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I Write This Not For Me, But For Every Man Who Has Ever Been Abused

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In an interview, Chester Bennington revealed that he suffered sexual abuse from an older male friend when he was seven years old. He was afraid to ask for help because he did not want people to think he was gay or lying, and the abuse continued until the age of 13.

This fear which he addressed is very much real. I feared it too and didn’t say a word (in public) until this year. I never wished to speak it out but it burdened me. What will people think of me? What would they say? Would they make fun of me? How will they react? Am I inviting more trouble by sharing this? Trust me, all this is very intimidating even at the moment when I’m writing this.

I thought of an option before writing this: to end my life. I tried it as well. And I don’t know whether it is justifiable or not. But is it real? Yes, it very much is. It felt like my fault. But I was not the one who chose to be a victim. Who chooses to be abused at the age of 3, 5 or 7?

As I write this, I realise that I must do this, I must tell you my story. Not because I want it to land up on social media, or use it as a method to seek an apology. I need to write this for the other children/people who feel as hopeless as I do at times and tell them that you’re not alone.

I was eight years old. It was summer vacation which used to be legendary. My favourite part of it was the hide and seek games we played. Siddhant ‘bhaiya’ (name changed) used to play with us. He was 18, a good 10 years older to me but used to play with us when he got bored and joined us many times for a game of cricket or two. He was also a regular carom mate, a known and trusted guy to the family and a brotherly figure to me.

It all started during an innocent game of hide and seek. We were hiding in an abandoned house, and my friend Prashant (name changed) was trying to search for us. “Oh, Prashant is here!” said Siddhant, as he caught my arms and squeezed them to create an impact. I asked him to be quiet. Prashant went away, but Siddhant didn’t leave my hand and I didn’t question it. He gave me a peck on the cheek, rubbed his hands on my arms and cuddled me. I felt awkward, my body replied with goosebumps but I ignored it as brotherly affection. Soon we went home, and I forgot the incident.

The next day, in the afternoon, Siddhant called me to his home to play video games. I went over in the greed of the computer and the games. After a while, he placed his hands over mine and tried to take the remote control. He suddenly kissed on my neck and I jumped up, startled.

He nuzzled me and swiftly placed his hands under my shirt. I jumped and left the remote. “Relax, we’re making love,” he said. I didn’t know what to say and I really don’t remember how he won me over with his talks and made me do things which I feel disgusted to even think about now. I sometimes feel pity for the child, little did he knew that a Bhaiya will do this.

I didn’t know that I had a choice to report this event to anyone – my parents, cousins or anyone else. I cried many times, wept but he threatened me with dire consequences. I was assaulted, I whimpered and was left almost paralyzed. This incident destroyed a sense of freedom in me, I quit hide and seek. His torture made me doubt any actual expression of love. I deterred any touch, (I still do till date, I feel uneasy in the metro when someone stands near to me in the metro, it’s as if my body is signalling something, there’s an alarm which refuses to go off) met fewer people and stopped seeing him.

One day, he came over again with his mother. Even though I was repulsed, I had to be civil to him. The mothers then made a plan that left me in a state of panic. They wanted to step out and leave ‘bhaiya’ alone with me at home as my siblings were at tuition. I pleaded my mother but she didn’t listen to my protests, and once again, I was left in an empty house with my assaulter. She reasoned that it is important that I shall be left under his ‘vigilance’ as it was night time.

We sat in the same room, he was studying, and I watching television. But this was just the calm before the storm. After half an hour or so he grabbed me from behind. I was disgusted and struggled to get out of his grip but it was of no help. His strong muscular body couldn’t be defended by a skeleton structure like me. I screamed, but it was of no use. People would have thought, “Ladka chilla raha hai, lad raha hoga bhai beheno se (A boy is shouting, must be just fighting with someone),” so no one came and asked why I was shouting.

He locked the door and undressed me even though I was still struggling and started making his kind of love. Strongly forcing his face on mine, he kissed me all over my body, especially on my behind. Then I felt something, he came inside me with full force and covered my mouth with his hands. To and fro, with each rhythmic grunt, he intensified. I was down on my knees, completely surrendered. I couldn’t do anything but cry and beg, “Please let me free. Please let me free!”

Little did I know that I’ll revisit that state of trauma and panic in the winters of 2012. I just couldn’t think of anything except this incident while watching the news channel flash the ‘breaking news’.

The December 2012 rape case shocked the nation. I remember watching its coverage. I remember weeping. The definition of rape haunted me. I too was raped. Siddhant had no right to touch me, to rob me of my childhood. He had no right to pollute my thinking and opinion on those who love and express their love. This certainly was not love, it was molestation, child abuse and rape, as I know it now.

There are many like me in this country who are molested by a person as close as a neighbour, cousin or a family friend. Still, there are some questions that keep on torturing me. Can I file an FIR? Will anybody take action after so many years?

And these set of questions disturb me, as there is no law that can heed of men’s sexual exploitation. There is also the quintessential note about how the society and my family will react. Will the family let me disclose this heinous confession?

Today I have confessed to something which could have been neglected and remains buried deep inside my heart. But I think I owe it to the other men. To Chester, and to others like me and him who were abused at such a tender age. But I want to send a message, as boldly as I can. We do feel like taking our lives because we’re wrong. But we’re only leaving behind abusers this way. We surely don’t want that, do we? To all who think there’s no one and are considering an option of ending this life. You’re not alone my friend.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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