Understanding Child Sexual Abuse – My story

Priyanka Mukherjee
Posted September 2, 2019

 

For most people growing up in the 90s in India meant Ramayan on DD (as kids), Scully and Moulder of X files (teens) and the occasional takeaways from the local Chinese van. Birthdays were parties at home, with mom cooking a variety of meals and outings were India Gate in Delhi, where the local chuski (ice pops)guy was everyone’s favorite. Coca-cola came in small glass bottles and was a sought after drink, much needed after a double chicken egg roll that was intermittent treat. Back in those days, (yes those days!), abusing BSES was the favorite pastime, for summer meant long nights of sitting in the sweltering heat, with no power. Pithu was a game that invoked high sentiments and war cries, while long cycling rides in the Jahanpanha forests (not named then), meant loads of adventure down winding hills.

And yet, while the peripheral existed around, I was alone. I guess one learns to deal with loneliness as they grow up, but as children, we really don’t know what to do with ourselves. So we seek attention, in “safe” quarters, with adults who offer us time and goodies and take so much more. Suffice to say my abuser was a well-read man, a respected and elderly man in the family. I wasn’t his first victim, so he was well-versed with the art of cajoling and building trust and getting his way. His was the ideal setting, for we were in the same house, just a few stairs apart and access was never a problem. But when did it all begin? Much as I try, it is hard to recall, the exact moments, the chronology of events is blurred in incoherence; the images come and go, but the scars remain.

Was it in the massage of a 5-year old that the touch was sealed? Or was it much later in the   “initiations” of sex talk, it is hard to tell? But the one image that stays in my head from yesteryears is the shape and peel off a banana. Yes conjecture that with the male organ and bite a grin if you are 37 years old, but as an 8-year-old, what I experienced was only trauma at this lesson. Why was the lesson necessary from an aging old man? Or was it the time I was asked to strip down to be worshipped and on my refusal, branded as someone with a dirty mind? The constant play of words, of love, coercion, manipulative gestures, gifts, fear are frightening tools for a helpless child. Much later in life, I learned of the character assassination too, done generously with “other uncles” who had a free day, listening to shit about a young 16-year-old.

And then there was the lady of the house. Presumably unaware of her husband’s affiliations, she continued to live in bliss, providing every opportunity for the man to have a free hand. As I grew up, I couldn’t help but wonder why she was an accomplice in this? What did she gain in luring an innocent child and then blaming her? Is it conceivable or believable that a woman, who lives/sleeps with a man for years, is not aware of his proclivities or nature?

As a mother of two, I know she knew and even though the cultured me, cringes at the use of the word, I know now, she was pimping me. Do I blame her? For a long time, I did and then I didn’t, presumably as I learned of how patriarchy works, even with the most educated. Her son was an entirely different story; A Cambridge graduate, with all the proclivities of an erudite, educated man, protecting his then-wife, from her father in law. He was also my most trusted aide. My brother, I confided him, loved him, kept his secrets and yet he was my betrayer. The man, who knew his father as an abuser, did nothing but character assassinates me a girl in her teen. That is how patriarchy works.

It has been many years to the ordeal; to breaking away from years of abuse. It wasn’t easy. We were thrown out of our own house, my photograph of my then boyfriend shared to humiliate and silence me and powerful words exchanged. What I fail to understand in my naivety is that why even when property was the apparent dispute, to throw us out of a house we lived in for 15 years, was a child and her innocence compromised. As an adult, I know children are always the first casualties, collaterals as it is called, but I still swallow a bite when I think of what happened.  

I moved to Mumbai to do my masters. Alone in a new city, I struggled. My parents were emotionally wrought to do anything for me. The shock was too much for my father who went into depression. But he recovered. And as life moves on, I recovered too or so I thought.  A series of bad relationships, several bouts of depressions and anti-depressants later, I went back to Delhi and decided to tell my parents about it all.

I wasn’t hoping for a miracle. Like all Indian middle class parents of the 90s, my parents too reacted much the same way. Denial! It wasn’t the first time it had happened to me. The pandora’s box of incidents and occurring is long but suffice to say, my parents didn’t want to hear or even process what had happened. Processing it would mean confronting it and confrontations are always avoidable in middle class homes.

So it simmered inside of me. Meanwhile my aunt re-established her ties with us. The brother tried to reach out and talk to us at weddings and social gatherings. But is forgiveness easy? Not for me. I have met them a few times now, pretended to be normal, but clearly if I am writing it, I haven’t forgiven or forgotten what happened.

 My parents feel hurt for what happened to them, but whatever happened with me, never existed. That hurts me. I spoke about what happened with me to some of my cousins and aunts and they too shared about their experiences, but why is there no social boycott? That hurts me. Status quo hurts me. The fact that the abuser will go to this grave, without being called out, hurts me. That his accompli will never know the extent of harm done to her niece hurts me. That the so called brother, apparent protector of sister will never know how much he has scarred me, hurts me. Long ago, I wanted to write a letter to my aunt and brother, but I was scared. I had so much to lose.  I still have so much to lose. But what I fail to see is how much I have already lost. 

