CSA Survivor Story – 6

Child Sex Awareness month is here again. I have always believed that the project was about the other, about teaching children, about letting the world know that this is an issue to be addressed, about making a stand…until today. There was this small act of putting up the CSA badge on my twitter profile, I sat there with it…seconds passed into minutes, my son vroomed around on his scooter, the husband woke up and poured himself coffee, my mother tossed the onions into a hot pan and I sat there with this little badge that will say to the world that I identify with this mission, that I was a victim, that I started out unaware and scared and with time I looked to it as an acknowledgement of my sexuality and let it define who I was.

I grew up in a joint family. I was exposed to things very early and the much filtered information on gender differences, sex and sexuality came as bits and pieces and half-baked information that made me more curious. I grew up with a lot of boys, my cousins, his friends and have always played with them at an equal footing, hanging upside down on parallel bars and running till my stomach hurt. Yet, the first time, I was not aware enough, or prepared enough for the assault on my senses. I was on my way back home from the nice convent school down the road. This person on the bus slowly pushing himself against me, his breath near my ear in this crowded bus. I did not know what was happening. I moved wanting to give him space, shifted, ignored and quickly got down. I was uncomfortable, worried and puzzled. Being alone in a crowd is one of the first feelings of being abused. You keep thinking adults should notice this and act, don’t. You feel adults should not notice this and judge, they don’t.

This is one of the first lessons you teach yourself. It is always your fault. You should not have been there, you should have screamed, you should have worn a different dress. They teach you to judge yourself first. I did. I judged my early developed body, I judged my big full-of-emotions eyes, I judged my full hips, I judged my loud, full of life laughter.

Not very long after, I was at a fair, my two younger cousins in tow with my father and grandmother. The fair was crowded. Ferris wheels, cable cars, shops, cotton candy, bubble sellers. I was in line for the cable car, excited at going back and forth. My brother was behind me and I asked him to come forward so I could keep an eye on him. My father stood down with my nana waiting. I felt a sudden pressing of bodies against me. Trying to steady myself, I looked back and there they were. Three young men, taking turns to press against me. The crowd was getting restless, the humidity was high and I felt them again and again. Keeping my hand on the kids, I moved until I caught the eye of the security who quickly hustled us into one of the cars, while keeping the men out. The whole ride, I waited to get back on ground, to go back home, to be alone. I have never stepped into a fair ground again.

This is the second lesson you teach yourself. Never lose yourself when living life. Be it a fun fairground trip, be it a shower in an open waterfall, be it cycling down the lane, or learning how to ride a two wheeler from a family friend. Always be aware, of what you do, what you project and what you are. I did. I watched myself, and I judged myself.

Being called names, ogled at, and seeing men getting it on, when I was not even in my teens, did something else. It made me feel powerful. It made me think that I should be truly amazing and pretty and stunning to make men go to such desperate lengths.  My sexuality was my biggest asset. So I used it. I watched as I was abused through words, through touch. I judged my worth by how many “compliments” I got. It made me uncomfortable, but it was about my self-worth, so I let it be and aimed at enjoying it.

I was in my 2nd year of college when a close cousin, whose wife was away working, started coming home regularly. He was not very old, very handsome and very charming. He walked me to the bus stop, took me to the movies and told me how pretty I looked. He complimented my taste and then he sat next to me. He hugged me and put his hand around my shoulders in front of my parents. Then one day, when they were not home, he sat next to me and put his hands around my waist and reached for my breasts. He kept moving his hand for a better feel, until I abruptly stood up and walked away. My parents came home and I had no way of knowing how far he would have taken it. I remember every little detail..from what I wore, where I sat, what I was doing, to what I was watching.

This is the third lesson you teach yourself, remember to keep forgetting. I remember so many little details. I remember so many faces, I remember so many relationships. I forget how many incidents, I forget the number of names, I forget the places I have been touched….but I remember them.

I am married to a man who appreciates my worth, who has made me look at myself differently and has made me embrace my sexuality differently. I have a son, who has made me look again, judge myself differently and makes me forget whole lot of other things. I worry though, that someday he might want to tease someone, abuse someone verbally or otherwise, or be abused himself… so I want him to someday read this and understand, his mother was once a woman, a girl, who grew up too fast, and never had a childhood because there were people who decided for her when her childhood ended.