This is for:
The 14-year-old boy who made me help him masturbate, when I was 6, because apparently there was no harm in it and I would forget about it anyway.
The 50-year-old man who promised to magically send me home from school, which was 15 kilometres away. I was 8-years-old and he picked me up and asked me to close my eyes. I did, he fondled my nipples constantly asking me if I was feeling like I got home yet. He stopped eventually, while I sat completely bewildered and confused about not getting home. Then I was told by the man that he took me home and brought me back. That was the magic.
The carpool driver who thought it would be fun to fondle my cheeks while driving and occasionally let his hand wander off towards my growing adolescent breasts.
The flower supplier for our gardens who assaulted me, took my money and refused to give me the receipt.
The passenger in the auto who thought poking my nipples in broad daylight was a fun and entertaining activity. I got back at you. I remember that clearly. I stabbed you with the pin behind my school badge. That one time I stood up and fought back.
The passenger in the crowded bus who tickled my hip bones from under his big office bag. I got back at you too. I pulled your bag away and glared at you. You ran away.
The man that groped my ex boyfriend’s ass in the metro. Hardly any man can complain about getting groped by a man. He came and he complained to the only person he could that day. And yes, he was hurt and offended.
To the cyber stalker that sent me photographs of his penis and threatened to rape me one day.
To the men behind the countless catcalls every time I kiss my partner in public or even hug him.
To everyone who judges others for expressing love. To everyone who feels that it is okay to violate someone’s body or will, simply because they can.
All of you destroyed something precious to me, bit by bit. I am still trying to figure out what it is that you have destroyed but I know that you have destroyed something. No, I did not forget how weird it felt to rub your penis. I remember clearly because it felt wrong and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that. A part of me had realized that day that there was no magic in getting your nipples erect by a stranger. It violated something, only I could not point out what exactly. I realized that it was grossly wrong to have your hands wander off and that’s why I complained about it to elders. But I got the feeling that it was my shame that I spoke of it. So I never spoke of such things to elders ever again.
I learned how to fight. After being groped, assaulted, manhandled and hurt by strangers, every person comes up with a guard of their own. Every person eventually learns either to ignore or to fight. The flight or fight instinct. Ignoring is convenient, easy and demands a lot less work; so, for decades, that is exactly what we have been telling ourselves to do. Look where it got us? Nowhere. Just the same vicious circle of violation-ignoring-discussions about how to avoid it by taking precautions – and more violation yet again. However, now that we are fighting back, we are referred to as feminazis fighting for a cause that doesn’t exist. Every one of you that denies the existence of rape culture in India – you have contributed to every one of the acts that violated my childhood and that of a million others like me. To all the people on the streets that day who turned a blind eye when the man played with my nipples – it is your fault that I still have to live with the shame and confusion. The auto driver who never said a word – you watched through your rear-view mirror and did nothing, which makes you an accomplice to the act. The 14-year-old boy who thought it was okay to make me give him a hand job, I can only wonder about how misplaced your priorities are in life.
Why am I saying all this today when it is all in the past? I am saying all of this because people need to know. Diaries aren’t just about the unicorn dreams we had at night, this is the diary I never wrote because it felt inappropriate. You assaulted and groped and scarred me emotionally for life. Why? Because you can. I am going to talk about it, write about it and tell the world that you criminals exist. Why? Because I can. For every one of you people, who think it’s an entertaining activity to overpower fellow human beings simply because you can, I promise each and every one of you that someday those that you have overpowered and hurt and scarred, will stand up, will fight back, and the world will know your dirty little secret. So, if you do not want to be labelled as an assaulter, here is a very simple solution for you – do not assault! Women like me are going to teach their children to always fight back against humans like yourselves, no matter what the odds.
If you want the fight against gender inequality and violence to be a thing of the past, start with yourself. Every time you see something that looks like a someone being violated, speak up, please, otherwise you too are responsible for the pain, confusion and misplaced sense of shame that the survivor will have to go through. A lot of people are talking about this these days, but it will not make a difference unless you finally bother to listen and speak up. So, please, it is my earnest request – fight back.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at [email protected] You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.