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Archive for April 1st, 2011

CSAAM April 2011 – My contribition

Posted by Pepper on April 1, 2011

From the time I heard of this initiative, I’ve been dealing with a mental tug of war. Should I participate and share my story, or not? I did have second thoughts. Because talking about this has never been easy. I’ve had to throw myself out of my comfort zone in order to write this post. But I have come to realise how common child sexual abuse is. And if talking about it and discussing it is one way to spread awareness, ┬áthen I am willing to do it. Child abuse is rampant in almost every strata of society. To end this, we need to join hands and contribute in whatever way we can.

As you can guess, I was sexually abused as a child. I’ve been a victim more than once. In the first case, it came from my own family. I was 5 years old. My dad’s cousin, who lives in Spain, was visiting us along with her son. That guy must have been around 13 years old. The two of us were once playing a board game in the room. There was nobody else at home. This guy had been asked to look after me while my mom ran errands. At one point, he told me the game we were playing is boring. He will introduce me to a more interesting game. The child in me got excited by the thought and willingly agreed. He asked me to lie down. He then flopped himself on me and started rubbing his genitals against me. I told him I wasn’t liking it and asked him to stop. He insisted that we should continue playing this ‘game’. To convince me fully he even told me that this was a very popular game back in Spain. I gave in and let him to do it until he was satisfied. He told me to guard this secret of ours. We got back to the board game at some point. We continued laughing and playing until the others got back home. This incident was never spoken about.

What do I make of this? As a child, I did not think what happened was wrong. Had the same thing been done to me by a strange man, perhaps my instinct would tell me otherwise. But a child’s mind observes and learns from the environment. This guy was trusted by my whole family. So my little mind told me I could put him in the ‘trusted’ bracket. And when you are a child, anything that ‘trusted’ people do is not supposed to be unacceptable or unusual, right? Perhaps that is why I did not mention a word to my parents. Beside, it was the whole new thrill of guarding a secret.

It took me years to really understand what went on on that particular day. I was around 13, when it suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightning. By now, I knew and understood the finer details of sex. Only then did I realise that what had happened was wrong. Very wrong. I was filled with disgust and anger. I considered telling my parents, but it was very hard. I could not get myself to speak about it at all. Not with anyone.

I pondered for days. What made him think he could do that to me and get away? Perhaps because
– We were home alone, and that made me an easy target.
– As a child, you come with added gullibility.
– He knew I trusted him. So did the rest of the family. He was sure no fingers would point at him because of the ‘trust’ factor.
– He thought I was too young to really remember this incident.
– If at all, I did speak up, he could always deny it. I was a child after all, he could just say I have misunderstood a lot of things.

I do believe those are the very reasons he got away. I wish I had spoken up then. I see no point in talking about it now. This happened around two decades ago. If my mom ever gets a clue, I know she will want to rip him to shreds. This being a family matter, things will get extremely messy. Fortunately, this incident did not affect me at a very deep rooted level. I did not stop trusting men. I was not filled with paranoia that came with the male touch. More than being guarded by my own fears, I could taste the disgust and the anger. But I feel very fortunate I could brush aside this one incident and not let my fears consume me and take over my life. But a lot of people have not been as fortunate. When I hear their horror stories, I shudder.

I’ve written these pointers so that we have a better understanding of the precautions we need to take with children. My parents trustingly left me alone with a cousin of mine who lived in another country. I don’t think they ever imagined the kind of stuff he was capable of. I might not be brave enough to leave my child alone with any person unless I really, really know him/her well. Even if he/she is family. More importantly, I would want to train my child in a way where he/she is used to telling me every little thing that went on. Every little secret he/she was asked to keep. I’d want this to be the case at least for a few years, until I feel safe and believe the children are capable of looking after themselves.

I do think after a certain age, the human mind is developed enough to distinguish between right and wrong, good touch and bad touch. I was subjected to some amount of sexual abuse again at the age of 10. We used to live on the 3rd floor of our building. It was an old building with no elevators. I used to leave for school at 7 am. My time used to coincide with a man who used to come by to drop a bag of milk on the 2nd floor. The first time I bumped into this man, he smiled at me. We walked down the stairs together. The second day, he put his arm around my shoulder. I let it go. The third day, the man was touching me all over my back, my ass, and my chest as we walked down. I screamed. The moment he heard me shout, he ran. I went upstairs and told my parents. That is usually an awkward age where talking about such things is embarrassing. But by that age, you are also intelligent enough to understand that it is wrong. I am glad I told my parents. They took up the issue and that man was no longer seen in our building premises.

My point is, even children understand that some things are acceptable and some things are not. But that understanding comes with age. The initial few years are extremely vulnerable. You don’t have to be a parent to understand that. Look out for all children, not just your own. Be vigilant and alert. Every child is precious. Do all you can to keep them safe. Once the child reaches a certain age, they learn to defend their bodies, at least by asking for help or speaking up. For that, we need to cultivate an environment that encourages open talk. Sexuality should not be treated as a taboo.

Will child sexual abuse ever come to an end? I don’t know. It is a long and hard battle. But I am glad the journey has begun..

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 58 Comments »

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