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My Ex And His Friends Abused Me For Years, His Apology Doesn’t Fix Anything

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TRIGGER WARNING

Every survivor of any traumatic incident would have certain triggers which make them relive the trauma. I’m not good at accepting that I have triggers too. It’s hard to avoid, though, when my head starts spinning, my body shakes, and breathing feels like sucking from a straw with holes in it. Sometimes it happens, and I don’t know the reason behind it. But, this isn’t one of those times.

A few weeks ago, I got a message from someone who knew about the abuse I went through. She was the girlfriend of one of the abusers and had chosen not to believe me, and when forced to confront the facts, had decided to blame me. She told me that guy hit her too and gaslighted her into sex before she was ready. She didn’t ever feel like she could say no. Her words were eerily familiar. She said that she thought that he would never do something like that to anyone else, because he only did it to her because he loved her, and his love made him out of control. Him doing that to me, could either not be true, or be something I made him do. She told me that the #MeToo movement, and the talk around believing women made her want to reach out. She apologised. It seemed sincere. And I was just confused.

I have hated that woman for almost 7-8 years now. But suddenly, I understood her more, and that makes hating her seem unfair. But even that’s not the trigger this time. The trigger is that he, her ex-boyfriend and one of my ex-abusers, messaged me too.

Do you know how it feels to hear from a man beat me to unconsciousness? Whose mouth was on my body while I was tied down? Who forced me to put my mouth on his body? To hear from a man who not only used my body as a mix between a punching bag and a sex doll, but also blamed me for causing his best friend, and the main abuser, to kill himself?

It took me days to prepare myself to read his message. But his name on my Facebook screen was enough to trigger me into a tailspin of panic attacks and desperation to find control. Desperation which brings out a slight recklessness and self-destructiveness that I need to battle alongside the panic attacks, the fear and the depression.

He says that he was a mess back then. A lot was happening which I didn’t know about, and he became a person he didn’t recognise. He says that neither he, nor his best friend was that person and that he tried to stop his friend, and then he couldn’t stop him anymore. He says that he doesn’t know why he or they did what they did. He says that he’s sorry, sorrier than I’ll ever know.

He also said that what they did to me and continued to do for almost four years was a desperate cry for help, at least for his friend. That him hurting me, was actually asking me for help and I didn’t see that, that I didn’t help him. He says that the death of his friend shook everyone in his life and that my decision to tell everyone what they’d done had ruined so many relationships.

I wish I didn’t read it because he said so much, and all that went through my head was snapshots of moments when I thought I was going to die. I thought about how I couldn’t even say my ex’s name for years. He used to force me to repeat his name over and over again to make sure I knew who I belonged to and then sometimes he would get furious if I took his name when he hadn’t prompted me to do so. At times the pain would be unimaginable. Every day I thought about killing myself until my best friend actually did it. I saw the impact of such a death on everyone around. I thought about how he made me complicit in my abuse by handing me a blade and ordering me to cut myself exactly how he directed it and threatened to hurt me if I didn’t.

Cry For Help, He Says

I remember the moment I stopped crying for help while they beat me, stuffed things inside me, touched me and tortured me. I realised I wasn’t going to get away from this.  I remember how after a point I became numb to whatever they did to me and stopped responding with the same level of terror. That prompted my ex to come up with new ways, new tortures, just because it wasn’t as entertaining or cathartic for him if I wasn’t in complete desperate terror.

Ruined relationships, he says. Yeah, because all of my relationships survived scar-free.

He apologised, and all I remember is the pain of my body tearing and the camera clicking because it wasn’t just enough to torture me. They needed photographic evidence to keep and then tell me in detail how they would jack off to it when I wasn’t available to them.

He ended the message saying he was happy I was doing so well in life. But, all I can read is the subtle threat which means ‘I know where you are’.  Now sometimes when I’m walking around alone, I expect to turn around and see him, see them. Because one is dead, doesn’t mean the other two aren’t out there, still waiting to get revenge on the woman who ruined their lives by not allowing them to destroy hers. They want revenge because I didn’t die. They believe they are entitled to having their life turn out perfectly, and maybe even to revenge because I dared not to break. Thus, he tried again.

Basically, my ex made me his slave for almost four years. He killed me over and over again, forced me to resurrect myself each time. And he involved two more men because apparently cruelty loves company just as much as misery does. And one of them feels entitled enough to send me a message with a half-hearted apology, shit tons of blame, and a subtle threat. The only reasons I found the will to survive everything is because I saw what happens when someone loses that will. And because if I had died, I knew these three men would have celebrated and that was untenable for me. I survived almost entirely on my own, and he wants to talk to me after all this time? Why? To get some satisfaction out of a new little power play? To get any vestiges of guilt dealt with because ‘he at least tried to apologise’? To just put me in a tailspin which I have to dig myself out of, Again?

I wish I hadn’t opened that damn message because his words don’t even deserve to exist, let alone being read. Honestly, he doesn’t deserve to exist.

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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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