Child sexual abuse: Listen empathetically to your children

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I was in the sixth standard when my mom left me at our neighbor’s place one day to attend a wedding. Their daughter and I were friends and classmates, who often shared lunches. Hardly I knew that all of my happy moments at her place would be shattered in an hour. In the evening, at about 6:30 pm, both of us went to sleep after a tiring, cheerful.

I was in deep sleep when I felt that I was being carried by someone; by the time I got back to my senses, I saw uncle — her father — pressing his hand on my mouth and trying to touch me — I resisted. He didn’t let me resist; I was helpless. That’s where my time of darkness started from — that one hour seems still like ages. When my mom returned, I was numb.

I was 12. Now, I’m 24 and I still can hear my cries as I shiver in the evening. I have never made friends since then. But yes, I am okay — that’s what everyone wants to hear.

A conversation with a person who has survived sexual abuse tells that they are living life but somewhere it has been shaped by the scars of abuse. Do we question why child sexual abuse is so common? And who’s fault is it?

This girl was abused by a neighbour — her best friend’s father. The person her mother trusted her with. Let’s ask the question: whose fault is it?

Somehow if she collects all her wits and shares her agony, she is counseled to let go, ignore it, forget it, and hide it. The burdens of the perception of society are suddenly prioritised. Again, let’s ask the question: whose fault is it?

And when this girl isolates herself from people, she is bullied, criticised, and targeted for being a loner. The family starts comparing her with others. Let’s ask the question, again: who’s fault is it?

At the age of 24, she refuses to marry because she doesn’t trust anyone. Let’s ask the question: whose fault is it?

Her whole life is shaped by the traumatic episode of abuse, and she feels like she owns the trauma. Let’s ask the question: whose fault is it?

Child sexual abuse doesn’t end with childhood; it definitely starts from there but stays with the person till they seek help or is helped. We don’t connect the dots of mental health deterioration and abuse whereas every trauma affects and shapes our psyche.

The more you repress your feelings, thoughts, and fears, the worst it gets.

As the mental health week starts, let’s try to do something about child sexual abuse: seek help if you have been abused. Or listen empathetically if someone is sharing their story of abuse. Act for your loved ones to make them believe you are there for them. Believe in them. And don’t stop your child from speaking; if you do it today, you may never hear from them tomorrow.

It’s Mental Health Week and Zoya Mir, who is pursuing her MPhil in clinical psychology from IMHANS-K, will write seven stories about different mental health issues along with narratives from her patients. This narrative is from a patient who has survived Child Sexual Abuse. The idea of sharing her story is to bring in awareness the reality of CSA and how we, as a society, contribute to the silence of victims.

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