CSA Survivor Story – 26.
Sexual abuse is inevitable for a girl, as I discovered early on in my life. A curious friend, random strangers who grope you as you walk past them, school bus drivers who run their hands on your legs pretending its by accident, salesmen who hold up a dress against you while their hands are doing something else… and so on. The abuse continues as you grow old, and even when you are able to defend yourself as a woman, you have someone attempting to take advantage of you as soon as you let your guard down.
For me, my biggest secret as a child was that I was subjected to abuse, and for several years. I remember thinking (when I must have been about seven), that I must protect my parents from this truth because it would shatter them. Since I also believed then, that I should not lie to my parents, I thought laboriously over how and when I would reveal this truth to them. And then it hit me – I would reveal my only secret to my mother, when she was on her death-bed. Yes. That made sense because she would not have any more time to grieve about the issue. But it would still mean I have no longer any secret I kept from her, which made me not a sinner, right?
As I grew older (into my teens) and wiser, I laughed at how naive I was. I could never tell her. Period. She would die if she heard. Die if she found out that she had failed in protecting her daughter. Die if she knew her daughter had gone thru such an experience. Especially when she took all the care in the world to keep her daughter away from a topic she should never find out about till she was 16 – sex. Especially when she was, in all other matters, the most caring mother in the world.
He was my aunt’s husband. He married her when I was four and for reasons of work, came and stayed with us, i.e. my parents & me. Funny, smart and caring, he soon became my favorite companion. He took care of me for hours, and my mother found it a welcome respite – after all, we seemed to love each other’s company and so she trusted him enough to leave me alone with him.
It began innocuously enough and I was five, too young to understand. My oldest memories are of being shown porn, and while I would watch out of curiosity, he would make me touch him. I guess I realized even in the beginning that there was something odd about it all. But his whisper stayed with me. He told me not to tell anyone and that this was our secret. Because if I did tell anyone, they would beat me and him, throw us out of the house, and so, my aunt would lose her husband. Which would make her and my parents cry. As a five year old, I guess this was enough to convince me to shut up and go along with it.
Nevertheless, I remember replaying each episode in my mind over and over again, afterwards. Initially when it was just him using my hands on himself, it was just something strange. But then, he began to touch me. He told me not to worry, and that he was just checking if I was ok. He would explain to me how I was growing and how I would grow, and why he needed to check it out, for my own benefit. I didn’t understand anything.
There was soon, pain at times. I would wince or cry out, and he would promise to not do it again. But he did. I began to feel disgusting and dirty, and began to fear him – all trust was lost. Especially because he was now telling me that my parents would kill him and me if they found out. I was by now afraid also for what happened and what was happening – I suspected that he could “damage” me somehow, and that I needed to protect myself from damage. I was afraid of asking him to stop too – because I could sense some kind of danger in him as a person. Thankfully, he did not manage to do any kind of damage at all to my body. Reflecting on it today, I think he was just being smart and avoiding any possibility where the truth could out.
But he did damage my mind. I began to think that it was my duty to protect everyone from the truth. Especially my aunt. By now, he had shifted out of my house and was staying a block away, with her. Even though his wife and my parents were around, he knew how to create or take advantage of opportunities. My mother got admitted in a hospital for a few weeks, and my father had to stay with her (we had no relatives in the place we stayed), so my aunt assumed my responsibility and I stayed with them. Since I was only six, she made me sleep with them on their bed. I don’t remember much about it except that I would wake up in the middle of the night, only to find his fingers in me. For fear of waking up my aunt and having her discover (what seemed to me as) the worst thing in the world, I kept quiet – and hated myself, and him. And I would push his hands away and squirm. And he would hush me up.
He would take my aunt to the hospital to keep my parents company, and come back to spend time with me. Or catch me unawares each time she went to the bathroom or outside the home. I, for my part, began to actively refuse everything he asked, and invent excuses to keep away. My resistance didn’t help much – he was smarter and stronger. He would offer to pick me up from school, and my parents thought he was being very kind, not understanding the implications. When I saw him, dread would crawl up my heart but I had to comply. I never knew I had an option not to. He would take me to a lonely apartment promising me that it wouldn’t take much time and that I would enjoy it. The porn was still on, however, I could no longer be distracted. I would close my eyes, or look away, and show my disgust openly. He still persisted, and even attempted intercourse once but I blocked & pushed him away, and I guess he realized that I was close to breaking down, so he didn’t persist or try again. He made me lie to my mother and aunt about where we went, and I spent hours at night thinking of the lie, unable to forgive myself. My aunt (not realizing what was happening) would tell me and my mother that she wanted me to spend weekends with them; I knew he must have put the idea into her head.
