Sheetal pulled at her uncle’s hand as she watched her favorite cartoon channel. He was sitting on the bed, a few feet away from the TV, and holding her as she stood between his legs, swinging from side to side, and holding his hands and knees for support. All of 5 years, her eyes were transfixed on the screen as she watched keenly the antics of Tom and Jerry, her favorite characters.
So absorbed was she that she didn’t realize that her uncle was holding her still, and had nudged her closer to himself. As she watched the screen, she suddenly felt something. Something wierd. She looked down and saw his hands on her chest. They were rubbing her. She couldn’t understand the significance of the action and was puzzled, more so by the fact that it felt wierd. And wrong.
She took her eyes of the screen and looked back at his face. He smiled at her, and pointed to the screen and told her “Look! Look at what Tom is doing!”. The rubbing continued, and she began to think she wanted to go away. But she couldn’t move, being locked in by his strong, adult legs. She pulled at his hands, trying to pry them away. It didn’t work – she just felt the pressure of his hands further. She felt his body envelop her, and a whisper next to her ears “Don’t worry. Just stand. Nothing is wrong. Don’t tell anything to mummy. She’ll scold you”. And with that, the hands began to proceed lower.
Repulsed? Disconcerted? Angry?
Well, you can be one or more of those things, but you certainly can’t be in the shoes of Sheetal. You can’t feel what she felt as a child, and can’t understand the pain. You can’t understand what’s going through her mind, even as she grapples with coming to terms with something she cannot comprehend. The pain of trusting someone and having herself violated by that very someone. The pain of being unable to defend herself, or stop what was happening, because she was scared. And worried. And traumatized.
Fear. He taught her what it was to fear. He made her think that what he was doing was right. She needed to be afraid only because she was wrong. Wrong to not want it to happen. And she would be more wrong. If she spoke out. Because then, everyone would abandon her. And they, her family, would suffer.
Because it seemed like he could make them.
This is a true story; of not just one Sheetal but of several. Several little girl children who encounter one or more forms of abuse, every day. Abused by random strangers on the road. Abused by teachers, drivers, watchmen, guardians or friends. Abused by family. Abused by people who’re their very own – a parent or a brother.
Indeed, it isn’t even just girl children. Boys are abused too. The person, the age, the gender, the religion, the family, the economic and social background, the language, the country – nothing matters. Abuse happens each day, each second.
When adults get abused, they know instantly that they have been wronged, for no fault of theirs. They know they have a voice that’ll get heard. And a choice.
When children get abused, they have none of these. They can’t understand that they have been wronged. They can’t understand that they can speak about it to someone and they will be understood and protected. They can’t understand that they have a choice to be pulled out of their pain and trauma – and a choice to rebuild the fabric of trust that they had within them. A fabric that was ripped to shreds by an adult.
An adult. A psychopath. Some who took care to be funny, and nice, and understanding. For long enough to build a child’s trust. Someone who everybody in the household instinctively trusted. Someone who would be left alone with the child, without a thought. Someone who would wait for a defenseless moment to do the most despicable act: sexually abuse a child.
And then such children grow up. Dysfunctional. Untrusting. Overtly cautious. Promiscuous. Confused. Even demented.
Are you one of those 53%? Or do you know of a child, who, unbeknownst to you, could end up being in that 53%?
If so, protect our children. Speak up against Child Abuse. Vouch to fight against those who murder a child’s innocence. And be aware. Aware that any moment, your belief in the trustworthiness of a person, can be destroyed the moment, he or she touches your child in a way that should never ever happen. Keep your eyes open, tell children what they need to know: that they have done nothing to deserve it if it happens, that you are there to fight for them, and that you will be able to handle it – and protect them, and all they need to do is to come and tell you.
* * * * *
This is a topic that’s very close to my heart and something I have wished to write upon for years – and for sure, this is not the last post on it. I have personally experienced abuse as a child, and I know several women – almost every other woman I know – have had one or more experiences of being fondled, or molested, or sexually abused as a child. April 2011 marks a month-long initiative by CSAAM – an effort by bloggers, parents and non-parents, to bring this topic to the fore, and spread awareness on it. The initiative has a presence on twitter – @CSAawareness – and Facebook
Several blogs have been written already, as part of the blogathon:
Let’s laud the effort of these bloggers to talk about a topic that hardly gets the attention it deserves.
At the same time, pls. remember to support, talk about it, educate ourselves, and others, so that the children of this world can get the protection they need. Do you have a voice? If so, please make it count! (This post tells you how to participate)