Dealing With The Open-And-Shut Case of Abuse
I wrote this piece several years ago to process the abuse I had experienced as a teenager. It was the first step to self-recovery, the first time I could actually feel some respite from my tormenting thoughts and emotions. This is an account of the internal shift I experience. Though I managed to see things from a higher perspective, I only found closure when I went on to confront and expose my cousin and cut ties with those who continued to support him.
I was crying, my cousin hugged me, I found his hand on my breast, my parents said “you must have led him on” #MeToo
— Tara Anand (@Tara_Anand_) October 18, 2017
I was molested. By my cousin. I trusted him. Looked up to him. Was crying in his arms. Expecting brotherly support. Instead, he molested me. Twenty years ago. The scars remain. The pain is fresh. The memories vivid. They say time heals – but this wound is utterly raw.
I was eighteen! I was molested! By my cousin! Myriad of emotions- shock, confusion, numbness and disbelief. Unwilling to tear him down from the lofty pedestal, I froze. Couldn’t react. Didn’t know what to do or say. Is this actually happening? Can my elder, married brother actually be doing what seems an act of sexual abuse? Am I imagining this? What should I do? Meanwhile, the molester continued molesting …
Until finally, he did something that snapped me out of my stupor – he squeezed my breast. The fog lifted – this was without a doubt horrifyingly wrong. This was abuse. I took a step back and angrily shouted at him. He withdrew, hurriedly apologized and left.
I was left ashamed, horrified, enraged, violated and confused. What should I do? Should I tell my parents? How?
I told my mother. She told my father. My father consulted his elder brother. They decided not to react! It was a sensitive matter after all. The boat of family harmony must not be rocked. I was told I possibly imagined it.
Myriad of emotion: hurt, pain, disbelief, anger, betrayal, shock and guilt. My parents are going to let this go? How can they? Don’t they believe me? Don’t they love me? Shouldn’t they stand up for me? Maybe I did imagine it? Maybe I invited it upon myself? Maybe it is indeed my fault? Did I lead him on? After all I didn’t stop him initially, did I?
It was an ‘open & shut’ case. Not to be discussed again. I was expected to be cordial to this man at family gatherings – this man who everyone looked up to as a genteel, heart surgeon. My parents acted normal with him. But I couldn’t. And I didn’t. I ignored him. But that did little to heal the pain. The pain was sealed, unhealed, unresolved.
Twenty years later: My maid is molested in our house while we are away. By our condominium electrician. She told no one. Till the next day when she asked me not to leave her alone with handy men. This was her simple request. I probed. She told the horrifying tale. My husband sprang into action. Enraged, furious, determined to punish the culprit, he confronted the electrician. The accused denied the charge. The condo management refused to take my maid’s word for it. After all it was her word against his.
Another ‘open & shut’ case.
My heart went out to her. She was experiencing emotions familiar to me. I explained to her that it was not her fault. How she had done her best. How she was brave to raise her voice. How her reactions or the lack of it were natural. How in hindsight it always seems we were weak and should have done so much more – slapped the offender, kicked him or at least raised a hue and cry at the time. But she had frozen like I had twenty years ago.
I gave her hope, tried to dispel the gloom, assured her I would speak to her husband and make sure he understood she was innocent. But it was not to be. The husband came and heard me. But she was his ‘property’ after all – she was in the wrong; she must have called this upon herself! She left with him, returning my house key in tears. He will not allow me to work any longer, she said. I was helpless.
They left. But my unhealed scars opened afresh. The pain ravaged me, stared me in the face. There was no respite – I had to heal it this time.
I re-opened the dark, dusty case – this time, not seeking resolution outside myself but inside. “Why did this happen to me?” I asked, this time not directing the question to my broken mind, but to the wise, inner voice I had come to know and trust over the years.
“To make you compassionate,” my heart whispered back. “To give you a first-hand experience from which you can relate to others who have been abused and help them. It was meant to be …
Forgive yourself – you are innocent. Forgive your cousin – he was weak and impulsive and is probably living with his guilt. Forgive your parents – they were scared and weak. You scripted this for yourself – it was meant to be this way. It could have been much worse. You wanted a taste – to feel the suffering and open your heart to others who have gone through the same. Let it go.”