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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Breaking The Silence.

Sometimes, the atrocities of life overwhelm us. We are deeply hurt, and the damage seems beyond repair. Moving on with life seems like a herculean task. But we don’t want to be perceived weak by the people around us. So, we wear masks; masks with happy faces and perfect lies. Too often, we forget to take off those masks for days, weeks, months and even years. Although we’re unhappy, we feel comfortable and safe behind the smiling face we put on in front of the world, even if we are hollow inside.

Behind the mask
via hanhsite.wordpress.com

I had woven a web of sweet lies around me that I had told myself over many years. I had kept silent for a long time because I was afraid. I was afraid that no one would believe me; afraid that I would be abandoned; afraid that people would mock at me and call me names. It took me a long time to recognize it as sexual abuse, and even longer to talk about it.

child sexual abuse

In a country where 53% children are sexually abused, according to official figures, and in reality even more than them, hardly do the parents or the schools bother to educate the children about sexual abuse. Even the mere mention of the topic is considered a taboo. So, like an average Indian kid, I didn't know what sexual abuse was. Before I had watched the episode on Child Sexual Abuse on Satyamev Jayate, I thought that I was alone. I thought it was a bad thing to be sexually abused and it happened to bad people.

If you ask a parent whether they have educated their child about sexual abuse, the common answer is, “But I try to keep him/her with me most of the time and don’t let him/her go out alone”. Although an indication of good intentions, this usual response also tells us about the denial mode we are in- sexual abuse can happen to children on the TV or newspapers, but such things don’t happen in our own homes.

Well, they do. In fact in about 90% of the cases, the abuser is someone the child knows and is comfortable being with them. When I asked my mom why she hadn't told me about sexual abuse, she said that she hadn't even imagined that it could happen to me. Also, she tried not to leave me with any male member of the family alone. Ironically, among the people who have molested me, two of them are females.

It started when I was 8. A friend in the neighborhood, who was 2 years older than I, started to sexually abuse me while playing doctor-doctor or house. Since she was a girl, I found it difficult to talk about it to my mother. Also, whenever any such scene appeared in a movie we were watching, the channel was instantly changed which made me think it was wrong. And since I too was playing the game, I would be the one to be blamed. So I remained quiet.

At the age of 9, my mother had been transferred to another state and I and my sister went to live with her, while my father lived alone. We lived in my uncle’s house who lived there, in the portion supposed to be let out for rent. On top of having problems with adjusting in a totally new environment, missing my father and coping up with the constant bullying by the older cousins, one of my cousins who was 13-year old at that time started to sexually abuse me. I didn't tell my mother because whenever I told her about any of the bullying incidents, she always told me that we couldn't change others. Also, meanwhile an aunt of mine had manipulated me into thinking that my parents were least bothered about me. I started having suicidal thoughts and slept, making a new plan to end my life every other night.

After a year, my mother was again transferred and we started living with my father again. I was relieved until one of my cousin sisters who lived nearby started sexually abusing me. She was 17 year-old then. She would visit our home often, especially when my parents were away and sexually abuse me. I felt violated and broken. It went on for two years until she moved to a new place for her college.

I wasn't surprised when an uncle of mine who was due to be married in few weeks groped me and touched me underneath my clothes. I had learnt to be silent and I was too scared to break that silence.

Another uncle of mine who was married and had kids of his own sexually abused me multiple times and it was more intense than whatever I had been through till then. He called it “our secret” and assured me that I would not be believed in case I chose to tell my parents about it. I was hurt and scared. I started to hate my life. While crossing a road, I would secretly hope for a vehicle to run me over and kill me so that I didn't have to live the nightmare again. But I decided to tell a cousin brother of mine about it, who is very close to me. He gave me some strength and without my parents’ intervention, I ended it.

Just when I had thought that everything was fine again, the same cousin who had sexually abused me when I was 9 paid us a visit for few days and did the same again.

I had lost faith in my family. I had a hard time trusting anyone and the once bubbly and chirpy kid turned into a quiet and secretive teenager. My parents mistook it for teenage rebellion and I was misunderstood by family, friends and teachers for a snob.

