I was barely 12 years old when I received the trauma first-hand that made me see that the world is not a safe place. Monsters hide in the garb of gentlemen with perfectly refined etiquettes and polite smiles. Often, they are so convincing in their mannerisms that they are viewed as respectable and responsible human beings. Leave alone suspecting them, most people would blatantly refuse to believe any allegations against them.
In my case, it was my Arts teacher to whom my brother and I had been going since I was eight. For the initial four years, we used to attend the class inside a local school campus, every Sunday afternoon. My father used to drop and pick us up. I enjoyed those classes, going out with Dad, drawing and colouring, glancing at the other students, especially elder ones and their talents in awe…
Life seemed bright and colourful — just like the orange morning sun behind the mountains and pink and violet wild flowers in the meadows that I would paint in my sceneries… And I felt like the tiny bird hopping over the bushes.
My father would frequently talk to my teacher after the class. Over time, the serious conversations had evolved into casual chit-chats replete with bursts of laughter. From just the ‘Drawing Sir’, he had become a friendly and trusted person. So when we shifted to the other end of the city, and Sir proposed that instead of going to the school every Sunday, we took lessons at someone’s house within a few-minutes walking distance from our new home where he came to teach every Friday, Dad readily agreed.
And that was when my woes started, I was a student of seventh grade at that time.
There were hardly 3 or 4 students, including my brother and I, who came there attended the class here. I was the only girl. Adults of the family rarely came by, not wanting to disturb the class. On the pretext of guiding me with my drawings, he would, for the most time, sit by my side, surreptitiously sliding his lusty hands over my body.
I was shocked the first time, not able to comprehend what was actually happening. But as his behaviour remained persistent and kept crossing boundaries, I knew it was deliberate and I was in deep trouble. I would try my best to avoid him, sitting at the farthest spots from him only to find that nothing could deter him. My mood remained low all the time, I felt irritated over almost everything and constantly prayed that somehow the classes stopped.
More than the physical abuse, the fact that bothered me the most was neither did I have the courage to protest upfront at his indecent, lascivious advancements, nor could I speak about it to anyone. Though my parents did their best to fulfil my material needs despite limited resources, emotionally I had little connection with them or my siblings.
The usual atmosphere at my home was a very rigid, dominating and closed one where only necessary talks took place and rest of the times, a deadly silence engulfed us. How could I then describe my plight, how could I even open my mouth and utter any words? I didn’t know.
And in front of friends too, I never expressed anything out of shame, sadness and self-deprecation.
Almost two years passed by, and I had to live through a ghastly experience every Friday as he continued offending me without fail. I bore it all quietly (which is a big regret) and by then had seen how shameless, exploitative and hideous men can be. He had also voluntarily taken upon himself the task of dropping us home on his moped, earning himself further respect in my parents eyes, and more time to engage in his lecherous acts.
One day, when my brother was in the other room, finding a lone opportunity, he ran his vile hands over me without any restraint. I felt nauseous and shaky like an earthquake uprooting every cell inside me and I threw up.
There was no energy left, my body was in a state of shock and my tender mind scarred forever. Being the expert actor that he was, he immediately faked concern and thereafter quickly dropped us home citing my sudden sickness. My mental state at that time was beyond anything I can ever express. I was traumatised, helpless and suffered in silence… so insecure and emotionally isolated that even after that gruesome incident, I couldn’t reveal the truth at home about why I had vomited in the class.
My life’s scenery had changed to a night in the jungle with silhouette of a huge tree holding secrets from ages and a hideous wolf preying upon a meek lamb under its spread. There was no moon, not even a star. Black clouds had filled the sky and the river overflowed with muddy waters — like my tears flowing ceaselessly whenever I found myself alone in an attempt to clean up the filth that was choking me inside.
Even after that day, I had to continue with the classes because I couldn’t think of any excuse to stop abruptly. I was too scared of my Dad (an extremely quick-tempered person) to refuse going for the class when he was paying for it out of his hard-earned meagre salary. Finally, by God’s grace, Dad decided to stop sending us for the classes so that we could devote more time to studies. I was greatly relived, but the traumatic memories continued haunting me for long.
Thoughts of rage and revenge often rampaged my mind, plunging me into a state of worthlessness and despair, even when everything was going fine. Without any knowledge about how to heal from the childhood trauma, for almost two decades, the agonising incidents kept hurting me like freshly inflicted wounds.
I learnt that time alone cannot erase these pains; a much conscious effort, self-love and determination are greatly required. Only recently, with deeper understanding that I can’t ruin my present over my past, a sense of detachment from the body and for the sake of my own peace and spiritual progress, have I been finally able to let go of it.
What propelled me today to share this openly is the thought that if my harrowing experience could serve as a message for you to be more aware, cautious and alert about the safety of children, it would make me feel useful in some way.
I am not a parent to give you any advice. Rather, I am that child who went through a long period of molestation and childhood trauma, silently and helplessly, but later for years, kept playing in her head what all she could have done and what all she would have liked in her favour.
On basis of that personal experience, I urge you to implement the following few things (if haven’t been done already):
- Do not trust anyone on face value and never give anyone the benefit of doubt where your children are concerned. The person who assaulted me was a middle-aged married man having two young daughters. Isn’t that hard to believe?
- Make your children understand the potential dangers of the world. Be it a boy or a girl, take equal care to explain to them what behaviour is forbidden and how to deal with it. Tell them to report immediately at the slightest sign of risk. I had no idea about sexual harassment before it happened to me, no one cared to tell me. Had I known that it was a heinous crime, maybe I would’ve dealt with it better.
- Train them to be strong — physically, mentally and emotionally. You cannot be present with them everytime everywhere. So, please equip them well so that they can defend themselves physically and have the intelligence to escape from difficult situations.
- Be their friends, and not a ruling authority over them. No matter how many lessons you impart in words, if your behaviour is frightening and unpredictable, they won’t open up their hearts to you. Create a joyous, supportive and open environment where they feel secure and free, and communicate spontaneously without any hesitation.
- Observe them keenly. Their moods, behaviour and body language will reveal a lot, even if they do not disclose their troubles upfront for any reason. If you notice them distressed, ask them lovingly with all the care and patience to speak about what is bothering them. In my case, though I was visibly upset for a span of two years and behaved differently, nobody asked me the reason. Rather, I was reprimanded for always sulking and not being cheerful. Perhaps if someone had asked me empathetically, I would have told themand my worries would have ended sooner.
For all the parents and adults reading this, I sincerely believe that you are wonderful persons taking care of your kids in the best possible ways. Yet my love and concern for the innocent, delicate, bubbly little humans drove me to pour out my dark secret as a request to protect them, their well-being and happiness and help them bloom most beautifully without any stains or scars in their innocent, tender minds.
If you are a child or a teenager reading this, from the bottom of my heart I say, ‘I LOVE YOU’. You are beautiful, strong and brave. No one has the right to hurt you. If anyone does, speak up and seek help. Don’t be afraid, don’t suffer silently, don’t give up on yourself please… One person might be harming you, but there are many more who genuinely love you and care for you. Reach out to them and walk out of your troubles. May the Almighty’s blessings be always with you !