My Story Is Beyond Being A Survivor Of Child Sexual Abuse & Domestic Violence

I am a survivor of child sexual abuse or domestic violence. My journey mirrors the experiences of countless women across India – an untold number whose narratives echo the struggle against gender-based violence.

Smita Bharti
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Smita Bharti

I am a survivor. Be it child sexual abuse or domestic violence. But what is unique about my journey? It mirrors the experiences of countless women across India – an untold number whose narratives echo the struggle against gender-based violence. Through my story, I invite you to grasp the gravity of the situation and envision the story of countless nameless, faceless women, each struggling against the pervasive barriers of denial, silence, shame, and stigma of having faced violence of one kind or other.


The Formidable Barriers That Survivors Face

In my most recent talk, where with extreme vulnerability, I spoke about the cycle of violence I had lived through, I was yet again silenced by my community and reminded of these formidable barriers. The complicity of those closest to me in perpetuating silence was profound. When this happened again, it reiterated my belief that simply encouraging women to speak out about their experiences of violence oversimplifies the complexities involved in it. The echoes of my own experience, intertwined with the voices of colleagues cautioning against speaking out and family and friends' resistance to excavating painful truths, illustrate the nuanced complexities we, survivors, navigate.

I found my path through the retelling of my story, over and over again, in multiple forms. As a word and theatre artist, I learned to breathe life into the unsaid, using the stage as a canvas to paint the nuanced shades of survival and resilience. I used the spotlight to shatter the silence that veils the experiences of survivors of domestic violence and child sexual abuse, weaving threads of my disclosure into my performances.

Through the power of words and the visceral impact of theatrical expression, I tried to unravel the complex layers shrouding survivors' vulnerabilities. Each script became a tapestry of shared experiences, a mirror reflecting the silent struggles that too often remain hidden. The burden that survivors like me carry alone, masked with the veneer of resolution, found its voice in the cadence of words and the emotive gestures on stage.

Today, I questioned why I needed to navigate the delicate balance between artistry and advocacy in my work. Because we were not ready for the rawness of disclosures, they either became mere shock value or silenced. But never an invitation for dialogue and understanding. I learned the craft of dismantling the barriers of silence and stigma and making it a cathartic experience for the performer and audience.

I learned that the very act of disclosure within the artistic realm had a healing quality. It's an intentional decision to face the discomfort, to revisit and reimagine the narrative, and to offer it up to the audience as a testament to resilience. In doing so, I reclaimed agency over my own story, shifting the narrative from victimhood to empowerment.


And look at the strength of this medium! The audience, finally, becomes a crucial part of this healing process. As the disclosures unfold on stage, there is an unspoken pact between performer and viewer. Even in discomfort, the shared experience forges a connection that transcends isolation and invites empathy, understanding, and a collective acknowledgement of the shared humanity within the often silent struggles.

Finally, telling my story became an attempt to create a safe space where disclosure is not only accepted but celebrated – a brave act of breaking free from the shackles of silence. However, this journey is not without its challenges. There's a vulnerability in laying bare personal experiences, even within the realm of performance. Yet, it is precisely this vulnerability that fosters connection and resonance. It's a conscious choice to use the power of storytelling to create a ripple effect, sparking conversations.

When we share without the barriers casting their shadow and people listen without being clouded by prejudice and stereotypes, we contribute to a narrative that advocates for prevention, community accountability, and a society that actively dismantles the barriers of denial, silence, shame, and stigma.

Authored by Smita Bharti (Executive Director of Sakshi NGO) 

child sexual abuse Domestic Violence gender based violence survivors