Trigger Warning: Child Sexual Abuse
I was born with anxiety. Restlessness manifested itself in me, right from when I was in my mother’s stomach and swallowed meconium. I was rushed to the hospital every now and then, while I was a few days old, by my worried father. I often suffered from an upset and irritable stomach throughout my school life.
As anxiety is a companion to depression, I was a companion to my elder brother. Like fire and ice; I was energetic and expressive and didn’t control what came out of my mouth. My brother was quiet, observant and hurt easily.
It was no surprise that we were predisposed to anxiety and depression, considering the environment we grew up in; over 18 families living in tiny matchbox houses on each floor of a building that resembled a jail, with smelly common toilets and a general lack of privacy. We were raised with fear and love was compensated by late night bike rides and ice-cream with our father. Our mother was subdued and submissive and found escape through her work and career.
My world of friends was limited to the only friend I’d ever known since the first day of school, and by the time I was ten, we were shuffled into different classes and my world was torn apart. That was the beginning of my journey with loss and grieving; a deep, helpless sense of doom took over me, punctuated with bouts of crying, no, wailing. I sought refuge by coercing my mother to narrate stories about her childhood, to catch any hint of pain and loss she might have experienced as a child and find some connect with that. I couldn’t find the energy to bathe so I would ask my mum to bathe me. I coerced my dad to spend time with me in the evenings.
the education system and parents shrug off the responsibility of teaching children about genital anatomy.
As I look back now, my situation simply demanded care and warmth in the form of an adult, letting me know that the best friend I really was mourning for had been curled up in a corner of my soul and if I could reach within, I wouldn’t be so lonely anymore. But no one gave me the slightest ounce of reassurance. Instead, I felt more like a burden while I sobbed during breakfast, before leaving for school and was responded to, with a silence that sounded to me like, “Pull yourself together, we don’t appreciate any show of weakness.”
My brother on the other hand was experiencing raging hormones and harbouring a deep curiosity about the female genital anatomy.
When the education system and parents like mine shrug off the responsibility of educating their children about the male and female genital anatomy, they leave boys to huddle around discussing sex and genital anatomy like it’s some sort of endangered species. Soon, the vagina is put on a pedestal; something that seems like a privilege to touch, look and put their dicks into. The vagina then becomes an entity of its own now, rather than it being what it is: one part of the whole that is comprised of a living, breathing, unique individual.
My brother’s distorted curiosity couldn’t be contained and he saw my vulnerability as a means to fulfil it.
Also Read: The Taboo Of Child Sexual Abuse In India
We used to sleep on a mattress on the floor of one of our two matchbox rooms; my dad would lie with my brother and me until we fell asleep and then join my mother in the other room.
I woke up one night and noticed my legs propped up; a dim light from the kitchen area faced my vagina, the bottom of my underwear held aside by my brother’s finger while he gaped and I froze. Shock and shame mixed with fear paralyzed me and I pretended to move around and turn to the left and curl up so that he would move away.
The next evening, I burst out crying to my mother about what had happened. She couldn’t bring herself to believe it and suggested that I might have been dreaming. She said she would do something about it, but to this day, I don’t know what it was, because he continued. He continued many nights, while I made a note of it, amongst many other experiences, in a diary which I’ve kept to this day.
my mother couldn’t bring herself to believe it and suggested that I might have been dreaming.
I never wore that blue nightie again. I never went to bed without a piece of clothing that fully covered my vagina and I most definitely didn’t sleep in peace, for many years to come.
As the years rolled by, I was uncomfortable with myself, irritable and distrusting of myself and distrusting of those around me.
I labeled my conflicted, unresolved relationship with my brother by calling us “best friends” because that’s what it looked like to our friends and family. I hated men, I hated boys. I hated the social construct that contributed to my brother’s distorted curiosity. I focused on every rape case in the newspaper, I read the SCUM manifesto to justify my hatred. I looked up stories of incest and voyeurism, and I kept telling myself that this is what men do. That what happened to me was the act of a male over a non-consenting female and that it stirred up an inward hate for my body and hate was the only weapon I had to protect myself.
A decade later, I moved to another city, made new friends and surrendered myself to rounds of intense therapy which led me to open up to people around me. I forged close friendships and even found love.
I still don’t sleep without a piece of clothing that fully encloses my vagina, but I sleep peacefully.
hate was the only weapon I had to protect myself.
When I was ten, this chapter of my life was dismissed and turned over to the next, in the same manner the chapter on “reproductive systems” is intentionally overlooked in Biology class.
Today, this chapter must be given its due; its title in bold letters that say:
My brother had no right to do what he did.
Featured Image Credit: Juvenile Law Centre