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Image source: Child Sexual Abuse: a bitter truth http://postnoon.com/2012/06/24/child-sexual-abuse-a-bitter-truth/55316

These past few weeks have been mentally disturbing for people with a heart. The local news headlines revolved around rape, negligence of newborn babies, sexual abuse of children, and fornication charges being brought against a 15-year-old victim of rape. All very disturbing!

Social media show people are shocked with the increase in the sexual abuse cases. I have been seeing comments like “what’s wrong with men these days?” I want to shout out loud that nothing is any wrong than was before. In fact, I want to say something is going good in this society. The women are coming out of their shells. The children are starting to have confidence in parents (at least confiding in someone). The society is shaming abusive negligent people. People are starting to accept that abuse is real, that it happens, and that there is the likelihood of justice being served for the victim. There is a long way to go. But still, we are making progress.

To someone who has never been exposed to abuse, it might appear that the abuse being reported is new; that abuse is becoming commonplace only now; that our forefathers were all so very innocent and religious and the epitome of purity. But let me tell you that sexual abuse of children by their parents, by close family members, by relatives, and by strangers is as old as the mankind – especially in the Maldives. I am a testament to this. I have experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse.

It happened to me at my home; under the care and company of my grandmother, mother and stepfather and the rest of my half-siblings. It happened to me in the same house where all of us lived. It happened to me in the same room that I share with my half-siblings. I am sure my grandmother figured it out. I saw it in her eyes all those years, to the day until she died. She tried her best to protect me, I believe. Her eyes told me how sorry she was. I am very sure my mother knows or at least has a sense of what was going on. She tried her best, I like to believe. But none of us said anything whatsoever. I think each of us had our own fears and insecurities eating us from inside. Mom stayed up until very late every night. She stood guard. She put a lock on the door. She changed the lock so many times. Too bad that it was only a feeble attempt at a lock that she made herself.

We were poor, almost helpless. My mother has six more children, fathered by him. She was not – is not – empowered socially, financially, or emotionally. As a child, I used to blame her in my heart and mind. I used to curse her for not protecting me from that living nightmare. But as an adult, I understand that she did not know what to do in a place where there was no justice for the inferior. It was always a man’s word over that of a woman’s. I can fathom how much agony she must have gone through trying to figure out what to do. I understand she was as much as in denial as I was. I was the one being abused and I deluded myself in believing that it was only a bad dream! So, who am I to blame anyone else?

I did what I could. I tried not sleeping at night. I tried to wear clothes to sleep that were difficult to be removed or meddled with. I used pins and needles. I don’t really know when it started. And it never totally stopped until I was 14 or 15. Even then there was verbal abuse and indecent comments and leering when no one was around. And there was his friends with their groping hands and probing eyes.

I tried my best to keep an eye on my half-sisters (they are no less than sisters in the fullest sense); to make sure they were not subjected to the abuse. I was pretty sure I did a good job of it. UNTIL, until much later the youngest sister confided in me over a long distance e-mail that she was sexually molested in the house. The implied perpetrator was her own brother! (my half-brother). It apparently came in the form of an apology from him, over something done as a child. We promised to talk over it upon my return – but somehow we were not able to. :( I felt I had betrayed her. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the brother too – for he must have been a confused human being growing up – I believe he must have seen some stuff and replicated without really realizing the enormity of his action.

Over the course of growing in to adulthood, now in the 30s, I have come across so many untold silent stories of sexual abuse – I have forgiven my mother and grandmother. I believe they, along with many other women, were helpless. Now, it warms my heart a little, every time I hear about a sexual abuse case – I weep for the child in question (for nothing will return their carefree childhood), but I rejoice for the simple fact that we are heading in the right direction. Right now, it takes a long time for any action on reported cases. In the process, the victim gets further victimized and ostracized. But at least, the abuse stops. And I like to believe, with all the media coverage these days, many people will think twice before touching a child. I hope soon there will be more widespread and more accessible counseling for children who had the misfortune to undergo such dirty happenings.

Through counseling, through awareness, through emancipation, I hope one day we educate boys and men to grow up as people who respect girl and women as human beings – not as sexual objects to be played with on whim.

I keep my abuse within myself. This is the first time I have stated this in so many words. I like to believe I have forgiven and forgotten. But I haven’t! I couldn’t! My blood boils at the sight of him. It’s unbelievable how such people can act so righteous and portray the face of innocence. Now, he is a grandfather of 10 children – 5 of them girls. And every time he cuddle any of them I can’t help keep a watchful eye. I have alerted my half-siblings as much as I could without telling them that their father is a child molester. I couldn’t stop myself and confided in a brother-in-law about it, just because his little girl goes to the grandfather too many times. I just had to tell him and he confessed he was not able to sleep that night with disbelief. I don’t know whether he believes in his heart that I told the truth. Maybe, he believes it’s my hatred towards a stepfather. Nonetheless, I am sure he will be cautious trusting his precious girl with the grandfather. I don’t care whether he believes me or not. What matters is her safety.

It troubles me to no limit that my mother is still with that man. They are old and going frail. He has apologized indirectly. I put it behind me. But I know I will never be able to put it totally behind. The helplessness I felt as a child, still follows me – still haunts me.

I wonder how many more similar untold stories are out there from the past; how many people live in psychological trauma, suffering in silence. So let’s rejoice now that it is being told. Let’s join hands to provide reassurance to the victims, to give them hope and confidence to face the world.

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