Most days I am fine, but then there are days that I feel a blanket of depression. I quit my full-time job to stay at home because I was terrified of my kids going through what I did. No kid should have to go through abuse, emotional, physical or otherwise. I break down often when I speak of abuse. I quit my first job because I could not handle the constant brush with the subject.  I can talk about my abuse but yet not where it matters. I am told it is done and dusted and I should forget about it, but really is it so easy? Does closure happen this way? How do I get closure?

I work on women’s health and gender justice. I believe women and children have a voice, but they need to be heard. It is time we cut the noise and hear the real stories.

 

 

 

Comments 9

Log in or register to post comments
Lisbeth
Sep 02
Sep 02

Dear Priyanka,
You are very welcome to WP sisterhood. I can't agree with you less cos I can relate to your story.
It's not easy finding yourself in such situations as a kid. You feel like why not you on the other side. And the loneliness is not pleasant to behold. However, I hope it has helped shaped you to this beautiful lady.
I look forward to reading more about your posts.
Warm regards

Priyanka Mukherjee
Sep 03
Sep 03

Hi Lisbeth,
Thank you for reading my story. I am relieved that I am able to tell my stories, I know there are countless others who cant and are not able to. It is interesting how life works right? I have been working on women's and children's rights for over a decade now. I cannot begin to tell you how much my work means to me. I am also a mother to two small boys and I am forever it the quest to make them feminists in their actions and thoughts.

Lisbeth
Sep 03
Sep 03

You see! How amazing life have groomed you to be a better parent. My warm regards.

Hannah B
Sep 02
Sep 02

Dear Priyanka,
Welcome to World Pulse, and thank you for bravely sharing your story with us! It sounds like you have been through abuse that no child should have to endure, and I hope that you have supportive people in your life who believe in you.
I hope that you will also find support and trust among the women of World Pulse! I look forward to learning more about your life and work when you feel like posting more.
Warm regards,
Hannah

Priyanka Mukherjee
Sep 03
Sep 03

Hi Hannah, yes i did go through child abuse and the intent of this post honestly was to understand the rampantness of the act, within our homes and with people we trust. I have healed to a large extent, but there are countless other girls in India, who are subjected to grave forms of violence almost every day, some so gory, that it makes one, question humanity. But particularly on the subject of CSA and incest, I still see so little discussion. In most middle-class homes, discussions on child abuse is still a taboo. As someone engaged in the development sector for more than a decade now, I believe these conversations are critical.

Hello, Priyanka,

Welcome to World Pulse! How brave you are for sharing your story. How resilient you are for rising strong amidst the sexual violence done to you.

How heartbreaking that a child would suffer much confusion on what happened to her, and how many children are experiencing this today.

Thank you for your boldness! I look forward to reading more from you.

Jill Langhus
Sep 04
Sep 04

Hi Priyanka,

Welcome to World Pulse, dear:-) Thanks for sharing your powerful, but very sad first story, dear. I hear you. Childhood abuse can be so pervasive and take a very long time to recover from. I'm so glad that you're breaking the silence to not only heal yourself, but also other women, and spreading awareness, too.

It's so sad that you finally got the courage to tell your family but got blown off. Luckily it sounds like you were prepared for their reaction, though. I know all about silence and denial as well, unfortunately. Change can only occur, though, with one small brave step, such as yours' to free yourself, other women and girls, and future generations from the same fate. Be proud of yourself for speaking up. And, do keep searching for healing modalities and closure. You will get there one day. It is a process and not one method will work for everyone, but with discipline and intention you can get there, too. I would write those letters, though. It's one of the first exercises a therapist had told me ages ago to do. Not with the intention to mail them, although you most certainly can, after you write them, but to help clear your mind and to give you freedom. It's amazing how freeing this can be. Do try it. Or, even start a daily journal. Pour your heart out, if it feels good and freeing to you. It has helped, and does help, so many people. In the meantime, this short practice (Ho'oponopono) may help for forgiveness; not for what they have done but that they're human, and to free you from the shackles that you still hold onto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpAo6qJEmU4.

Also, you may want to submit your story for one of the calls under "Voices Rising" so that more girls and women will be aware of this and be emboldened to speak up as well, such as as this link:
https://www.worldpulse.com/raise-your-voice/gender-based-violence

I'm looking forward to seeing more posts from you. Please feel free to reach out via private message, if you feel inclined.

XX

Beth Lacey
Sep 13
Sep 13

Authenticity is very important

Nabila Abbas
Sep 20
Sep 20

Hello, Thanks for such a powerful content