Trigger warning: Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)
While researching for this article I spoke to my peers in college about sexual abuse they might have had in their childhood. While I waited for their responses I found myself being confident that everyone would have something to contribute (because everyone must have gone through something similar). It is appalling how much we internalise our childhood traumas, even enough to think that we were the ones at fault.
A survey participated in by more than 45,000 children in the 12-18 age group, across 26 states in the country, revealed that one in every two children is a victim of child sexual abuse (CSA).
The survey conducted by humanitarian aid organisation World Vision India with a sample of 45,844 respondents. These survivors have been sexually abused and assaulted when they were children and sexually inactive. They were viewed as sexual objects and taken advantage of in their vulnerability and innocence.
It is appalling how much we internalise our childhood traumas, even enough to think that we were the ones at fault.
Adult survivors have been living with these memories for a long time. Some survivors keep the abuse a secret for many years. They may have tried to tell an adult and met with resistance or felt there was no one they could trust. The survey also revealed that one in four families do not come forward to report child abuse.
For these reasons and many others, the effects of sexual abuse can occur many years after the abuse has ended. Remember that there is no set timeline for dealing with and recovering from this experience.
It’s not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, especially if they are a friend or family member. For a survivor, disclosing to someone they care about can be very difficult, so we must be as supportive and non-judgemental as possible.
there is no set timeline for dealing with and recovering from this experience.
Here are three stories of CSA from 21-year olds :
“I used to be in day-care until the 5th standard, my stalker lived in the same building. Every day for 5 years, he would wait for me to return from school, hear me climbing up and pop out to say hello. He was a man in his late 40s who lived with his wife and two married sons.
He never missed a day, he would see my rickshaw dropping me off at the gate and be there to see me off. He would pat and rub my shoulder and ask me to visit him. In sixth grade, when I stopped going to day-care, I was in my school rickshaw with other students being taken home. Suddenly during a stop at a signal, on the bike next to us was my stalker.
He unbuttoned a few buttons of his shirt and leaned ahead on his sports bike to wave at me. Over the next two kilometres, he drove alongside us and asked me where I lived and if he should follow me. When I panicked and screamed at him in tears, my rickshaw “uncle” began laughing. He entertained my stalker for another kilometre until I fainted in my seat.
My stalker soon left us and never contacted me again until recently when sent me a friend request on Facebook. I could not tell anyone at the time because he was an adult and I felt like my voice was not strong enough and that no one would understand or believe me. Every second of that incident is still etched clearly in my memory, at the age of 12, I was made to feel so unsafe and afraid of being a girl. The mental trauma still haunts every time I step out.”
“I was in the seventh standard when I stayed back after school with my friends to hang out. When we were walking through a slum area because it was the shorter route, it was in the afternoon. We were walking in a group when a man stood on the other side of the path and just pulled out his penis and started wanking. Me and my girlfriends were so terrified, we had never seen male genitals before and this was our first exposure.”
“I was 13 when my uncle from abroad came to visit us, I had not seen him for 3 years since he’d sexually abused me. When I was 10 he would visit us regularly and take me to the park during those visits. We would drive there and wait in the car.
He would always have a lolly for me and ask me to suck it, while I did that he would slide his hands up and down my shorts. He would massage my groin over my shorts and watch me with the lolly. I went home that day feeling filthy and small. I did not like how he touched me and I was shocked because he was my uncle, I trusted him. I knew that it was wrong if an adult touched me there unless I was injured. I hated myself.”
To anyone who has encountered sexual abuse as a child or adult, the only befitting reply is “I believe you, it is not your fault, you are not alone and I am sorry this happened to you”. You are strong to have carried this burden of trauma, you are resilient for living life anyway and now you must be brave to tell someone who cares about you, so that they may help you.
Also Read: The Taboo Of Child Sexual Abuse In India
Featured Image Credit: Dung Hoang Illustrations