A sombre post; abuse

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.


32 thoughts on “A sombre post; abuse

    • It’s not easy.
      I wrote it not because I am brave. But because I grieve and needed to share it so that people are aware that there are many people who are suffering in silence.
      Even today, sadly there are people who think the child must have done something to initiate the abuse, or rape.
      Only a child in that situation could really understand the confusion and disbelief and helplessness of it all. But I am thankful that there are so many empathetic people who feel for other people’s suffering.

    • Colline, I am still not ready to openly share it. I still haven’t been able to acknowledge that it really happened. Not to anyone that really really matters.
      But I am glad that I have found enough courage to share it here on my blog. And I am thankful for kind people like yourself. My purpose will be served if you and anyone else who reads this takes child abuse very very seriously and take every measure to prevent it.
      No child should be subjected to a horror that will scar for a lifetime.

      • I stand behind you on this 100%. Abuse does affect the child’s psyche and their progress at school and in relationships.

        Would you feel comfortable if I reblogged this on my blog so that more people can read of your experience?

  1. So sorry to hear this, but you’re right that victims need to tell these stories so that they won’t keep happening. I hope with each passing day you’ll feel stronger and less helpless.

    • Thanks Sheila. I hope I feel stronger each day.
      But as the years pass, I am finding that I feel life has cheated me all along and I need some sort of a reconciliation. I need some payback for my suffering. I do understand that what was done cannot be undone. But still the pain in me continues to reside without budging. And strangely enough acknowledging that it happened makes it more real – thus making me wonder whether sharing it is worse than keeping silent.

      • I know what you mean – we can convince ourselves of anything. We can even convince ourselves that something never happened if we have to. But talking about it should eventually help and may help you find support through others with similar stories.

  2. I agree with you completely. Child abuse has been rampant since the longest time, the increased reports in media show that the culture of silence may be finally breaking. My heart goes out to you, as a survivor myself I can relate totally to the confusion and anger you express. I also know what a big step it is to come out in the open and speak about one’s experiences. It not only helps others it is also healing for oneself. I hope many more draw courage from you.

    • The culture of silence sure is breaking. And I am thankful. People are becoming more aware. And I am thankful.
      But as for sharing the suppressed stories from the past – it sure gives a message to others- BUT I don’t know whether it helps oneself. Talking about it only rekindles the hatred, and the dread and the insecurities.
      I haven’t really talked about it with too many people.

      Quite early on, I shared (as much as I could) with an uncle (same age as me) who was very close to me … but slowly we drifted apart.

      A couple of years later I shared it with my husband before our marriage (he I don’t believe really understands the severity of it or really fathoms what went on).

      And then later, I opened up in a very close and closed discussion group – by that time we had become very close after so many sessions together. everyone looked stunned on that day – “a successful professional in a high post in the government had gone through that?” (I saw that in their eyes). and slowly our closeness drifted apart – an awkwardness crept in.

      And then much much later just last year I told my brother-in-law that I am a witness to the sexual molestation by my stepfather. Again, he also was stunned and he was lost for words. I only shared with him because as a family I had become very close to him and both were able to discuss life’s ups and downs in a friendly manner. [The next day I found out from him, from something he said, that he thought I was talking about another sister – but I did not had the heart to correct him or elaborate any further]. But ever since the disclosure we have drifted apart and there is an uneasiness in the air between us.

      So all in all, I can’t help wonder if it has helped me😦
      One reason I haven’t talked about it even on this blog is also because I am not sure it will help me. Sure, it helps in proving that these things happen. but…

      Sapna, accept my apologies for droning on. But since you confess to have been a victim I feel you might understand my confusion, and where all these thoughts are coming from.

      • don’t worry about the droning on! I am surprised amira that you felt people drifted away from you after the disclosure . I shared for the first time during my post graduation with a friend, then with a small group like you did. In both cases it helped me heal. somehow saying it out aloud made it easier to accept and move on. Made me less ashamed. Otherwise I always felt like I was carrying a big secret with me, after i shared it, it was less burdensome. And each time i told it became easier to tell the next time.
        though i too don’t speak about it to everyone, only when I feel it may help someone.
        I do hope sharing it on the blog proves to be a positive experience for you.

  3. Dearest Amira:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It takes a brave heart to come forward and share one’s experience so others can learn and do the same.