Somewhere post my seventh birthday, it stopped. I told my mother that I didn’t want him to pick me up from school, and I didn’t want to go and stay with them. She asked me why even though I think she suspected nothing at all. I told her that I missed my father and her – and that I wanted my father to pick me up from school because other kids’ parents picked them up. I realize today that I had mentally started thinking like an adult, to be able to come up with statements that no one suspected. My mother didn’t atleast, but I heard her tell him that I didn’t want to come anymore and that I said no. I can still remember the look he gave me but he got the message. And it all stopped. Finally.
Then it was like it never happened. We avoided each other, never spoke, and he acted like a stranger, or rather, like the dutiful father of the two sons that my aunt bore him. My mother asked me once why I was no longer close to him as I had been as a child. I don’t think I bothered to explain. She probably assumed it just was something to do with me growing up.
The memories never faded for me, though. I kept them safe, and in the deep recesses of my mind – to be brought out only when I was on my own, alone, at night. By the age of six, I had insisted to my mother that I be allowed to sleep on my own. In my mind, I was already an adult. Someone who knew much more than all kids my age did. The episodes played in my mind over and over again. I began searching for information to understand what it was all about. I pored over my mother’s fiction books trying to piece together what happened and why. What was it that he was doing? I had limited resources, and my mother was extremely careful about exposing me to anything connected to sex – she thought that if I came to know about it too early, I might have a twisted understanding of it. I realize today that she was quite naive & ignorant to think that children couldn’t find information on their own. I found out about sex and masturbation, and realized that he had tried both. I found out about pregnancy, and spent a few agonizing nights as an eight or nine year old wondering if I was pregnant!! (even though I knew nothing about menstruation then).
I believed that this kind of thing never happened to children my age, and thought that I was somehow my fault. Thankfully, I didn’t think of myself as a sinner or believe that I was dirty, and a bad person even then. I just assumed that it was some abnormality that was related to the fact that I was already (in my mind) an adult. I also never really hated him as the person. I feared him, and I hated his actions, but I believed firmly that he did it because he couldn’t help himself. Today, I realize it was a twisted consequence. I was protecting him like I was an adult. But I wasn’t; I was only a child.
Interestingly, despite two years of abuse my grades, and my performance in school never suffered, so there weren’t any clues of that kind to my parents. Personality-wise though, I ended up closed and secretive. I had friends, and went through the normal periods of adolescence, even fighting with my mother like any normal teen, and then growing very close to her, emotionally. But I never told her even then, nor did I hold her responsible for anything that happened to me. And I let no one into the recesses of my persona.
I carried the guilt and secrets with me however, into teenage. But I would credit the fact that I had a certain above-average intelligence, and immense belief in myself, which helped me eventually to recover, and eventually achieve closure. I sought information about abuse, and over the course of years, realized that I wasn’t the only one – and this was the first step. I turned to spirituality – I was not on a spiritual journey, but just one of self-discovery: a deeper introspection into me as a person. I grew to realize I needed to respect myself, and realize that nothing was my fault and in time, I began to move towards forgiveness. By the time my first episodes of sex as an adult happened years later, I had discovered my sexuality and that there was no shame nor horror or weirdness about it. The years I spent healing, helped.
Did I tell my mother eventually? Yes, I did. Years after wards, I heard that a younger cousin(girl) was going to stay with my aunt and uncle (who had moved away from us and to another country). I told my mother then. Not the entire story, but that he had initiated something with me. In part, I thought that if she seems strong enough to withstand it, I would let her in on more details. She wasn’t. My mother went into shock, and for a few days, she couldn’t recover or face me. She told it to my dad, who looked at me with disbelief and suspicion, but I knew he understood. He didn’t have it in him to ask what happened, because he feared more for my mother, than him or me. My mother asked me for more details (and blamed herself and my dad for allowing it to happen to me) but seeing her initial reaction, and that she was going into a territory of not being able to forgive herself, I told her there were some episodes, and left it at that. Eventually, perhaps she reconciled with it, and realized that I seemed to be ok, because it was never spoken of afterwards.
My telling helped though – because she called up my cousin’s mother and revealed the details to her – and the cousin was kept away. Karma caught up with him in a different way because soon he became ostracized from the family. Interestingly, he was a well educated, extremely successful man in his career, particularly post the abuse. But psychological disorders don’t stay hidden forever. He created several illegal connections, went into money laundering, and once that was exposed, ran into trouble with the law and lost his job, his savings and the reputation he created. My aunt and his children separated from him and he went away, losing touch with everyone in the family. The last we heard of him, he’d been admitted to a mental asylum, after he was found wasting on the side of a road, in extreme poverty, and having lost all traces of sanity.
Did it make me feel better? No. But it was the last form of closure as far as I was concerned. Today, I do not even care to think or reflect on the episode – and it took me considerable thought to remember enough to put down in this account.
At present, I’m happily married, have a “evolved” life, am at peace with myself & my life, have a wonderful partner, career, and am expecting my first baby. I’m happy, and I’m healed.