Trigger warning: Mention of sexual abuse.
Every day I stand in front of the mirror, in my dimly lit room and question my existence all over again. I stand there and force myself to stare at my reflection, trying not to flinch at every memory of abuse because all I see is guilt and fear.
The fear of people not understanding, the fear of being blamed and the fear of not being believed. Every day I wake up and see him, right under the roof I cannot call home – the place where I probably feel more unsafe than I do out in the streets. I remember the pain that comes with it.
I was seven when I was sexually abused for the first time by my own brother who is 9 years older than me.
We were alone at home. He would ask me to perform heinous acts and push my head and force me to do it when I would resist. I was too young to understand any of it. I repressed the memories and they still come back little by little randomly when I am asleep, triggering a panic attack. I was a victim of child abuse.
I remember being so cold and terrified. I still do sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night. I still live with him under the same roof and I don’t know how to feel.
Reason being, my own memories deceive me and they feel like a dream. He still controls me emotionally. It took me years to learn to learn to refuse to let him control me. I look at him and I am afraid. Of him. And for his children. Do you blame me?
The second time I was abused, I was 11. It was by a tutor.
I had a broken family and was severely neglected. He gave me attention and I liked it. He would buy me stuff and in return, he would make me perform atrocious acts, and do the same to me. He would talk to me about everything from how he slept with his girlfriend last night, to sex positions he’d use if he ever got a chance with me.
All with my mom next door and she did nothing. When she saw his hand on my thigh or when I passed a remark that I wasn’t supposed to know, I was silenced with, “dobara aise baat na karna.”
Again, I was 11. Just 11. He told me if I was a bit older woh mujhay ”phasa leta.” The guilt still kills me. I still was too young to understand what sex was or that he was doing me any wrong, until at 12 when I got my period and my mom told me to not let a man touch me or I could get pregnant.
I didn’t even know what getting pregnant even meant, let alone sexual abuse. I started resisting and he started threatening me that he would tell my parents.
I would resist, cry, throw tantrums, refuse to study, lock myself up in the room or would just play sick because I didn’t want to go near him and my mom and brother would just force me – hit me or curse me for being such a brat and for being a “nafarman aulaad.”
It was only when my grades dropped that my mother fired him.
All my life I have suffered from severe depression and have developed Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) which was diagnosed a year back after a suicide attempt.
With the guilt still eating me alive for not resisting sooner, for not speaking up out of fear, do you blame me, like everybody blames women like Meesha Shafi, for not speaking up against harassment or sexual abuse earlier?
Would you blame it on my dress? Because when you blame her or any other woman out there, you blame me too. You blame me and let my abusers off the hook?
You blame me and justify sexual abuse, harassment, rape, and assault. When you refuse to believe all those women speaking against the aforementioned crimes and laugh at them, you blame and laugh at the millions of people like me who have survived the torture.
If you believe that “men can’t help it”, “larki ne kapray hee aisay pehnay thay”, “senses me nae tha wo because drugs”, main nahi manta/manti koi apni behan ya beti k sath aisay nahi kar sakta” or “family knows better” you need to realize you’re justifying a heinous act.
We’ve lost too many children and women to this crime that goes unpunished. Are you waiting to lose one of your own so that the loss hits home?
Cover image via thehealthsite.com