    It is sad but I agree with you that today, unlike yesterday, more and more people are not afraid to expose and shame sexual abuse. That’s a progress but a lot of work needs to be done, especially bringing the culprits to justice and not blaming the victims.

    You are courageous person. And my admiration for you has only increased. I admire you for the fact you are able to forgive. Forgiveness by itself is a cure to pain, trauma.


    • that’s the thing mon ami Elyas. I wold like to forgive. But I am not able to.
      Sure I have forgiven my mom and grandma. But not him.
      Over the years I have tried forgiving and forgetting. Sometimes it has helped. But whenever I hit a depressing situation (which is often), I can’t help wish him all kinds of misfortune.
      All these years has passed, and still the thoughts, the memories remain on the surface to stare back at my face reminding that I will never be free of it.
      I am trying, I have been trying to go on with life, as if nothing happened.
      Now I am having second thoughts about having shared it here.

      • Oh mon amie .. sorry to hear that. I understand it must be very difficult. Some memories are painful. But you are better off moving on. The best revenge is forgiveness and feeling good about yourself despite what had happened, which you cannot undo now. Writing about it is part of the healing process. So I am glad you took a courageous step to share the story; so much better than keeping it inside you, which only is painful.

  4. Reblogged this on Colline's Blog and commented:
    Child abuse is something we do not like to read about in the media. When we read about the sexual abuse of children in the paper, or hear about it on the news, we shudder and wonder why this atrocity happens. It is a happening we would like to turn a blind eye to; but it is something that affects the psyche of the child abused. And it is an occurrence that happens frequently in the homes of the child and by people that they know. It is not often that those who are/were abused tell their story. Yesterday I read one such story which I would like to share with you. This from the heart experience is well worth the read.

    • thanks for the encouraging comment.
      i do hope and pray that nobody else is subjected to the same fate as me.
      For my personal well-being, it’s easier to go on with life as if it never happened.

  5. Dear Amira,
    I love you, and now I even have a greater amount of respect towards you. Hats off to your courage!
    It’s not sympathy. Sharing such experiences is not easy, I know. While in most other crimes the culprits are blamed, in such cases the the victims are condemned – I wonder why.
    But you must keep on trying to let it go. Why should we let another person’s mistake gnaw at our precious lives?
    Let this sharing make you stronger.

    • thanks a million Bindu.

      I am very touched by the support. ever since I wrote the post and replied to a few comments, I have felt so overwhelmed with the memories and emotions that I hadn’t had the energy to come here to write or comment.
      It is not easy. but as you say I should not let someone’s mistake pull me down into the gutter. I should try to let go. Most of my life I have convinced myself that I am a better person, a stronger person, an empathetic person because of my sufferings. And that makes me feel good about myself no matter how messed up I am inside.
      But whenever I hear about similar stories I involuntarily become weak and withdraw into myself. I guess I need to figure out a way to overcome that.

  6. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    Bless you for this enormously brave post. I really admire you. No, I’ve never heard this from you – I did not know.

    How destructive it can be to a person, that regularly as a little person, they are “used for play”. It is just horrific. I think you expressed it well.

    I’m so so sorry you couldn’t discuss it with your half sister. Re the brother – how horrific.

    I wish you so much well, so much joy. You’ve really had me feel for you. I’m so truly sorry for that little girl. I truly hope you are okay.

    • thanks Noeleen. Apologies for not replying sooner. I somehow locked myself out from blogging in the last few days. The emotions of having expressed thoughts safely locked in my heart was too much to handle – it was like all words in me halted and had nothing else to say.

      But today I am feeling much much better about it all.
      supportive comments has helped.

  7. Dear Amira

    Reading your post and then the exchange of discussion that follows it saddened my heart. I have spent many years working with children and adults who have suffered from sexual, physical and emotional abuse and have had friends speak to me of their own experiences. And no matter how many stories I hear, my heart weeps.

    I commend you for your post because despite your reservations, you chose to speak about a subject that laid you bare before the eyes of others. And because you did this to highlight an issue impacting your local community.

    I join you in rejoicing at the fact that people are beginning to discuss the subject and in the hope that such discussions will make the perpetrators “think twice before touching a child”.

