CSA Survivor Story – 36.

You remember the things that happened to you, good and bad, even when you get old. Or so it is said. A cousin told me when I was 9 or so that my feet are so wide they are like duck’s feet. I have never forgotten that. I have also never forgotten something else that happened when I was 9 or so. Try as I might, I have never been able to forget that I was touched inappropriately that year.

The culprit, typically, is someone the family knew. He was a son of our landlords and I had gone with the family to his wedding. One minute I was playing with all the children, being really happy and the next minute, he had grabbed me from behind, whirled me around a few times, holding on to my crotch. I have never been touched there by anyone and I just froze. I remember not knowing what to do next. I was too shocked to even tell anyone – all I wanted to do was get away from him, from that place. But for that to happen, I had to tell my parents what had happened and I couldn’t. So I wandered around aimlessly like a zombie, quaking in fear when I was called to pose in the wedding photos. I did not want to stand next to him; I didn’t know what I’ll see in his eyes.

It happened again, a few years later. It was Diwali time and I was sitting outside our house, after having finished my quota. The whole family was sat inside, talking and laughing. The man, a neighbour, was sitting on the steps watching the fireworks. When he saw I had none, he went in and got some chakras. He invited me to help myself to them; as I went to do so, he helped himself to me. Once again, I felt a strange man’s hands on my crotch, burning across many layers of clothes. In my shock, I dropped the burning chakra on my foot. I didn’t scream or shout, just stood there, with my skin burning. I then went inside and sat quietly, not crying in pain, not seeking treatment for the burn. It wasn’t till later it was discovered and, along with much chiding, tended to.

A year or so later, I happened to visit my paternal grandparents. My uncle, who was still in college, was fending the fort, as gran had to go to aunt who was ill. I don’t know what help a 12-year-old can be, but my folk had sent me and I went. My grandfather used to sleep out in the open veranda, to combat the summer heat while I slept inside, on mats on the cool floor, next to my uncle, my father’s brother, who was like my father himself. Till the night I felt his penis in my small hand. He was using my hand to grab on to it. As realisation filtered into my sleep-dulled brain, I woke up. But I didn’t dare to show I was awake because I was scared what will happen then. So I lay there, eyes clamped shut, with my chacha’s manhood in my hand. The following day, I spent in a daze. Without telephones in both households, I had no way of getting in touch with my parents so I couldn’t call them and ask them to take me back home. I went to bed, wondering what will happen later. Well, the same thing did. Only this time, I was awake. I remember walking in the dark trying to open the front door, which was latched tight and out of the reach of my tiny frame. So I went back to bed and lay with my hands clutched firmly across my middle, as if that will help.

After this, there have been many more. The perv on the crowded bus who unzipped his fly and flashed his gonads at me and a friend, on our way to college. The dhoti-clad creep that rubbed his hard-on against my butt, as he leaned against me in yet another crowded bus. Every time, I just froze and pretended I wasn’t there. Pretended I couldn’t feel the guy’s dick becoming bigger against my bottom. Because if I couldn’t feel it, it cannot be happening.

Years later, all these experiences have left me with an inability to get close to anyone. I am okay to start with but when someone’s in danger of actually getting close, I move away. One time, a friend pinched my cheeks and joked to his wife, “god she has such lovely chubby cheeks no?”

And that was the end of the friendship. I could feel myself withdrawing from him, and as much as I tried to stop myself, telling me he wasn’t going to harm me, I shut myself down and backed away till the bewildered couple moved away, no doubt muttering about what a crazy woman I was.

Till today, I cannot walk past a group of males without my heart thudding and a voice in my head shrieking. I cannot bear to be hugged or held on to from the back. I even dislike air-kissing someone to greet them.

Am I a victim? I don’t think so – there are scores out there who have survived far worse things. A survivor? Not until I get rid of my fears and stand up for myself. What I am, is a statistic.