I am sure it is very difficult for a girl to speak up, but let me tell you, it is as tough or probably tougher if you are a boy. I have felt helpless and alone in my emotional battle against the trauma of sexual abuse as a child. The sense of shame was very intense. I want to tell everyone reading my story that don’t think the male child is safer than girls in any way.
I am a 28-year-old working professional and I want to share my story now because I want people to know that it is not your fault if someone has abused you. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I want people to speak up.
I was abused twice as a child. The first time it happened I was in class 7. The predator in my case was one of the boys in my class who stays in my locality in Mumbai. He was much older and physically stronger. He met me one afternoon near my home and forcefully took me to one of the buildings in the vicinity. There was nobody on the road, so I could not seek help. I was scared.
He took me to the top floor of the building and started rubbing his private parts against my buttocks. This continued for 5-10 minutes. Shocked at what was happening, I tried hard to get away, but he overpowered me. Before letting me go he warned me that I should not tell anybody about what had happened.
I returned home in a daze. I was scared and felt dirty. I was also feeling guilty as I questioned myself as to why I could not prevent the abuse. The fear was evident on my face when I returned home that day. My parents noticed the troubled expression on my face and asked me what had happened. I could not speak up out of fear and lied to them that all was well.
All these years later, I now realise, it was not my fault. I tell myself again and again that I tried my best to stop him but he was physically stronger than me.
The abuse changed my life. The trauma impacted my speech and I started to speak very fast after the incident. I changed as a person as I started losing confidence in myself and a deep sense of fear got instilled in me.
This changed the way people perceived me. I became more vulnerable as people would consider me to be timid and thought they could bully me.
I feel it was the timid personality that I acquired after the abuse that resulted in abuse the second time, as boys thought I was a soft target. I was in class 9, and in the middle of a class, when a classmate sitting next to me started abusing me. He would keep our school bags on either side so that nobody could see. He would then touch my private parts and would want me to touch his too. While I never touched him and was able to somehow prevent that, unfortunately, I could not stop him from touching me.
This continued for 3-4 days and each day he would demand something more like he would touch me with my clothes on and gradually he would want me to allow him to touch me directly.
Traumatised by the whole experience I somehow managed to change my place in class and starting sitting elsewhere. He never touched me again. Although this episode of abuse happened in class, I was unable to raise my voice. Lack of confidence in my ability to defend myself stopped me from speaking up. I thought if I complained my classmate would bully me.
The abuse led to further deterioration in my speech. I developed a stammer. I developed a chronic skin infection. My confidence dropped to an all-time low. I started fearing boys. The problem persists even in adulthood. I don’t change clothes in the presence of other boys or men. I don’t go to male doctors if I have to undergo a physical examination. I feel more comfortable around girls and women. I have more female friends than male friends. I feel safe in the presence of women.
The fear and apprehension have somewhat reduced over the years but it is still a problem. I am a working professional and have started taking measures to deal with the scars of abuse. I am taking one step at a time. My speech and confidence have improved after I started therapy.
Many times I feel I should have told my parents when I was abused for the first time. They would have reported the matter and the boy who abused me would have been punished. Both boys who abused me live in the same neighbourhood as me.
I want to tell my parents about my plight but I still have to muster the courage to speak to them. Last year, I opened up about the abuse for the first time and spoke to two of my very close female friends. I felt that my male friends will not understand if I spoke to them. However, I could not bring myself to share all the details with my female friends too.
As I speak now, I am reflecting deeply on what happened to me and sharing it here so that others don’t suffer like me.
Each time I see the two men who abused me in my locality I feel very angry, but now I have decided to let go. I want to tell people that abuse is not a momentary incident. It is a crime that changes life, so don’t ignore it, please speak up.
This story is part of a series in which survivors of sexual violence share their experiences to help others open up and heal their own trauma
Read other first-person accounts from the series here
Breaking the silence: Speak up against sexual violence