When I was 16, I got a lot of attention from a guy I knew. He was 18. We became good friends. I thought that I had finally found someone who could understand me and so, with an empty love tank and a hope to be understood, I agreed to date him when he asked me out. I felt happy, for a change. He drove his father’s car sometimes and we used to go for drives. Around three months into our relationship, he came in the car one day and that day turned my life upside down. He drove to some secluded place and told me that he wanted to have sex with me. I was firm on my values and denied it strongly, to which he reacted by forcing me into it. I was orally and digitally raped. When I tried to fight him off, I was choked too.

But the sad part was that I didn't recognize it as sexual assault. I felt guilt; guilt for trusting a person, guilt for going out with him that evening. Since he was on the receiving end of the oral sex, I thought that it was my fault. I felt dirty, and sick of myself. I didn't tell a single soul about it and vowed to myself that it would remain a secret. But it didn't help. Suffering in silence never does. The only thing that helped me remain sane was my rescue puppy, Ross. The four month-old, terminally ill puppy was my savior. He died a week after the incident.

I wanted to cope with life, however possible. I decided to become a tom-boy. I started swearing, a lot. I cracked all kinds of bawdy jokes. I tried my best to not seem attractive to anyone. But, I felt empty inside. I knew I had to come to terms with it, but I tested my procrastination skills. I self-harmed. I developed a bad illness that lasted for few months which couldn't be diagnosed and the doctor asked me repeatedly if I was stressed or disturbed by anything. I remained quiet. I had bouts of depression when I went on for days without sleeping for more than an hour a day.

It wasn't until September 2014 that I decided to tell it to someone, thanks to the chemistry exam I spoiled because of a sudden memory that had hit me hard. Unable to talk about it to someone I knew, I sought help online. I emailed Childline India and received an understanding response. Soon after, I received a heart-warming call from Ishita Didi, who worked at Childline. I was advised to go to a counselor and address my issues. She told me about Sushant, a 75 year-old man who was a counselor at the Doon Youth Centre, an organization for the youth in the town. I reluctantly went to his place, owing to his age and gender. And now, I’m glad I did. Life hasn't been the same since that day. He has helped me discover my purpose of life and given a whole new meaning to my existence.

I told my parents about it in October. I’m thankful for the understanding response I got from them. I told a few friends. All of the girls who I shared my story with told me how they were sexually abused. For some of them, I was the first person they had told. No, I’m no counselor. The only reason they told me was that I had chosen to share my story with them. Trust is always a two-way street, you see.

stop child sexual abuse
via femindproject.tumblr.com


And therefore, I, Anahita Batra am sharing my story with you. I’m sharing it because I’m not ashamed of it anymore. I’m sharing it because if anyone of you has been sexually abused, I want to do my part in encouraging you to break the silence. And in case you already have, I admire you for doing it; I know how much courage it requires. I’m sharing it because I want to do my part in ending the taboo associated with the rising problem of child sexual abuse. I'm sharing it because sharing my story brings healing to me. I’m sharing it as a token of respect for the people who have encouraged me and many others like me to go on while I was about to break down, namely, Dr. Sunitha KrishnanSuzette Jordan, Harrish Iyer, Cindrella Prakash and all of the amazing people who decided to break the silence. I'm sharing it because I'm not just a survivor of sexual abuse, I'm a normal 18 year-old girl with her own dreams and fears, challenges and adventures, and the choice to emerge stronger from what had once tried to break me down.

39 comments:

  1. Maaa !! :')
    I am with you always!! :)

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  2. Brilliant and lucid narrative. Not surprised at all. You have made beginning with bang to be a sought-after peer educator. Simply delighted to see you moving ahead firmly and steadily. Am sharing your blog

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    1. Thank you so much Sushant. It means a lot to me.

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  3. *Salutes* Anahita
    I'm sharing it.

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  4. Hi Anahita

    You have gone through a lot and now things will only be for the better :) I always keep this quote with me, you may have seen it as well but it is something that keeps me going in life. "A person may break your heart and damage your pride, but never give them the power to break your spirit- Susan Gale" Take care and never give up your courageous spirit.

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  5. You are strong for posting this! Sorry this cycle of abuse occurred and even though you presented the signs, your mother still was oblivious to what was happening. I am happy you reached out and was able to be set free. I want to be brave like you and wish I can tell my mother and bring my abusers to shame. I really don't know how!

