#Opinion

I was sexually harassed. But my parents asked me to stay quiet…

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Trigger Warning: I don’t even remember when it happened for the first time. But it did. I was sexually harassed, more than once, in my childhood. By a neighbour, a staff, a driver and two tuition teachers. They groped me, squeezed my breasts and ejaculated over me. These memories have darkened my childhood and unlike many others, I don’t want to return to my childhood days. I still feel guilty for not doing justice to my younger self. Not because I didn’t raise my voice but because my voice was nipped in the bud.

When I was harassed, I was overwhelmed not just by the disgust but also the fear about how will my parents react if they get to know about it. My harassers made me internalise that if I tell my parents anything, they will get angry and push me out of the house. I grew up thinking that the harassment was some fault of mine and not the perpetrator. I was never educated about good or bad touch. I never knew that someone touching my breasts or vagina was wrong. But because my harassers made it a silent affair, I realized there was something wrong with it. What further fanned my guilt was my mother’s reaction when I told her what happened to me. Yes, I finally mustered some courage and told her about one of the incidents. But I was shocked by what she said. She told that men are like this. That I should ignore and adjust.

It was as if the seed of resilience germinating inside me was wrenched away and killed. My parents, just like my harassers, blamed me for the harassment that happened to me. Both asked me to sew my lips and adjust. Can you imagine how painful it is to see that both your parents and harassers share the same mindsets? Can you fathom my wounded heart and sense of self when my parents, the only protectors, were on the side of the harassers? The silence and guilt that they imposed on me became the evils that haunt me even today.

As I grew up and received an education, I began to make sense of everything that had happened to me. I understood that I was sexually harassed. It was not just a small instance of wrong like snatching the toy from a child’s hand. But a grave crime that should have been called out and penalised. I realised that my parents were wrong in trying to ask me to ignore and adjust. I understood that for them the family reputation was more important than their own daughter’s safety. I understood that they assumed that sexual harassment is a part of every woman’s life and she should learn to adjust rather than speak up.

Today I just want to ask these questions to my parents that why didn’t you support me when I needed you the most? Why did you punish my childhood to bear with such dark days? Why couldn’t you make my childhood a better experience? If I had not received education about feminism, would I ever realise the wrong that has happened to me? In a bid to make ladki as ghar ki izzat, how did you forget that her izzat lies in self-respect and safety? Dear parents, it pains like breaking bones to tell you that my PTSD is a result of your ignorance towards me.

And dear harasser, just because I sat close to you, laughed with you and let you pull my cheeks, how could you assume these as a licence to harass me? How could you destroy the childhood of a girl who was just beginning to see the world from her own eyes?

There are still many questions that I want to raise. But I think for me it is too late. Yet I want that through my experience many girls around learn that they are never responsible for their own assault. I want other parents to understand that sexual harassment is a crime and they should protect their daughters from it- but not by caging them but by making them independent.

This is a personal story by contribution. If you have a story to share, send it to [email protected]