Trigger warning: Rape, child sexual abuse.
‘I wish I had been raped’. I was sexually abused as a child, but never did he put his penis in my vagina. If he had done that, today as an adult I would have a very ‘accepted form’ of abuse; rape. It would have been easier for me to understand in my head (I am assuming). But it wasn’t. Our ‘relationship’ stretched over the years. It was pleasuring him, it was about watching him undress and it was also about video calling to get himself off. It was about keeping me so interested for his attention and making me feel like it’s a precious secret that was only for me. I remember my kid-self numbing these and being excited when he used to ask me about school and my day. I couldn’t have one without the other, so I ignored everything but normal conversations.
To give some perspective, I was around 14-15 years old, in school, the biggest bane in life being math. My whole life was my parents and the bubble I lived in. He was in his mid-late thirties, successful and sorted. He had a charming smile, a beautiful wife and a lovely daughter who was younger than me. He was a friendly neighbour. To anyone who knew me, I was a social-butterfly. It was normal to watch me sit with the car drivers and chat, play with the street dogs and it was ‘so me’ to be friends with a neighbour.
I wasn’t prepared to identify that the friendship was not really normal, because all my life I have been taught to be nice, to listen to elders and that men were always right. I grew up in a house where there was no television for most of my life, never been told what sex is about, no information about good and bad touch. I was the beacon of naivety. In my head everyone was amazing.
Now as an adult, I read the laws and I have a label for every incident. I have a distinct name to every single incident that happened to me. What am I supposed to do with it? Do I feel like a victim or a survivor? I feel neither. What I do feel is confusion and the constant debate in my head as to ‘but, I did do this and I did do that’. The shame and the guilt amplifies because reflecting upon child sexual abuse with a rational adult thinking is conflicting.
“The shame and the guilt amplifies because reflecting upon child sexual abuse with a rational adult thinking is conflicting.”
Can I ever explain how it feels exactly? Do people really understand how it feels? I am not so sure. I explained this story to my boyfriend once (obviously not every detail), he held me tight and comforted me. That night I had nightmares and couldn’t sleep at all. The next morning, he was grumpy that I didn’t let him sleep, he didn’t understand the trauma. Here is the thing, I wasn’t held down and violently raped. So it didn’t seem significant enough to him.
For a lot of friends and people in my generation, they have had sex for fun, pleasure and voluntarily since the age of 13. So it doesn’t make sense to them as to why this is abuse. On the contrary, cases of child marriage between a 15-year-old and a 40-year-old, is wrong.
‘It is not your fault’. I hate that sentence. How can I tell myself that it is not my fault when I have smiled at him and sent the first message and/or played with his wife and kid? You see, sexual violence is not always violent, aggressive nor is child sexual abuse for kids who are in their diapers or in primary school.
“You see, sexual violence is not always violent, aggressive nor is child sexual abuse for kids who are in their diapers or in primary school. ”
I have considered going to court and suing him. But I never did. I know it will be my life which is taken apart and it would be up to me to give the exact time and details of every incident. The abuse went on for years later, and even a year after I turned 18. I honestly don’t remember the exact flow of events nor do I have proof of anything at all. So why go through that humiliation? As an adult I feel more helpless than as a kid, because I know now, but my hands are still tied.
What did I do to help myself? I took therapy for years, I actively try to tell myself that it was abuse and I shouldn’t give excuses for him. I am still not at a place where I can confidently get on a stage and tell people about what I went through, because as an adult I know the society is not still at a point where they would agree that I was a child and I had no role to play in it. That has to change. I wish I knew back then about good touch and bad touch, but I will make sure my kids know about it, so they never have to live with that confusion and anxiety for the rest of their lives.
Do not shush me.
I never really knew what a ‘bad touch’ was. I still don’t think I have it figured out completely. When a relative of mine was making advances, I figured, ‘we’re related, he wouldn’t do anything that is wrong, besides, he is older.’ Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Even today, I am not sure when I was sexually offended for the first time. Is it when a relative loved kissing kids on the lips, or was it when another relative used a difficult time of mine to make advances, or was it when I was forced to read a pornographic book in school or was it when someone thought it was funny to read out a perverted version of a nursery rhyme to me? Every time one of this happened, I remained silent because I didn’t know when to shush, or when to scream for help. When I asked people who are older, they didn’t know either. I have had occasions where I was asked to ‘shush’ as it may create disturbances to the daily order of things.
What has this done to me as a person?
I am always afraid. It’s getting better by the day, but yes, I am always afraid. I am scared that I will get molested or raped if I ever offend anyone. I am afraid that if I ever get married, I may be subject to domestic violence. I am afraid that no matter whom I chose to be my significant other, I would be making a wrong choice. What I am most afraid of is me being oblivious to an abusive relationship and never know that I am, in fact, being abused. I have encountered relationships where I did not know that I was being abused for almost 2 years. In fact, I am so terrified of losing myself again that I every time I use the word ‘love’ there is a sting. I am terrified of the fact that I still am not fully sure about what a good and a bad touch is. The concept of ‘consent’ is always the biggest debate in my head.
“The concept of ‘consent’ is always the biggest debate in my head.”
Now that I am done with the trip, I must let you all know that despite everything, I have faith in the humanity. I have also moved on a great deal from my fears and I have started replacing them with happy thoughts and memories. On a separate note, one thing I have learnt is that the previous generation barely got any exposure and they were told to shush when things happened. Times were different. Unlike us, they didn’t know how to fight back, and even if they did, there were a very few who had the courage to fight back. I am sad that this happened to me, but I am glad that it will never happen to my kids because now, I know. I can to ensure that they know the importance of the word ‘no’. I also know that, I want to help every person who is going through this. What happened to me was horrifying and I want to aid in removing any stereotyping when it comes to abuse. I want to ensure that people are aware that there is no general threshold for determining what a bad touch is. I realise I cannot change what happened to me and a part of me will always be broken, but, I hope my story helps another one to not ‘shush’ when they encounter a ‘bad touch’.
A bad touch needn’t have bad intentions, if the child feels discomfort, then it is bad, for them.
A child is anyone under the age of 18, the sexual consent age differs in countries, but this article is not for a legal case. It is about prevention and for that start with a conversation. Ignorance is not bliss, if we shy away from having important conversations with our kids, they are going to unequipped to handle situations like these. Sex is not as scandalous as we have been led to believe, it is normal and we got to make sex education a normal thing too. Child sexual abuse manifests in different ways; it can be online, by a known person of the family. A lot of times children don’t realise until later that it was abuse and that affects them deeply. A simple way to help out is by keeping them informed and encouraging them to talk to someone if they feel like something is not right. A lot of sexual abuse cases are not black and white, not something which is articulate with symptoms. It is marred by confusion, guilt and shame. Education is the key to prevent, and for that to happen we need to let go of our preconceived notions.
This story is contributed by two people who would wish to remain anonymous. It has been submitted as part of the Stand Against Rape campaign.