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    1. The fact that you want to begin with your healing shows that you'll gather the courage over some time. I hope you work out things for yourself and get the healing you deserve. :)

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  6. Helo Anahita,

    First of all i would like to congratulate you for the decision you made, because it is seems next to impossible to share at such platform. I can relate with you on parent's response that with keep our children in our approach or with us. Having seen and learnt from my life as a female i can say that it needs lots - lots of courage to speak about and more than that difficult to come out of those memories .
    I can imagine such people in our surroundings but what you had gone through and then coming out of that is not less then a wonder. salute to you. Good Luck and God bless

    And Sushant .... presently nobody can replace him.

    regards gurpal

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words.
      Yes, Sushant can't be replaced for sure!

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  7. Hugs!

    it takes a lot of courage to take the first step.

    congrats! im sure you feel liberated now!

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    1. Thank you <3
      Yes, I feel liberated. Thanks for being an inspiration, always.

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  8. Thank you dear Anahita for sharing and deeming me worthy of your trust. The process of healing is beautiful and liberating as Harish rightly mentioned. You are inspirational :)

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    1. Aw, thank you so much. I'm glad I got to someone so powerful and amazing like you. :)

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  9. Dear Anahita, kudo's for your bravery and courage to share your story. It was heartfelt and resonated deeply. May your sharing bring others into awareness and understanding, may it bring hope and allow others who have stayed silent speak out and may it also be a warning and great threat to those abusers and potential future abusers to STOP and realize they can not count on fear and peoples shame to be their gateway and 'permission' to abuse and hurt others. Only by being honest, open and sharing our stories and our truth's can things change and improve for us all. Peace!

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    1. Thank you so much. Not only did I share my story for the sake of others, I also did it for myself, to get the peace and healing. I hope I can make a difference and be of support to others.

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    2. Hello,
      You must not be ashamed of it anymore.one step of your action can encourage the others also who have been facing this and can be the strength for them not to tolerate it again and again.i really appreciate your efforts.

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  10. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

    #Respect #Reverence #Salute

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  11. You're amazing :] Perhaps one of the most strongest girls i have ever come across . I am a friend of yours but never did i know that you have had all this . I respect each and every aspect of your feeling :]

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  12. I m glad that you took a crucial step towards ending the taboo associated with Sexual abuse. #Respect! and congratulations for your achievement. Proud of you :)

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  13. ANAHITA I M A FRIEND OF YOURS AND I REALLY DIDNT KNOW U HAD BEEN GOING THROUGH ALL THIS ALL THE WHILE THOUGH YOU HINTED ABOUT IT IN YOUR POST HOLD A PAW WHEN YOU MENTIONED ABOUT ROSS.....ROSS DESERVED TO LIVE BUT SEE HE WAS SURELY YOUR SAVIOUR OR RATHER SOMEONE WHO COULD UNDERSTAND YOU AND YOUR PAIN SO DEEPLY.... HE DIED BUT GAVE YOU A NEW LIFE HE WILL ALWAYS BE IN OUR MEMORY FOR SURE AS YOU HAD TOLD ME ABOUT HIM....SALUTE TO YOUR BRAVENESS THAT YOU SPOKE ABOUT IT COZ IN A SOCIETY LYK OURS ITS REALLY DIFFICULT BECAUSE ITS THE GIRL WHO HAS TO BEAR THE SHAME..SO SHE DECIDES TO REMAIN MUM ABOUT IT.....THIS NATION NEEDS GIRLS LYK YOU I AM PROUD TO CALL YOU MA FRIEND...COZ I CAN REALTE TO YOUR STORY I TOO HAD SPOKEN ABOUT IT TO MA FAMILY AFTER I READ YOUR POST AND REALLY I FEEL SO LIBERATED NOW THAT MY FAMILY IS SUPPORTING THE FACT THAT IT WAS NOT MA FAULT....BUT WE SHOULD ALL SPEAK OUT AT THAT MOMENT ONLY BECAUSE ONE VOICE CAN SAVE MANY LIVES ........PROUD OF YOU YOUR THIS ONE STEP WILL SURELY GIVE COURAGE TO OTHER GIRLS TO SPEAK OUT....#LOVE YOU AND RESPECT FROM DEEP DOWN MA HEART

