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Trauma re-lived: a victim’s first-person account

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I was sexually assaulted between 10 and 13 years of age. Given the incremental nature of the abuse and, most important, owing to my lack of understanding (was ignorance my fault?), it took me a long time to even realise that I was being subjected to something inappropriate. I never had the habit of reporting everything to my parents, nor did they ever try to understand what was happening to me. It was easy for them to attribute my new irate self to the arrival of adolescence. Gossipy relatives called me a spoilt child.

Why would you ever do that to a kid? Even my friends left me. I had no support system. I withdrew myself from everybody and slept through all of it.

I didn’t speak to anyone about this, didn’t know for an embarrassingly long period of time that I could seek help to cope with it, never looked around to see if there were more like me. I couldn’t sleep properly because of distress, and when I fell asleep due to exhaustion, I would wake up, sometimes sweating, sometimes in tears. But I told myself each morning that everything happening to me was only a bad dream. I had carried out this morning ritual so religiously for so long, I had to force myself out of it a few years later. In the early years after that, the sole aim of all my decisions on what I would study and whom I would befriend was to avoid being asked about my past.

I chose a discipline in college which girls rarely chose because I thought girls were nosy and guys just didn’t care. I made no friends in college, only acquaintances.

Slowly, this tactic of isolation and negation appeared to have worked well. The past appeared buried for good, I wouldn’t be perturbed as much as before and related nightmares became a rarity. And then I moved to a foreign country for higher studies, made a couple of Indian friends and formed a support group for general survival purposes.

As we got closer and closer, one of my friends started opening up about the abuse she had undergone as a kid and how it still affects her. There was no running away from her; I had to be there, listening, consoling. Just as I was trying to get over it, out came another friend with yet another story; I was still there, silently listening.

The bubble of isolation that I had created around myself over the years had been burst. Despite my efforts, I am now re-living my own traumatic past quite intensely. Having formed the habit of not speaking much about myself voluntarily to anyone, I find it almost impossible to string my vocal cords to be in tune with what I am going through.

If you happen to meet me, I will be a pleasant person; not silent even, if you get me talking. I am chirpy, I am funny, I am caring, I am driven, I want to explore the world and I want to be happy.

But there is a sulking heart within me. Even you will know there are many many ‘me’s. I am perhaps the every other young person you meet. Isn’t this far too many sulking hearts to make up a healthy society?

Why, then, do we not see enough age-appropriate awareness messages in the kids’ sections of newspapers? Why do we not see enough related television advertisements and programmes aimed at children? Is the social media faring any better in this?

Are all parents aware and talking to their kids about this? How many more wake-up calls do we need? Don’t you think you and I and all should do a lot more, at least now?

The author’s identity is not revealed


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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 7:40:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/trauma-re-lived-a-victims-first-person-account/article26830528.ece

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