My first cousin and I, as kids, often slept at my granny’s apartment. I must have been only four, when I felt my eight year old cousin’s hand slide under my frock, resting for a moment longer than necessary, near my pubic region. I woke up with a start. Even at that age, I knew something wasn’t right. I pushed his hand away. He tried again. And again. Next, he took my hand and placed it on his tiny penis. When that failed to excite me, at one point, he tried to pee inside my mouth.
Fast forward a couple of years. I hated being left alone at home with him for company. His mom would leave for work, and mine would be out shopping with the neighbors. Even taking a shower was an ordeal, as he would knock and bang against the bathroom door. I would turn off the tap, and in my semi naked state, body still damp, run around the house, screaming for help. Usually there was no one, except for the male servant, who would dismiss my wails as being too dramatic.
And this one time, I must have been twelve or thirteen; I was fast asleep, when he slipped under my blanket, and said, “You can sleep, don’t worry”. Next, he put his mouth on my vagina and sucked hard. How could I sleep? That afternoon, I learned that as boys get older, their dicks grow larger, and in their pubic region, grows thick, curly, coarse hair. I was filled with disgust.
His parents, brother, and almost everyone else in the family, praise him to no end, and think highly of him for reasons unknown to me. Now that he’s married and has a three year old daughter, (technically my niece, whom I am yet to meet), I can’t help but wonder, “Does he do this to his daughter as well?”. Can he be trusted around her?
My mom would often spend her days shopping with the neighbors. I don’t even remember how old I was, but whenever the phone would ring in the common living room, I would excitedly rush to answer it. As one of the youngest members of a joint family, there was a pecking order to follow and the opportunity to answer the phone was not one that presented itself very often.
Usually the phone would ring within minutes of my mom leaving for the day. Someone was keeping a close watch on my living room. He would speak in a low, soft voice and knew me by my name. He would say, “Pull down your panty and put your hand in it. I promise, you’ll like it”. Shocked, I would disconnect the line and run away. Ironically, that same cousin would be around and ask, “Who was it?”. I would say, “I don’t know”. This one time, the caller was brave enough to identify himself. As it turns out, he was my neighbor’s son. That same neighbor, with whom my mom was out shopping. How confident he must have been of his pursuits to have willingly revealed his identity to a girl, at least fifteen years his junior. After many many years, when I finally had the courage to confide, my mom wasn’t even shocked. She said, “He’s been feeling up lots of women. His wife knows all about it”.
Recovering from one or two such incidents can take its toll, but imagine being sexually abused by multiple men becoming a recurring theme of your childhood. Whether it be at the hands of the piano teacher who gave you piano lessons every Sunday, from the tender age of six, or your mom’s best friend’s husband who would slowly stroke your chest up and down, just when you were starting to develop breasts, or your distant second (or third?) cousin, whom you had met for the first time, during a summer holiday in the beautiful state of Assam, more than fifteen years ago. And how can you even forget your first “boyfriend”, who date raped you?
These feelings become a part of you, and you can no longer tell what your life would have been like, if this were not your life.
* Inspired by “An Open Letter from Dylan Farrow” and dedicated to all those women who have been sexually abused.