How being sexually assaulted at the age of 8 HAS impacted me for life!
07 Apr 2015
I still remember that night of October 1995 that was planned to be a cheerful fun filled family outing along with my sister & parents. I was 8 years old and was getting ready in my favourite red polka dot frock to go to an annual fare that was very popular in the city that I lived in. I and my family were regulars at this fare each year, and just loved everything about it, the shopping kiosks, the food stalls, the happy noises, the joyful rides and the balloon man. I had vowed to myself that no matter where I live, I will come to this fare every year. As a child, events and places like these always hold a special meaning! And so I was no different than other children.
So with this excitement, I finally reached the fare. My happiness knew no bounds. I was not walking but almost running in an urge to leave a mark of my footsteps at each and every stall (so that I may get the opportunity to brag about this to my girlfriends next day at my School).
My father like always was very attentive & alert. He was almost running with me to match my pace. It was his usual habit to make me walk to the left side towards the stalls rather than the pathway so that he could be in a better position to control & protect. So swift were his reactions generally to any movement of a man/woman towards me that it appeared impossible to even think of any wrong happening to me in his presence.
Little did my father know that abusers/assaulters seldom deploy routine tactics. Anyways, as I was pacing, I saw a beautifully decorated hoopla game stall. I loved playing hoopla as a child. I stopped and I requested my father that I had to play this game and now!! The stall was overcrowded. To play the game required us to buy a pre-paid ticket. My father looked around. All he could see were families, happy couples and little kids buzzing with laughter, smiles and fun. He also saw a blind man around 50 years of age with a stick in his hand and a black frame on his eyes, standing at the corner of a shop next to this game counter. Having scanned my surroundings and finding no potential “threat”, my father looked relaxed but still he instructed my mom to be around me and be careful. All this preparation, when I was standing just steps away from him!!! He kept looking at me while standing in the queue and it was all fine. I was just brimming with excitement and yearning to play Hoopla.
A “choodi wala” (Bangle Seller) came. My mother and sister turned towards him for a moment. And it was my father’s turn at the ticket counter. So for just this moment, I was unattended. I noticed the “blind man” standing at the corner store walking briskly towards me. Before I could realise anything or move, he was in front of me. He grabbed my hand and then one of my private body parts with a motive to cause me immense pain. I gasped in pain, in shock and in fear. But, I couldn’t react, couldn’t scream, and couldn’t shout. I was an 8 year old kid!!! I could not tolerate the pain and I fell on the floor. Seeing this he ran away.
Just then my father looked towards me. He came running and picked me up in his arms. He asked me “Beta gir kaise gaye” (how did you fall)? This is what I want to highlight now. My father was a role model in this regard. He had given me basic sex education when I was just 4 years old. He was very open in his communication with me and had encouraged sharing of experiences, both pleasant & unpleasant. So when he asked me this question, I burst out in tears and started crying uncontrollably, I told him immediately about the assault that the blind man had subjected on me. (When I look back, I feel that had he not been so open in his communication with me, I wouldn’t have told him about it. This could have led to bigger problems for me).
My father’s eyes turned red. He made me stand on my feet and said “It’s him not you”, nothing has happened and you are safe so my child don’t worry". I remember so vividly that even as a child, I was feeling guilty about the incident that had happened to me so his words served a purpose. That moment itself, I put the blame where it belonged, on HIM and not me!
My father asked my mom to be with me as he ran after the man who had just in the garb of being a blind person, sexually abused me. He searched him everywhere but he was nowhere to be seen. My father spotted a policeman and narrated the incident to him and asked for his help in searching the man who posed to be blind. To his astonishment, the policeman replied “itni si baat ka hauwa mat banaiye, aise to kuch nahi hua hai aapki beti ke saath” (You shouldn’t make fuss of a non-issue, nothing of the sorts has happened to your daughter.) What is sad and appalling that even after 20 years of this incident, most people still hold this thought structure & mind frame”.
THIS WAS IN NO WAY A SMALL INCIDENT. IT HAD IMMENSE NEGATIVE IMPACT ON ME AS A CHILD AND I CARRY IT TO SOME EXTENT EVEN TODAY.
Not getting help from the policeman, my father kept looking every nook and corner to find him, the perpetrator. An hour had passed and my emotional condition was deteriorating. I had developed very high fever and it was getting late. My family decided that the more sensible thing to do at that point was to take me home and get me some rest and peace.
I came home with my family. I was scared & in physical & mental pain. The high-fever did not leave me for many days, nor did the nightmares. I was scared to death even with the thought of a blind man. From being an extrovert and a free-spirited child, I had overnight turned into an introvert who just wanted to be alone. My performance in school saw an immediate drop as well. From being one of the top scoring students of the class, I almost failed in two subjects. All this while, my father, my mother & my sister were doing everything to bring me back to normalcy. One lesson that I have taken for myself from my family’s role is that being patient and supportive is the key. No matter how much my father stressed on academic performance, this time around he acted as though it wasn’t even an issue. They were calm and allowed me that space to recoup while trying to get me more active.
One thing that they could have done better is that my parents could have got me some professional counselling support. And why I said this, I will like to explain. Even though with time and with support, much of the hurt and trauma healed, I till date have not gotten past this fear. I feel tremendous anxiety in fares. I never went again to that city fare and I think I may not be able to go there in future too. Though normal in my intimate relationship with my partner, sudden un-warned love gestures are not welcome even now. I get angry & panicky at times even today. Have I had a professional counselling support then, I believe I could have left this fear behind.
Why Did I narrate this story and my experiences around it today? I did so because every time someone hears the term CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE/ASSAULT, a most common automatic reaction compels the person to turn away from the source of the information. If it’s a Television Documentary, people will flip the channel saying “oh can’t watch it, too painful”, if it’s a newspaper article, people flip the page and if it is an incident from around or in their community, they’ll flip the eyes. What happens next? Does the issue disappear with the flipped channel, the flipped paper, and the turned doors? Is it that convenient? The answer to this as you already know is a big NO!
The very first step to solve a puzzle, a business issue, a life challenge is to recognize & accept the problem. How would you fix anything if you don’t even recognise it as something that needs to be fixed? The case of Child sexual abuse no matter how complex, demands that we first hand recognize this as a problem, a real & a MAJOR one!
The reason I narrated the dynamics and the context of the incident here is because second step in solving a problem is that we try to gather as much “data” as possible about the issue along with the various dynamics of it. How does it help? It helps us to get a perspective of the problem and the settings in which it arises, the contributing factors as well things that can stop the problem. Any Manager reading this article will swear by “data driven problem solving’’. That is why we need to have more discussion around this grave and dark challenge that we all are facing. We have to get the perspective and we have to get it NOW!
The reason I narrated my father’s role, my family’s support system and the perceived need for counselling session is because the third and final step is to find actionable solutions from a thorough analysis of the problem, its perspective and contexts. My narrative helps this purpose. God forbid any child has to ever go through such painful experience but in worst case, If Abuse/Assault has happened, 1. PUT THE BLAME WHERE IT LIES, 2. SUPPORT UNCONDITIONALLY AND 3. GET THE CHILD COUNSELING SUPPORT.
Having served the Management Consulting Industry, This is what I have learnt. All experiences and stories should be analysed if we have to solve a problem at hand. I have just done that. May be its time you do too?
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Tags: #my #story #child #protection #sexual #abuse