Child sexual abuse has become a big topic of discussion among Pakistanis ever since Zainab’s tragic case became a national news incident. Many people are coming forward since then with stories of having suffered abuse and how Zainab’s tragedy brought back memories of their own incidents of brutality. According to Sahil, an NGO working toward child protection, 11 cases of child sexual abuse are reported every day in Pakistan. The number keeps on increasing even today which makes it even more important to talk about child sexual abuse and their consequent sexual behaviors.
A while ago, a question was posted on Reddit by a Pakistani girl. The question was heartbreaking, to say the least, this is what it said:
“I was sexually abused by my older brother as a young girl. I don’t know how to cope with that memory.”
The girl went on to add more details that were as messed up as heartbreaking but also showed how the perpetrators can be the people who we trust the most.
Unfortunately, in Pakistan, there’s no dearth of such stories
Ahmed belongs to Karachi and currently runs several sex education campaigns for the kids so that they don’t have to go through what he went through.
“I was 13 when it started. I was at our cousin’s place, and he was with me on the terrace. He said to me, “Apna wou dikhao, sub ka aik jaisa hota hai” (Show me your penis, everyone has it the same), while unzipping his pants, and taking his penis out. I came back inside, not thinking a lot, probably because I didn’t know what to think. I’m an extremely heavy sleeper, I’ve slept through bomb blasts near to my place that broke our windows, you can imagine. Whenever we used to go over to my cousin’s, I’d wake up with his hand in my pants. This went on for a while. I’m 19 now, and yes, I’ve been depressed. I lost my personality. I’ve been bullied my entire life and I look forward to the day, the name calling stops. But I’m okay, I’m better. I started Sexual Abuse Awareness because this needs to be talked about. You’re gonna be okay. You have a voice,” told Ahmed while opening about what he went through when he was a child.
Mona is a 23-year-old girl from Lahore. She remembers being touched inappropriately by a cousin
It wasn’t a big deal for her when she was young but now she cannot seem to let it go. The memories cling on and they cling on real hard.
‘When I was in grade 4 I guess, I went to live at my nani‘s place with my family. My khala‘s family joined us too and since it was a lot of us, my mother laid down a carpet and asked all of us cousins to sleep on it. We were all kids and it was not weird sleeping together like that. Sometimes at night, I felt a hand creeping up my shirt and I woke up flabbergasted. I looked to my right and it was a cousin who was almost my age who had my shirt up and was caressing my belly and was slowly going up. I looked at him, he freaked out, took out his hand and pretended to be asleep. I let it go. I convinced myself that it was a dream and forgot about it.
The memories started coming back to me a year ago and it feels so weird to even meet him today. Even though he has totally changed I can’t seem to let it go now.”
Rutaba has been married 3 years now. Even though her husband is understanding of her intimacy issues, she still feels bad for not being able to have proper sex with him because of what happened in her childhood
“I was 7 and he was my elder brother. He used to come to me and say, ‘main tou mehram hun tumhara’, we can do everything. My other brother once caught him doing this. He went like ‘main ammi ko bata dunga.’ He was in his teens too but my eldest brother was like, ‘aray aaja tu bhi.’One day abu was out for work, ammi was cooking downstairs. my elder brother took me upstairs (where he usually used to take me). My other brother saw him again and called ammi upstairs. Ammi scolded him and took me away. I hugged her tight and felt relieved ke ab bach gayi shukar. But my mom made me promise that I wouldn’t ever tell this to my dad.”
“Light jaati thi tou ajata tha. I’m scared of darkness till now because of him”
“He used to say ‘dekho main naraz hojaunga please behen ho na meri.’ I hate these words! I hate sex…the feeling of sex. Finally, a day came when my dad caught him. He scolded his lungs out to both of us. It destroyed me completely ke mera tou kasoor bhi ni tha mujhe kyun daant diya. After that incident when my dad caught him, it stopped and it started fading away. When I got married, my husband once come to my house and I took him upstairs to show him around our house, he started getting intimate and it bothered me a lot because it was the same room where my brother used to take me.
All my childhood, I have been taught that it’s a bad thing to kiss someone. Here I am today, washing myself like a maniac after having sex each time. I’m bad in bed. Sometimes I feel ke mera miyan mujhe chorde aur kahin aur karle shadi.”
We spoke with a mental health practitioner about how these children who suffer sexual abuse are affected by mental health issues all their lives
Gulrukh Tahir, who is currently doing her MSc in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at King’s College London and works as a trainee psychologist at Sunshine House Children and Young People’s Development Centre, shared a few general patterns among sexually abused children.
“In my service, I have seen so many clients with child sexual abuse. And the worst part is that they don’t even realize what it is. They would reenact it in the form of role play ( I saw this girl who was sexually abused and would use toys to reenact).
I saw a boy who was exposed to sexual content (his mom was a prostitute). And it was suspected that the men she would have over (or her last boyfriend) used to molest the child. He would talk in terms like uncle xyz will make me drink something bad (we suspected he was referring to his sperm) and he would spank my ass.”
Such children are at an increased risk of a lifetime diagnosis of multiple psychiatric disorders such as anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorder, suicide attempts, depression and various eating disorders
For starters, we need to understand what sexual abuse is. For many, they think only if someone is raped that is qualified as sexual abuse. But that’s not it.
Exploitation, persuading to perform sexual acts, showing pornography forcefully, allowing someone to make or view images of you – all of that, and similar instances, qualify as sexual abuse.
“We need to educate our children in schools how to self-defense. Don’t shy away from openly talking about abuse even if you are a victim. Don’t rub it in their face. Talk to the victim. Let them know they aren’t alone. It wasn’t their fault. Allowing them to be in control is the most important thing. Because they must have felt helpless. Ask how can you help,” explains Gulrukh.
Child sexual abuse can damage a person in many ways, leaving scars that are eternal. Behavioral, physical and personality issues may also be developed as a result of child sexual abuse. Zainab’s tragedy has allowed the country to speak up. Let’s provide a safe environment for all the brave women and men who are coming forward with incidents of having suffered abuse. Let’s hear these survivors and let’s also take this opportunity to teach our men and boys how one is to behave with others and not rob them of their agency.
*The names of the victims have been changed to protect privacy.
Cover Image Via: protothema.gr