"I was very hesitant to add my voice. I was worried about how the world would see me, worried about the prejudice or stigma I had always felt", she confided in me. "I felt the victim and felt guilty that I might have done something to bring about the sexual abuse.”
The abuse started when Natasha was a young girl by someone she should have been able to trust, a member of her own family.
"When I was 11, one of the older boys of the family, I think in his late teens asked me to touch his erect penis!"
Such imagery may appear shocking. You may think the language too graphic? But there it is, a shocking tale of an unfortunate child in an unacceptable and deeply disturbing situation. Who could she turn to tell and would they even believe her?
She was brought up by her father after her mother passed away. She stayed silent and tried to make sense of the ordeal she had been through. She wanted to tell her father about the boy's advances but could not bring herself to do so.
Luckily, her relation did not stay long with Natasha and her family. Nonetheless the experience left its scars. The memories have never passed and it still makes her shiver just thinking about it. She still finds the incident difficult to talk about.
After the death of her father she was taken in by relatives. She was very lonely and had a difficult time fitting in. She formed a close bond with her cousin l. He was kind initially and seemed to want to help her adjust. Her trust soon evaporated when he too began to make sexual advances toward 15 year old Natasha demanding she do ‘things’ to him. She managed keep him at bay.
“I'd pretend to be sick, I made up all sorts excuses to avoid him. I wrote in my diary everyday. I kept asking myself the same question, why had my parents forsaken me. I wondered what would happen when the excuses ran out."
Natasha is all grown up now, an adult with a daughter and son. She is working hard to create a better life for her children and children’s children. Even as an adult she has had to deal with unwarranted attention. She recalls receiving an inappropriate text message from a senior manager with whom she worked. She ignored the text. The texts kept on coming. She agonised whether to tell someone but she felt uncomfortable with approaching Human Resources. As a mother of two, she was extremely worried for her job. She managed a team of young women who saw her as a strong bad-ass goal-getter-woman able to stand her ground and she feared she may lose their respect. So she kept quiet and said nothing, afraid of the consequences on her family and her reputation as a woman.
“The stigma, the blame, the ‘victim’ syndrome, you know. I should have said something but I felt the world would have judged me, the victim, for whistle blowing and I would feel more condemned than the perpetrator. Which is a not an uncommon reaction to such events but needs to be corrected sooner rather than later.”
So I too I eventually hash tagged myself, with a simple #Metoo. Nothing further. In solidarity with Natasha and others like her and for the sexual harassment, I too had experienced over the years.
But is that it? Just a count, a number on Twitter and Facebook to increase the frequency of the trend? I did not feel better, no one questioned what I posted. Maybe someone did noticed but no one ever asked anything further. I guess, I was expecting someone to ask me who had sexually harassed or assaulted me, to ask me for what sort of justice I sought. And just like most items that trend on social media, this too would pass into obscurity I thought to myself. I agree that talking about it and coming out and sharing our stories is a huge step towards removing the veil on this evil, but l know we need to do more.
What happens when social media hooks on to a new story? Do the victims silently slip back into obscurity? It is imperative to shine a light on the perpetrators and demand more justice for women who have been abused. #MeToo is a great start but is it enough? What if we named and shamed that ‘supervisor’, 'relative', 'uncle' in public for their wrong doing and heap praise on the victims for their courage to speak out?
This post was submitted in response to After #MeToo: Stories of Change.