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    1. Thank you so much. Yes, Ross was a very special dog and will always be close to me. I'm really glad that you made a choice to share it with your family. That's very brave of you. I hope you find the healing you deserve. :)

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  14. I am a friend of yours but never did i know you had been going through all this..it requires a lot of courage to share this at this platform but hats off to you..you are an inspiration for others..today you have earned a lot of respect in my heart..luv you always

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    1. Yes it's not easy to do something out of the box but I'm glad others are being encouraged. Thank you.

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  15. Respect, Anahita. You went through a world of hurt and came out a winner. I will not demean your suffering by pretending to understand what it must have been like for you, but what I CAN say, is that the world needs more of your fiery spirit. Keep shining, my friend.

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    1. Thanks for the honest and encouraging comment.

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  16. Dear Anahita,

    I don't know you. You don't know me. But I think you have been so brave. And I can't go on without telling you that you have made a difference, in your life and in everyone's who has read this brave account of your past experiences. But, don't let this define you. You are just 18 and this is just a part of your life. You have so much so more to live for.Let this strengthen you as a person, make you wiser, braver. Take control of your life. Your past does not define you. Your actions do.

    Lots of kisses and blessings,
    Sonali

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    1. Thank you so much Sonali. Yes, there's a reason the windscreen is bigger than the rear-view mirror. :)

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    2. Windscreen Effect! Appreciate your creative thinking with a difference. Seems Tsunami of fans is building up.

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  17. Anupriya Gumber27 April 2015 at 16:37

    Hey Hita,

    After reading dis i dnt hav much words.
    But just thinking that u have faced alot dear..
    I like ur spirit that u shared ur past life..
    and i know u will b moving ahead and would achieve whatevr u want..
    i know u r very talented ..
    i m seeing that since ur birth..
    i m nt in good contact wid u but still i am having some positive feelings for uas a good person...
    I like ur spirit that u have shared ur story and i m happy u r moving forwrd after all dis rubish things happen wid u in past..
    i know our families very well..
    I just wanna wish u ALL D VERY BEST for ur new life..
    would love to see new Hita..
    Take care dear and u can contact me whenever required.. I am always dere for u..
    Proud of u..

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  19. Well Done!
    After Reading the story I really wished to write and so does I am.

    Frankly speaking somewhere I am agreed, but somewhere not. Not agreed with your part of getting sexually abused while playing doctor-doctor or house at the age of 8. It is only giving the sense of hypothetical interest to story. Before proceeding let me tell you with all due respect to your past & feelings, if playing doctor-doctor & house seems like sex abuse at the age of 8,9 or 10 with nearly same age pals then 100% of all the participants in this debate are victims as well as abusers & so does is every child including me .

    I agreed that you had past with terrible deals and I salute your courage, but some how it looks like you had read a number of novels and books on similar facts and issues that gave power to your writing.

    Here I do not know you and all those who were indulge in your past as abusers.I am writing you as an anonymous writer who come to know about this story while surfing on Facebook this night. So as per story its been 8-10 years from now since it all started with you, during this period of 8-10 years many times you came across all of your those pals and cousins for whom you have written about. Here I want to mention I would really like to have courage like in you if during this period there were ruthless feelings in your mind for them. But somewhere if you felt very closed with them during this period too it would again going to be heinous crime from your side to write in this manner.

    The real fact is we are living in a biased society that is lacking with a neutral point of view. I admit somewhere while writing I might be wrong and on same place I sincerely apologize for it as I really have no idea about your personnel past . I am writing as unbiased stranger. Kindly also note quotes like Bigger Wind Screen VS Rear View Mirror we have read many times in many novels too so it should be no more any creative thinking.

    Moreover we must take a stand against child sex abuse with complete unbiased documentary that really could make sense to watch Programs like Satyamev Jayate and others similar those are into mankind of Being Human.

    Ending up this wishing you a best life ahead and GRAND SALUTE TO YOU for your bravery, courage and motivation.

    With Regards!

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  20. I met u after 7 8 years. And i'm glad i met a stronger anahita.

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