Sunday, March 19, 2017

Voicing Silence 8

(To get a background on this series, I suggest you start with the first post here and then scroll up)

It's almost two weeks since I posted the last instalment of Voicing Silence and I have heard from a number of people including some with whom I had lost contact years ago. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to do a FAQs. This list is by no means exhaustive and will continue to grow. Please feel free to add to it by either commenting below or by writing to me.

FAQs

1. I cannot believe something like this happened to you. Looking at you, I would never have thought that. Are you sure you are not imagining it?

Sadly, I am not imagining it. It is true what happened to me. 

2. But you grew up in a traditional Tamil Brahmin household in cozy 80s Madras. Such things don't happen in our community. It's a foreign invention.

Yes, they do. No, foreigners didn't invent child sex abuse.  

3. I still don't believe you. I think you are out to besmirch your family. 

Okay.

4. Why have you come out with these revelations now? After all these years? Couldn't you have remained silent?

There was never a good time to say what I have said. It was always going to upset someone. I commissioned Lucy to create Voicing Silence because it was the first time in years that I was ready in my head and knew I could afford to pay her for her services. No, I couldn't have remained silent any longer. 

5. And now that you have spoken out, have you got any closure?

I don't know what closure means. If it means zipping something up and putting it away for posterity, no. I don't know if I can ever be rid of the event or stop reacting to it. But what it feels like is this. Some days, it feels as if a scab has been freshly picked open and the festering, pustulating wound has been laid bare. It will heal eventually, I hope. 

6. What do you want out of it all?

To be honest, in the course of writing it and creating Silence, what I want out of it has changed over time. Initially, I wanted retribution, then it became articulation. Now, I just want to be able to share my story in my own words. I want more of us to acknowledge to our own selves what has happened and seek professional help. It really is not worth carrying on living compromised lives. 

I used to see initiatives around teaching kids 'Good touch, bad touch' etc and used to wonder why so little was being done to address the trauma that adults were coping with. While it is vitally important to prevent such instances happening ever, it is paramount we talk about those who are living in the aftermath of horrific abuse from their past and I felt not enough was being done about that. 

From personal experience I knew that there were several in my own small circle who had experienced abuse and I knew that none had sought professional help. And all the time I kept reading about kids and safeguarding and all that. In my head I kept hearing, 'but what about me? I am not dead, know. I matter too.' I sincerely hope more adults begin talking and taking care of ourselves. 


7. What has happened since?

Lots, I am happy to report. One of the first people I shared this series with is my friends from school, including some whom I first met when I was three. My posts sparked a lively debate and it broke my heart to hear some say how they needed to borrow my words. Another friend from the same primary school group shared an incident which I have no memory of. 

She said that this happened when we were eleven or so. It seems it was my birthday and my mother had brought some sweets to the school but it appears, I had had a meltdown earlier in the day and my mother tearful when she talked to my class teacher about how I threw tantrums and how little I appreciated her efforts. Although I don't recall the exact incident, I know that that would have happened not long after the assault and it was when I started to get really, really angry. Just listening to my friend's recollection was touching. It meant that she had seen me, seen what state I was in and noted the instance when my social mask had slipped. 

I have heard from a cousin who wrote in a long email about how one can never be neutral when someone confesses as I had. And how he could not understand how anyone would doubt such an allegation. It was especially touching as it is the first time I had heard from anyone in the extended family circle in over a decade when similar allegations were first raised, which tore the family network  apart with several choosing severe ties with us. 

Long-forgotten friends and readers of this blog have written wonderful emails expressing sadness and promising support which has been lovely to read. 

8. Someone has just told me that they were abused as a child. What do I do?

Disclaimer: I am no professional or an expert in this matter. Please seek appropriate professional help. 

If someone tells you that they were abused as a child, please, please, please do not discount them. Or worse, doubt them. Listen to them. It takes a lot for someone to summon the courage and the words to say out loud what must have been whirring in their heads for so long. If they have chosen you to confess, they have placed their trust in you. Please just hold their hands and listen. And then very gently, guide them to seek professional help. 

9. All of this makes me very uncomfortable. Why can't we talk about something nice instead?

Yes, it is uncomfortable, yucky and unpleasant to talk about something so gross. For all the wonderful people who have written to me, there are a fair few who did not reply when I shared the blog series with them. And I understand their reluctance to engage with something so discomfiting. We would all rather run a mile than be confronted with something as horrific as this. We think it has nothing to do with us and we don't know of anyone to whom something like this has happened. 

There is a truly appalling statistic that says that as of 2007, nearly 53% of Indian children had been subjected to one or more forms of sexual abuse. I have no reason to believe that this number would have been less in the past, which means a majority of today's adults who grew up in India have suffered abuse. That's truly an epidemic proportions. Now tell me, do you really think there is no one in your family or friends group who has not been abused? 

We can either look away and hope that someone else will deal with it or step up and start doing something about this ugliness that pervades our every day life. The choice is ours. 

And since you wanted something pleasant, here's a picture of me and two people I am utterly besotted with. 


My babies and their mum

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