excuse the next day to not go to school. I will never forget this man’s face because he resembled someone I knew, an acquaintance’s father, but no it wasn’t her father, this man was just someone who looked like him. It was very unsettling as I’d see her father all the time picking her up from school and it would just take me back to that night. I know for you to connect with me it would be good to share details of what happened. This incident was so horrible that I just cannot get myself to write more details about it. Hell, when I tried talking about it with a friend for the very first time, I felt so very disgusted that I just couldn’t talk much about it. I don’t think any 12 year old should have to endure that.
Lastly, at the age of 16 I was groped on a public bus. An old man standing next to my seat on the bus kept placing his hand on me and pretending as if his hand was slipping. Each time the bus stopped, he’d put on an Oscar-worthy performance of tripping over and on his way back he’d get a good feel of the things he wanted. I wanted to scream but somehow struggled to even open my mouth. It’s true what they say, you only hear or read about others going through this and offer unsolicited advice about why didn’t you scream or react but it’s just surreal when it’s happening to you. You don’t want to believe that it’s happening to you. There’s so much you want to do but your body feels completely paralysed. All three incidents happened in public places with a decent amount of people around. Yet, these abusers were swift or discreet enough to get the pleasure they sought and left an unpleasant memory.
You’re probably wondering why didn’t I tell anyone or do anything about it. The truth is, like all victims, I was ashamed of what happened to me. I didn’t want to believe it to be true. But the nightmares kept occurring time and time again and they still do. Sometimes, I have dreams of being paralysed, I want to move but I can’t. I well and truly believed that no one would believe me. Hell, I sometimes wonder if I believe myself. The fact of the matter is no one wants to believe that a matured adult could do something so disgusting to a child. But it happens. People don’t have ‘sexual abuser’ or ‘child molester’ tattooed on their foreheads. I didn’t know whom to turn to. You’re probably wondering why I’ve chosen to write about this now. Well, there are reasons for doing so. It has shaped me as a person and not in a good way. I constantly battle the thought of whether I’m worth it. I’ve had a lot of fall outs with close friends over the years and I always blame myself and wonder what it was that I did that they walked away. I struggle with my self esteem and self worth. I constantly question whether I am worthy of being someone’s friend or anyone at all or if I can ever do anything right. The picture I have in my head of myself isn’t the best. Anytime something happens, I always question what did I do wrong and immediately start blaming myself for everything. I struggle with the idea of being in a relationship. There are a lot of different types of dresses that I want to wear but I just look and walk away because I don’t want to wear anything that will result in catcalling or something worse. I don’t like trying different things with my attire or hair or anything. I like to dress in a way that will make me invisible or in general not make me stand out. I’ve often heard and read news articles and even heard through the grapevine that the victim would have coaxed the abuser in some way, and that no one just randomly does something like that. While victim blaming is disgusting, I don’t want to do anything that would be considered ‘reason enough’ to be abused. Can I just say one thing? No one ever coaxes someone to do something of that nature. We DO NOT ask for it.
Why am I writing about this now? Mostly, because I have kept this buried in my system for so long. The first incident happened when I was 7, that was 20 years ago. That’s a long time keeping something bottled in. When I wrote about bullying it genuinely felt like a big burden was lifted off of me. No, I can’t change the past but I had received a lot of support and positivity from it and encouraged me to write about this. Maybe, I’m weak for not speaking up or standing up for myself when the incidents happened. But I am taking a stand now. I want it out of my system. Yes, that’s easier said than done but I can do something about it now. I refuse to be scared of the dark anymore and I refuse to keep looking over my shoulder each time I’m out at night. I hope this is the right thing that I’m doing and I know it’s not a subject that sits well with people. But I do sincerely hope that your opinion of me doesn’t change. If you’re unhappy that I’ve written this blog, well, all I can really say is sorry but I will not apologise for sharing my story. If you have nothing positive to say to me after reading this blog then please don’t say anything negative either. I have enough of that going on in my head. Just remember, everyone is fighting a battle of their own. It’s easy to judge them and talk negative about them but trust me when I say this, just saying “you’re doing great” can change a person’s day.
These incidents may have shaped me thus far but I refuse to let them shape me in the future. Again, easier said than done I know. But now that it’s out there and out of my system I can start my journey of getting over it. I can now truly say and mean it #NewYearNewMe. Whilst this is not an easy blog to share, if it is something that you think would help another please share it.
Until next time,