Trigger warning: sexual assault
Handing out bubblegums to children.
My earliest memory of the molestation doesn’t even begin with unpleasant events. I was 8. Young, carefree and spending my summer vacation at my father’s relative’s place. This man, who was introduced to me and my brother as “Uncle” showed keen interest in children. Or maybe this is what I feel now. But at that time, I remember, all of us (there were four of us – my two cousins, younger brother and I) were vying for his attention because he was carrying candies.
The evening dissolved into the night and we decided to sleep. Mattresses were laid down on the floor of the living room, despite my female relatives asking us kids to join them on beds. I wanted to sleep next to my dad, and grandfather. And so I did. Next thing I remember is, a hand on my thigh. I open my eyes to find my dad sleeping a good few feet away from me. I couldn’t even call out to him, because a heavier hand closed my mouth.
I turned to find this “Uncle” with his vivid eyes signalling me to shut up. I was terrified. His hand moved to the places that I knew weren’t supposed to be touched. I wriggled and had tears streaming when I ran out of the blanket to the bathroom. I was safe. He hadn’t managed to touch me that way. I ran to my mother’s room and slept next to her. I couldn’t sleep though. I felt like I had just been made party to a dirty secret. Next morning, I tried to speak to my mother, who shushed me after listening to me, and said, “These things are common. Don’t tell anyone. And don’t sleep next to relatives.”
The way she said this made me feel like I did something wrong. Eventually, when sexual advances kept coming from various “relatives”, I learned to fend them off, but constantly felt like there was something wrong with me. The brushing aside of increasing emotional instability, and the feeling that you are dirty for “letting” people touch you, twisted my approach to life. I’ve constantly fought with victim mentality and thanks to a lot of support from many people, I have become a bit conscious when I do that.
Finding love became tough, and other people's benign touch always terrified me. I am coming out of that slowly, considering my dysfunctional family had made the process really slow, but I am growing. I am married today to the love of my life who is sensitive and understanding.
I’ve forgiven myself for the sexual assaults and have moved on, but mentally, the fight continues. I believe, we are our own heroes. We are winning each day!
Dio ti benedica! (God bless you)