Let me tell you a story, and then you have to tell me who’s guilty and who’s not.
There was a girl, around 11-12 years of age, reaching puberty. She didn’t know what was happening to her body. She liked touching herself and exploring her body but she couldn’t understand any of it. I think most of you have had this experience while reaching puberty. She would ask for forgiveness from God for whatever she was doing and would promise that it won’t happen again, but it happened again and again because it is a very normal thing. But no one told her that.
The girl lived with her family, and one of her cousins, around five or six years old, was also staying at their house. The siblings slept in the same room, and when he would go to sleep, the girl would put his hand inside her t-shirt, on her body. It happened a few times.
This is so messed up, right? This is sexual abuse. The story isn’t over yet.
She grew up to be a person who fights for equality and against injustice. A strong, independent woman fighting against patriarchy, which has normalized rape. What she forgot about was her own acts of sexual harassment. For many years she didn’t think of what she did with her cousin, because it wasn’t as significant. She was 19 when she realized it. She was 19 when she realized that what she did was wrong. It was sexual harassment. She realised the negative effect it can have on someone’s life. And with that, she also realized that she didn’t know what she was doing is wrong. She was ashamed of it, felt guilty. But could she go back and correct anything? No.
The girl I am talking about is me. I lived in the guilt, felt ashamed. I wondered how I could have done something like this. How could I have not known? How can I tell my cousin that I didn’t know? How do you justify something by saying “I didn’t know”?
Recently, I read about a 12-year-old girl who had been sexually abused by her father since she was five. But she didn’t know it until she was taught about the good touch and bad touch in school. That’s when she told the teachers, and her father got caught.
It is our responsibility to educate these children about good and bad, right and wrong. To give them the tools to decide for themselves, so they can save themselves from abusers and also from becoming those abusers. At times evil comes out of ignorance, and it is important for us to educate everyone around us about good touch-bad touch, consent, sex – and the fact that there is nothing wrong with sex.
I didn’t know what was happening to me. I just reached puberty, no one told me about it. I didn’t know how to make sense of what my body was going through. How do you expect an 11-year-old to know and understand all this by themselves? Till the age of 18, I didn’t know if you could get pregnant by swallowing. Men still don’t know what a clitoris is (AIB proved that). It is important to talk about these things so that children can ask questions.
Guilty or not, you can decide for yourself. I am not a writer. I don’t enjoy writing. But I thought it is my responsibility to share, so we can learn from our mistakes. Sex education is important.
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@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.