Kubbra Sait Is Right, Sharing Sexual Abuse Incidents Isn’t Always About Seeking Apology

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Actor Kubbra Sait has revealed that she was sexually abused for two and a half years by a family friend. According to Sait, the person was a restaurant owner who helped her family during a financialy turbulent phase and then started sexually abusing her. Although her experience was traumatic, Sait said that her account of sexual abuse was not to seek a ‘pity party’. She wrote about her experience not for the person to read and apologise to her. “I am over it. He doesn’t define me anymore,” she said.

Sait has written about the incident in her memoir Open Book: Not Quite A Memoir. Speaking about her decision to include this traumatic experience in her book, the actor said, “The purpose of writing that incident was not to tell the world that I was a dukhi aatma. We are all sad in such a situation, but I am miles away from that situation now.” Sait further added that she is looking at the incident from an outsider’s perspective, and was not looking to make it right.

Speaking about sexual abuse has never been easy. It makes a person relive every bit of the moment that gave them an unerasable scar whilst shattering their sense of identity. Moreover, there is a stigma attached to sex- consensual or forced, due to which survivors have to face criticism from people for sharing such details about a sexual encounter, even if it is an unwanted one. Society feels that talking about the sexual encounter of any kind harms a family’s reputation. Some men even see it as an encouragement to harass the survivor, labelling them as damaged goods meant to be further exploited and objectified.

Whenever I speak about sexual abuse, my mother recounts her experiences and how she ‘came over it’ by ignoring and being quiet. But my mother fails to understand that the silence is contagious. Women are conditioned to see it as the only way to deal with incidences of abuse, And if a woman tries to raise her voice, she is labelled as shameful, attention-seeking and weak who couldn’t bear ‘small’ discomfort in silence. My mother herself said “We all have faced sexual abuse. You had a weak mind so you got affected by it more.”

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But still, assuming silence on injustice allows society to pass it off as an avoidable part of life. Speaking up against sexual abuse eases the shame and guilt that the survivor has lived with. The silence is imposed on the survivor by the society that victim-blames and shames women who are abused. Sharing your ordeal also encourages other women to come out and speak up. I have personally seen how one account of unwanted sexual encounter gives strength and voice to other women to talk about theirs.

However, sharing details of sexual abuse is not a gimmick to seek sympathy as it is often assumed to be. The trauma inflicted by such a horrific crime can’t be undone through sympathy. As far as seeking an apology is concerned, the pain is too big to heal through an apology. There is no apology or remorse big enough gain forgiveness for such a heinous crime. Expecting the abuser to come and apologise is also a way of conceding that the person is still a part of the survivor’s life.

When a survivor shares their experience, they show how they were wronged and how much strength is required to get over it. The story is about them and their struggle. It has no space to give any name or recognition to the abuser. He is no one and definitely not worthy to be a part of a person’s memoir. As Sait rightly said that the abuser doesn’t define her or her life.

More than judging women for sharing incidences of abuse, we need to listen to these stories, encourage other women to speak up, think about how it could be avoided and address the root of the problem.

Views expressed are the author’s own.