#Personal Stories

My Grandmother Said “Tumhari body zyada developed hai, isliye aisa hua tumhare saath”

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Our parents have always tried to ensure that we are reared in a safe atmosphere. They strive to protect you from the predators who are waiting to pounce whenever they have the chance. But, as we all know, monsters do arise, and they do so at the most inopportune of moments when there is no one to defend you. In four distinct times of my life, I’ve fought four monsters, each of whom has left a lasting scar.

Trigger Warning: The article talks about self harm and child abuse.

It began when I was eleven and a half to twelve years old. I was a child with no understanding of the term “consent” or the difference between pleasant and unpleasant touch. As a result, when a person from my neighborhood stopped me on my way home from my dancing lessons and managed to grab my breasts, I was absolutely numb. I strived to evaluate my puzzling thoughts and sensations while watching that individual flee. I had no clue it was only the beginning of the story of what’s about to happen to me.

I used to believe that the washroom was my safe place till I was thirteen years old. I had no awareness that my privacy might be abused by a friend’s father recording me while I showered. While I was visiting my friend who happened to be his daughter, he showed me the film and warned me that if I didn’t go to a hotel with him, he would leak the video on the internet. I had to destroy the tape, so I took matters into my own actions. When he wasn’t around, I was visiting his house, and as soon as I saw his phone, I stole it and dumped it into the drain.

Life went on, and I attempted to keep up, but unexpected things were in waiting for me. As a devoted dancer, I was ecstatic when my dance instructor welcomed me to rehearse on a Sunday morning. It turned out that there was a photoshoot going on. I was in the green room at the moment. My teacher’s father approached from behind, felt me up, and inserted his fingers inside me as I was changing costumes. “I am the luckiest person on the planet to have sex with you because you are so tight,” he whispered to me that day.

I knelt there, tears streaming down my cheeks. I could feel the pain, but I couldn’t put my emotions into utterances. It seemed as if someone had destroyed my soul, and fitting the pieces back together was extremely tough. I dashed out of the room without my pants on, listening to people laugh at me, but I had no clue what to say. This time, I opted to keep silent.

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I went to a hostel for my plus one and it was still well until we went on a vacation and I had to stay with a relative. It was my final night over there, and I was sound asleep. As I woke, all I see is my uncle standing in front of me, his trousers undone. My shirt was ridden up, revealing my chest, and my trousers were off as well. Uncertain if I had been raped or not, I sprinted from the house, shutting every door from the outside, slept on the steps for the rest of the night.

Walking is a simple act, but that night it took all of my strength to do so and escape. Because of ghar ki izzat, I stayed quiet this time as well.  I chose to remain silent all this time because of the one response I heard from my grandmother, “Tumhari body zyada developed hai, isliye aisa hua tumhare saath.”

This incident left a lasting impression on me, and suicide was on my daily to-do list. I used to constantly seek reasons to end my life. Despite my gloomy thoughts, I decided to give it another shot and moved to Hyderabad for education.

Sahithi Mannar

As a dancer, I constantly utilise the assistance of a makeup artist. When I first brought in a new makeup artist, he captured photos of me as I was changing. I snapped as he neared me with those pictures and started to touch me. I attacked him, shattered his phone, and fled. Last year, as I confronted him, he replied, “I don’t know why I did it, but I didn’t even realize it would affect you this way, so I continued doing it.”

These events have deprived me of a considerable part of my personality. I’ve been diagnosed with Clinical Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But the moment I shared my tale, I felt empowered; liberated, free of all the haunting memories, and happy, it was then that I discovered that whatever had occurred was never my mistake, and it was time for me to take control.

Yes, I was molested by multiple men at numerous times in my life, and people have doubted why I did not stop the second, third, or fourth time, and I have questioned myself too, but I still cannot find a way to stop something when you are essentially frozen, numb and have no energy to even lift a finger or whisper the words ” STOP “.

People questioned me on why I kept talking about the trauma I went through?

I always say, There are days when I struggle with coming to terms with what has happened but then there are days when I feel like a queen who was brave enough to go through all of this and I am sure there will come a day when I will be able to rise above everything that has tried putting me down. Till then I will keep fighting, I will keep trying.

I want to be a part of the global (Maybe a little unrealistic to aspire for!!) But, hey, I’m always shooting for the stars) systemic change wherein we can and do teach our children how to be safe. Because it’s worth it if it means sparing one child like me, making them aware that it’s alright to talk about what’s going on in their lives and that it’s okay to heal. As an advocate, I will battle until I am out of breath to transform things that kids like me and millions of others around the world.

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I know that everyone who is viewing this and even beyond would agree that a child’s house, school, tuition, transport, relatives’ residence, and so on really shouldn’t feel unsafe. It shouldn’t pain to be a kid, and also no child should endure trauma at an age when all they will want to do is enjoy life and be as silly, weird, and funny as possible. The sad part is that it does hurt to be a child all too often.

Today, I am a sexual abuse activist, psychologist, and a  founder of NPO ” Sama Jeeva Foundation” with a mission and vision to see an abuse-free society and live in a society where mental health is at par with physical health and I understand that my story is tough for people to read or listen but I am extremely proud of myself.

Sahithi Mannar is an Adult Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse and Founder of Sama Jeeva Foundation. The views expressed are the author’s own.