Saturday, February 25, 2017

Voicing Silence 1

There is no nice way of saying this so I will say it as brutally and as unvarnished as it needs to be said. I was sexually assaulted when I was ten and a half years old. While I recall the precise details of what happened that night, much of what happened in the immediate aftermath, I have little memory of. In the days and months that followed, I became increasingly angry. I would smash things, kick people, yell, scream and throw a tantrum at the drop of a hat. I was labelled difficult and called names. Rakshasi was a regular epithet and it clung to me like an dirty scent.

The red dress some time
before it was ripped
apart
There were so many incidents of rage from those years and most involved destruction of some sort. I once lost a card game and went about meticulously ripping up an entire pack of cards much to the amusement of the gathered extended family. There was some other minor provocation which ended in a lovely red dress which was a gift from abroad being shredded to pieces, again to a mute audience

Word got around that I was prone to having temper meltdowns and random strangers would remark upon it - once the father of an aunt by marriage mocked me in public and few people came to my defence. It was not until I was thirteen that an uncle clocked that something was amiss and took me to see a psychiatrist. Back then no one ever went to a psychiatrist. General Practitioner, yes. Dentist yes. ENT specialist, yes. Dermatologist, yes. Eye Doctor, yes. A doctor for the mind? Never. That was strictly for those who were certified mad, and we'd seen plenty of them.

There were loads of mad ones on the streets running around with bedraggled clothes, we'd seen them in movies, always  played to a hilt by actors who always rolled their eyes too much (yes, that classic symptom of insanity) and on our annual sympathy fest when we distributed prasadams to the inmates at the Kilpauk Mental Hospital on Deepavali day.  Psychiatrists were only for those who were properly insane and no one from our family could ever become mad. We were not that sort of a family. There were those who had this mysterious illness called 'hysteria' and I certainly wasn't hysterical.

A digression. Sometime around then an aunt was sent from her marital home to spend some time at ours. She had clearly had some kind of a mental break down and as a pre-teen it was amusing for me to see her sing and play an air-veenai as she wept copious tears. No one seemed to know what had triggered the break down and everyone just assumed she'd get over it. In the subsequent years, (possibly as a side effect of the medication she was taking) her speech slowed down and her voice grew loud and people treated her like an idiot. Not seeing her for the kind and loving person that she was but as someone who was a nut job.

Anyway, we had limited understanding of mental wellbeing back then and the trauma of the assault which may have been causing me to have regular outbursts of anger was not addressed. The sole visit to the psychiatrist was an odd one. I sat on a chair next to my uncle with the doctor on the other side. He asked me why I got angry and I just mumbled something incoherent as my uncle looked on helplessly. He filled in the gaps with some of the aforementioned anecdotes and the psychiatrist said we should schedule another visit this time with my parents included. I never went back. In fact, I once ran to hide myself inside the house when I chanced to see him on the road, convinced that he was paying me a home visit. Most unnecessary, I thought and carried on having a short fuse.

(This is a series of every day posts which will culminate in publishing an animated short film - Voicing Silence that I commissioned and helped create documenting the sexual assault that happened to me as a 10 year old).

3 comments:

Bricks4KidzChesterCo said...

I read all 6 blogs and watched the video. BRAVO!! The more we speak about it, the more it puts the fear of shame in perpetrators and hopefully, Maybe, this alarming rate of Child abuse will reduce.

Bricks4KidzChesterCo said...

Bravo!! My question to you as a victim is this - why do we not share the name of the perpetrators? I have a hard time understanding this myself. Why dont we ever put their name out there. Even when I share my story, I only say uncle, grandpa, friends brother etc, why dont we use their names? what is your fear? maybe it will help me understand mine.

ammani said...

Thank you for the comment. You know the funny thing is, I never thought of myself as a victim, as in those exact words until now. I felt this is something that I had to do for my own sake and not feel burdened by it any more that I thought to commission the video and to write the series. And it had not crossed my mind to name and shame. Perhaps because it could distract from the main narrative and the subsequent discussions that I hope it sparks.