It is getting late. It’s just another night. I am having trouble sleeping. It has been quite the struggle to shut my brain and get it to not constantly play on loop flashes from times I have tried so hard to erase. My mind has been a cage and it’s time I set myself free. I turn 23 today, and I am gifting myself some freedom.
This article is about two things. The first is about how my uncle sexually abused me for years. This is about all the times he chose his moments, found me alone or others asleep and put his hands down my shirt and felt me. All the times, he would ensure that I slept beside him so that in the middle of the night, he could push my head down and push his flaccid penis down my throat. This is about all the times, he’d ask me to give him a peck on the cheek and then hold my face and push his tongue in my mouth. He said he loved me. I understood much later what this ‘love’ actually meant.
These experiences have stayed with me long after I put a stop to them. These memories have kept me awake many nights. I have spent countless hours in the bathroom trying to wash off his touch. I sometimes still retch thinking about all that happened. In all these years, I have only shared this with a handful of people, and they have all been very understanding. I have been lucky that way.
However, for all these years, when I have cried myself to sleep thinking I never did anything to deserve being abused, or times when I spent hours doubting myself. It never occurred to me that this was not only not my fault, it was also not my secret to keep.
A few months ago, I met a friend who told me how his friend had told him that she had been sexually abused as a teen, and how difficult it has been for him to get her to talk about it, let alone write about it, so that she could let it out of her system. I was empathetic. I knew how she felt.
I’d put in a few statistics to emphasise on just how many kids have their childhood taken away from them because a lot of perverts are on loose, outside in the big, bad world and also, right where we think we are the safest, our homes. You’d find the numbers if you went looking for it but this is about my experience and the experiences of those I know. This is me trying to talk to each one of you who have had such an experience.
This is the second thing that this article is about. This about how the shame is not on me, it’s on you. The ‘you’ here is my uncle. The ‘you’ is my uncle who still smiles and cracks lewd jokes at family gatherings with a drink in his hand. The ‘you’ is my uncle without the slightest mark of guilt on his face. The ‘you’ is my uncle who sleeps well at night while I writhe with a misplaced sense of guilt.
The shame is not on me. The guilt that churns my stomach is not for me to have. The secret is not for me to keep. Times have changed. I am setting myself free. I am not defined by those experiences. I am not his filthy touch. I am not broken. I am not the same child who spent years trying to find answers to questions that she should never have had to think about. It’s time I go off to sleep, and let this freedom gnaw at the bars that have kept me from writing/talking about this.
It has taken me a lot of courage (it was also excruciatingly painful) to write this, and I understand that many of you will read this. I understand that this article can find its way to my family, my parents, and my cousins. I understand this could wreak havoc on many relationships. But like I said, this is not my secret to keep. The responsibility of preserving the institution called family, is not my burden. There are no consequences for me, there should only, always have been consequences for him. Consequences he has never had to face.
I am gifting myself freedom today from experiences I had never signed up for. I am clenching my teeth to stop myself from crying, but if I do, this will be one of the last few. This will go and I will put it behind me.
I am hoping that this will help others to talk about their experiences as well. I am hoping for a day when we’re not talking about how we were abused in hushed whispers, or sharp breaths between fat tears. I am hoping for a day when we can talk about it knowing that people we trust and love will have our backs, and also confront/hold our abusers accountable for their actions, if possible.
Whatever be the case, remember, the shame is not on you, it’s on them.
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.