CSA, My Story – Anisha.

I was sitting in a single-screen theatre in Malad, watching Morning Raga, when it hit me.

I was with two friends from school, enjoying the freedom that came with finishing one’s Tenth Standard Board exams, before the tension of results and college and growing up snuck up on us.

I remember wondering, years later, why that time, that place, or that movie – I still don’t have an answer. All I know is that, somewhere in the middle, I got up and went outside, unable to breathe. As my friends asked me what was wrong, I whispered, “I think I was molested as a child.”

I didn’t have the guts to really ask my mother, face-to-face, what had happened. So I used the next best thing – a computer. I e-mailed her, telling her I remembered being abused when I was young, and wasn’t sure if it was true, and what all the details were. I remember asking her not to talk to me about this, but keep the communication online, because I wasn’t ready to deal with it just yet.

Along with her reply, I began to piece together an incident that I had buried, years ago.

My memory of being molested is very…cinematic, to put it broadly. Imagine watching this as if a camera has been implanted in someone’s head, and all you see is what they’re looking at.

I see the entire incident as if I was dispassionately watching it in a dark cinema hall, on a big screen, sharing someone else’s personal life with strangers that I’d probably never see again.

Mr. More was an art teacher in a suburban school, and one of the many teachers my parents enlisted to keep my idle seven-year-old self occupied. So, along with Shiamak Davar classes, Prithvi Theatre workshops, elocution, Bharatanatyam and Hindustani Classical singing, I was also introduced to the world of art.

I don’t remember what he looked like, but what still strikes me today is how he drew hands, and feet. I vividly recall looking at what seemed like thousands of little lines on charcoal hands and feet, marveling at how life-like they seemed.

I think it was Diwali vacation – or a significant last class of some kind. My mother was in the living room, giving tuitions, and I was in my room. Dad was at work, and the maid wasn’t home. Mr. More and I sat on the floor, drawing. Finally, he got up to say his goodbyes.

The last thing I remember is being pushed up against the cupboard, and then my mind goes blank. Perhaps this is for a good reason, because some part of me wants to believe that the abuse wasn’t so sever, drowning out the voices in my head that ask, “Why block it out if it wasn’t?”

I next remember sitting in a rickshaw, my cinematic memory producing visuals of my little feet rocking back in forth in the rickshaw, somewhat guiltily telling my mother what had transpired, a few days after the incident.

As my feet move with the rhythm of the rickshaw along winding roads, I answer all sorts of questions. Eight years later, my mother says, in her e-mail, that she asked me where I had been touched and what Mr. More had done.  The vague conclusion was that he had penetrated me with his fingers.

My mother and I finally spoke about this when I was about 18. We cried together, as she told me that she blamed herself for what had happened. Nothing I could ever say will change the fact that she was in the next room, and yet, I know this was not her fault.  Perhaps, one day, she will accept that.

Until then, I have her to thank for so many things that she drilled into my head when I was a child, about good touch and bad touch, being extremely careful about who held me and how, and encouraging me to share everything with her.

It is only because of this that I am proud to say that I never had a victim complex. I never thought it was my fault and I never looked to blame myself for what had happened. While neither of us had any inkling about or control over what happened, we did have the power to control what happened next. – making sure that we didn’t blame ourselves, and that we dealt with the situation in as mature and adult a way as possible. I’d like to think we achieved that.

We didn’t fight back, or take on the system. My mother didn’t go after the teacher, nor did she ever tell my father about it. Perhaps if I’d been older, I’d have gone after him and forced him to stand in front of me, admitting what he’d done. Truth be told, I don’t know what good that would do, because I don’t think I’d really ever get closure from it. Perhaps other kids would come forward, and perhaps this would by the start of a movement against child sexual abuse.

This story, however, has none of that. It is just one person’s account of something that happens and has happened to too many of us, too often. As mothers, and women, reading this triggers a painful memory in all of us – someone we know, something we’ve suppressed for many years, or some nascent anger, waiting to be tapped at the right moment.

What this story does have, though, is the lifelong lessons my mother taught me, about respecting oneself enough to know that you couldn’t possibly be the person who initiated any sexual activity at age seven, and that telling one or both parents was the right thing to do. I don’t know what I would have done if she hasn’t believed me – I’d definitely never have the strength to write about it, that’s for sure.

I have not put this down on paper for 20 years, and have fought back tears many times while doing so. But I think it’s important, because your kids, your friend’s kids, your neighbourhood kids, need to know that it’s NEVER their fault, and that they have someone to talk to. I know I never felt afraid about telling my mother about what happened to me, and that’s probably what made all the difference.