    But my heart weeps for you too, because your comments suggest that the pain of writing this may have been stronger than you anticipated. Talking about such experiences can be traumatic enough, but putting pen to paper can sometimes make things seem even more real and like you can’t take the words back.

    We have only recently “met”, but I hope that you will accept my love and warmest regards when I say:
    You are still here. You stand and you live. You celebrate the love and the good in your life because you are still able to recognise joy and beauty when it crosses your path. Despite what was done to you, you still live, present and write the best of yourself. The man who did this to you was unable to extinguish the light within you – though he tried. And it is for that same reason that we, your audience, will not turn away from you now: because that beautiful light within YOU draws us to you.

    There are times when such words can be difficult to hear – muffled as they are by the emotional upheaval that is occurring. And if that is the case, please allow us to hold you in our thoughts and hearts until you are able to stand again with your usual grace.

    Much love to you,

    might war

    • Dear might war

      i cannot say thank you enough for the encouraging words and your insight.
      you are right in saying that “the pain of writing this may have been stronger than anticipated”. The memories, the fright, the insecurities, the sorrow all resurfaced and I did/do not know how to handle it. After the first few comments I couldn’t even bare to write anymore. It was like all words froze in my mind. I went into a zombie state.

      Your comment really helped. The first time I read it I couldn’t help but cry. The tears finally came out. Your comment, more importantly gave me a lot more courage. a lot more self worth.
      In the past what kept me going was knowing I will do everything it takes to protect my children and anyone around me. I kept going knowing that there might be many more other unfortunate people who have gone through much worse than I had to deal with.
      Every time I see a mentally ill person I can’t help wonder what deep dark secrets she has locked in her mind and heart, what ugly demons she fights … and that makes me thankful for the sanity I have, irrespective of my little heartaches.

      As you say, I am here, I stand and am alive, and I am physically healthy, and I have enough compassion in me to smile, I just need to find a way to forgive and move on.
      I need to find a way to change the hate I carry in my heart once and for all.

      I am really touched by the love you have sent my way.
      I wish all the best to you and pray for a quick recovery to what you are going through.

      thanks heaps

  8. I’ve always admired you and love reading your thoughts but this one completely stunned me. I couldn’t express in words how sorry I am to hear this. My admiration for you has increased ten times as much now and I hope you have the courage to go on.

    • Thanks for the admiration Nadia. But I am just a very ordinary human being who (I believe) has more blessings than many many unfortunate people in this world.
      I sometimes forget to count my blessings and go into a depression. And writing this post actually helped me to realize that I am still standing while many others are not.

  9. Blood-Ink-Diary

    Amira, dearest. I am speechless…What can my words offer apart from letting you know that it is a significant and meaningful post – to have come full circle and share such deep parts of you with us. That your strength and courage to speak aloud reveals a spark to ignite in dialogue of such cruelty you lived and the same agony many young girls and boys live in as I write this comment.
    Sexual abuse is rampant for centuries and sadly many Muslim countries have a very high number of sexual abuse – this needs constant dialogue in outreaching many victims. You have taken a drastic step in igniting a platform to share.
    Please do consider joining a very powerful platform “World Pulse” and become a voice in contribution. I have also requested Silentfingers to document about issues in Maldives — why don’t the two of you open a space there and let us all collaborate there. I am a member and a vocal contributor, do join, dear Amira !
    Go on my blog and “Links” and there is a direct link to my page there and do regsiter and share some of your existing writings from here as well.

    I am proud of you, Amira – for not letting life eat you away — you are much needed to contribute in the society we live in. Be that spark, that voice, that woman — who is resilient and undefeated against all odds.
    Many hugs and blessings,

    • this could be true in any country (Muslim or not).
      But yes, my experience from my country tells me that religion has some relevance in the male dominated egoistic society that is created through irresponsible and one-sided religious preachings. Women are often made to feel the cause of all evil deeds that humanity embarks on.
      women empowerment and emancipation is not very favorably considered by many … but yes!!! things are improving and by sharing my thoughts I am hoping I am helping to break the silence and to make a difference.

      I will definitely follow up on your suggestion.
      But I have to say that I am not yet that liberated. I might be able to write my thoughts out on this blog, sitting behind the screen.
      Moving out of here and facing people and voicing my thoughts is another story … I need more mental preparation before I embark on that.
      But things are looking more positive.
      Much love to you dear.

leave a thread to follow :) merci

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