CSA Survivor Story – 13

When I read posts in CSAA, I feel lucky that I have not been subject to the gruesome molestation that some of my blog sisters have been through. After all, nobody has lured me into dark corners. Nobody has felt me up. Nobody has raped me.

What then, you might ask, about the uncle who took my picture when I had just stepped out of the bath, when at my grandmother’s place? I was not even a teenager. When I protested, he said ‘Come on! People take all kinds of pictures!’ I remember those exact words, even after 20 years after the incident. Back then, I had just blushed, and tried to act cool by ‘posing’! In truth, I embarrassed, and confused. But I didn’t know what else I could do. My ‘good’ uncle was away at office. This was the ‘bad’ one. My timid grandma was busy in the kitchen. My parents were not around. So I didn’t tell anyone. And anyway, it was too embarrassing to talk about. In retrospect, I think my parents would have told me to ‘stay away’ from him. I wonder if they would have fought him over it. Or if they had, would I have liked it? After all, which child would want to be the reason for a feud in the family!!

What then, you might wonder, about the same ‘bad’ uncle, who sat so close to me during our entire train ride from Chennai to Ooty? He dug his elbow into my hips. I squirmed. He continued to dig. I inched away. But there was no space. So I suffered the journey. Strange that nobody noticed. It made me wonder if I was misunderstanding him or the situation. It was afterall, a really cramped compartment. And it full of family members. My cousins were seated just next to me. My mum was right in front of me. Obviously, he would not try to ‘molest’ me in front of everybody. Or would he? Why then, did I feel it ‘wrong’?! Needless to say, I avoided him for the rest of the trip.

What also, of the family ‘tea time’ when another ‘good’ uncle sat in front of me, with his legs spread out, as wide as can be? http://www.simplybodylanguage.com/men-sitting-with-legs-wide-open.html Again, we were a ‘big, happy family’. I was a child. He was a grown man. He was a lovely person. And he did not do anything wrong with me. But I was nevertheless embarrassed.

And what of my dad, who is a very affectionate and caring person? Why then, I wonder, do I squirm at his touch? When his innocent finger lightly grazes my skin…. why do I feel like it is a caterpillar running?

A memory rushes out to hit me, and make the smile on my face disappear. As a child – around 12 years I think, I had just walked out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel. Dad was drinking coffee, but through the corner of his eye, he looked me up, and down, and up again. His eyes followed me all the way into the bedroom where I went to put on my clothes. I burned with shame.

Another faint memory nags me. What was it that he had said, when we sat at the sofa one day? Ah! ‘You are a sexy girl’. I tried to hide my embarrassment by complaining to my mum who was in the kitchen, that ‘I was not sexy, it was my little sister who was’. My mum was busy, as always, cooking, cleaning, moody. She shooed me away. She did not take it up with my dad. I was disappointed.

No, don’t misunderstand me. My near and dear ones are really good men. They have never groped me. Never passed a lewd comment. Never tried to molest me!

However, sometimes, I wonder why it is, that I look so ‘plain’. I have never tried make-up. I don’t take any trouble to look attractive. I don’t want to. Especially in front of my family. I would rather, they not look at me at all.

I guess what I am trying to say is, you don’t need to lay a finger on someone to molest them. A sideways glance. A lecherous look in the eyes. A weird comment. A couple of such stray acts now and then – could still make a difference. It could shatter a child’s self-image. It could scar and maim the child for life. It could hurt her self-esteem. Result in a child, who is normally beautiful, to want to look her unattractive worst.

Rape is not just physical. You can molest a child, without laying a finger on her. Ask me. Ask my sisters.