I was barely 8 years old when it all started. I was quite a chirpy kid, someone who loved going to family functions and was loved by all the relatives.
Every year during Durga Puja, we’d go to a relative’s place where it was a grand celebration. I loved it because of the fancy clothes, the chit-chatting, and of course, the food!
I had a cousin whom I was very close to. Let’s call him V. V was 5 years older to me, and was extremely good-looking. While the rituals were on, we’d play around the house with a couple of other kids. And then, one day he suggested that we play hide-and-seek.
It was my favorite game, and I was pretty good at hiding! However, this time – he took my hand, and guided me to a secret place. According to him, it was ‘a place where no one would find us’.
I was excited – we made a great team, and we’d win for sure. We hid on the dark staircase leading to the terrace.
And then he asked me what reward he’d get for making me win the game. I was confused. And before I could answer, he kissed me on my lips – plunging his tongue down my throat. I was shocked, and I barely knew what had just happened. I could barely see his face because of the darkness, but I’m sure he smiled.
“Did you like it?” he asked. I shook my head no. He told me that I’ll like it soon. He then started touching my evidently-not-there breasts. “I’d want them to grow soon,“ he said. I didn’t know what he meant. I was stiff, and deep inside I knew that what he was doing was wrong. But he was my cousin, he wouldn’t hurt me, right?
By then, it was lunchtime. “This is our little secret, ok? If you tell anyone, we’ll not team up anymore, and you’ll lose.” I didn’t want to lose. And so, I kept quiet. Because he was my cousin – he wouldn’t hurt me, right?
A couple of months later, we went to their place again. While our parents were busy chit-chatting, he asked my parents if he could take me to his room. They said yes.
Back in his room, he asked me if I was a little girl or a big girl. I said I was a big girl. He then got up and locked his room. He told me that I had to prove that I was a big girl and that I had to do “big girl” things. I nodded. And then, he took off his pants, and I saw his ugly dick. I looked away, disgusted. He came near me, and asked me to touch it. I shook my head to say no. It was gross, and I didn’t want to touch it.
He told me “You don’t want to touch it because you’re a baby. Had you been a big girl, you’d not have said no.” I was offended. I WAS EIGHT. I was a big girl. And so I touched it, and he moaned.
He then asked me to sit down. I abided. He touched my inner thighs, and then he touched my panties. He slid it aside, and put his fingers inside me. “It hurts!” – I said. “It will, you’re a big girl.” I nodded. It felt wrong, but I couldn’t stop it.
Before leaving the room, he said – ‘This is our little secret. If you tell anyone, I’ll tell people that you’re a little girl and not a big girl.” I nodded, and kept quiet.
This continued as a yearly ritual till the time I was 12. I couldn’t tell my parents because I didn’t even know what was happening.
And then, we shifted to a different city altogether, and it ended. For years, my mind blocked the incidents. That’s what it tends to do – it blocks traumatic events. In 2012, when I was all of 16, we went back to the city for a vacation. My dad insisted that we go to their place too, and I couldn’t care less.
And there he was – my predator. He was around 21, and he looked as handsome as ever, Royal almost! He smiled at me, and told me that I looked beautiful. I smiled. By then, I was disgusted by him, but somewhere his aura was charming too. It was confusing. And he knew this.
He smirked and took my hand – taking me to his room. I was too shell-shocked to even react. “I knew you’d be this beautiful,” he said looking at my breasts, and he kissed me. But this time, knowing what was happening… I didn’t stop him. And this changed the game for me. All of a sudden, the onus of the situation came on me, and not him. I started thinking, “I allowed him to kiss me today. I didn’t stop him.” And I kept thinking that maybe I asked for it, and that if I even told anyone that he had abused me as a child, no one would believe me because “Hey, you kissed him back”.
And this guilt kept me quiet. Subconsciously, I had accepted my fate. And this guilt ruined my personal life and how. I can’t sustain any relationship beyond a month or two. I can’t get intimate with a guy because of the mental block.
My relationship anxiety drove me so crazy that I had to go to a psychologist to solve it. And I’m still healing. After years of self-guilt, my psychologist told me that it wasn’t my shame but his. It wasn’t my fault, it was his. And I shouldn’t have to be guilty about anything.
The realization has liberated me, but it’s still going to be a long, long way. The harm that was done to me has had an irreversible impact on me while he’s happily married.
After all these years, I finally confronted him and as expected, he was scared.“Oh, I always had the guilt but I didn’t have the guts to talk about it,” he said. But the line that got the cake was, “I thought you’d overcome it like I did.”
Wow. Men are indeed a special species, and you saying #NotAllMen at this will not help reduce the pain I’ve gone through. Danger lurks everywhere, and I wonder how we can ever save ourselves.
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.