By Rahul and Shilpa
Trigger Warning: Discussion of child sexual abuse
The series on child sexual abuse (CSA) is about listening to people’s experiences with abuse—sexual, religious, emotional, physical, financial, verbal, etc. The core reason to record these lived experiences is that such stories shine a light in dark times, create healthier communities, and empowers others to break the silence. The aim is to create safer communities, with awareness about good touch and bad touch. The narratives also enable others to break shame and enable healing.
Priya* works in a school in Noida. She is 40 years old now and was born in a middle class family, living in a sub lane in Old Delhi, there lived a small little girl, Priya* who loved chocolates. They were special to her because she could not have them often. That’s because her parents couldn’t afford it for her. She was lured by an 80 year old neighbour. He offered her a chocolate from his window, which the girl wanted to have.
She was 7 years old, the age where most children want to explore the world. She stepped out of the house, telling her parents that she was going to play outside. She sneaked into the old man’s house and was offered two chocolates and then, patting her on her back, the old man led her to the bedroom. The girl had no idea what was happening, all that she could see was the chocolates. After this, he gave her a chocolate and said, “Shhh… Don’t tell anyone otherwise everyone will scold you.” She agreed and never said this to anybody. She was in pain but the chocolates distracted her.
That man took away her innocence, her childhood. She could not stop thinking about that day. She was scared to talk about this to anyone. A year passed and the same incident repeated. Her mother sent her to this old man, this so-called ‘dadu’s’ (grandfather) for some work. He did the same thing again and gave her toffees again. She quietly took the toffees home. She became quieter day by day. She doesn’t even remember how many times she has been the victim of sexual abuse.
Is this a story of one girl or it can be a story of any girl? Each victim of child sexual abuse believes they are somehow responsible for the abuse, that they may have unknowingly encouraged the abuser; these feelings of guilt plague the victim, cause depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety disorders, et cetera. It is an emotional baggage that can only begin to be worked through moral and institutional support. Many survivors describe themselves as feeling ‘haunted’.
A study on Child Abuse: India 2007, conducted by Ministry of Women and Child development (GOI) revealed that across different kinds of abuse, it is young children in the 5-12 year group are most at risk of abuse and exploitation. This involves physical, sexual as well as emotional abuse.**
Priya had been living with this incident since then until she found a person with whom she could share her feelings. A person who wasn’t judging her, but was giving her confidence that she did not have to be a victim anymore. Intrinsically, every person who has been abused feels shame, but sharing the trauma breaks the power of shame over both the teller and listener.
Shame dissipates when the survivor talks about it and their disclosure is then met with belief, acceptance, love, and support. Even the shame of fellow survivors can decrease simply through listening to someone else’s story—because they then know they’re not alone.
*pseudonym to conceal her identity
All featured images inside the text belong to the authors.
About the authors:
Rahul and Shilpa are a creative duo, where Shilpa is a storyteller and Rahul a photographer. Shilpa is passionate about writing and expressing her thoughts and ideas while Rahul aspires to express the emotions prevailing in the world through his photographs. In their opinion, sexuality is an area that needs to be talked about and addressed thoughtfully. The idea of photostories/ photo essays intrigues them. Their work focuses on discovering abstract expressions of beauty and positivity in the human world.