I wrote the following post around two months ago but never found the strength to post it. Until today. I felt it was high time I put it out there, especially with the recently begun #MeToo campaign. As distressing as it has been writing this out, what’s even more appalling to me is the realisation that this is just one of the few incidents I’ve been through. That if I had to start talking, there would be just so much to say.
Anyway, here goes.
Written on August 1, 2017
Today, while scrolling through Facebook, one click led to another and I found myself looking at the profile of a man I found vaguely (yet terrifyingly) familiar. I went through his photos, scrutinising each one, holding my breath and trying to stop what I knew was coming.
When I was around 6 or 7 years old…
There was no official church-space for us back then. There was a home (of one of our church members) where we would gather on Friday mornings for holy mass and ‘Sunday School’. I never liked it much but followed the routine at my mom’s insistence. Considering it was held in a house and me being the inquisitive (not to mention, restless) kid I was, I used to love roaming about and checking out the other rooms when I got bored watching the mass.
One such day, after sneaking out of the main hall (where the mass was being held), I was walking around, smiling at familiar ladies and looking for a relatively deserted spot. My memory is a bit rusty at this point but the next thing I remember is me being in a room. With a guy. Maybe he saw me loitering around and said I could go sit there. Or perhaps, I stumbled upon the room and he was already there.
Anyway, so, there I was.
I was extremely friendly, happy and talkative as a child. Not one to shy away from striking up conversations with new people, I remember sitting down and talking to the guy. To my little six- or seven-year-old self, he must have looked around 20 or so. I could have been wrong, although he definitely was quite older than me.
I asked him his name. He asked mine, and which class I was in (I think I was in 2nd grade). At some point during the conversation, he pulled me onto his lap and we continued talking. Although I found it slightly uncomfortable, I didn’t see any need to protest.
The next part is a little confusing for me. Because I’m pretty sure my memory is not distorted. Yet sometimes, your mind has a way of blocking out or twisting unpleasant memories in such a way that you aren’t entirely certain it all happened the way you think it did. Or maybe they just seem too frayed around the edges and you can’t figure out the complete picture. I do feel confused in such a way, but then, I doubt this distress I feel is baseless.
The next part (which my mind seems to have tried to block out) — at some point, he put a hand into my panty and began rubbing my vulva. This was way too uncomfortable for me to not react and I squirmed to show my dislike. He pulled his hand out and waited a few seconds (maybe to make sure I didn’t start crying or so). He asked me to kiss him on the cheek, as if to lighten up the tension. I said no. By then, I guess he sensed I was upset and didn’t hold me back when I climbed off his lap, made some excuse and walked off.
I felt confused. Dirty. Disgusted. I always shuddered at the mere sight of him ever since then and tried to keep myself as faraway from him as possible.
After a while, I stopped seeing him and my mind, conveniently, pushed that memory off to some deep, forgotten corner.
Back to the present…
I knew it was him the instant I saw the profile. I went through as many photos as I could. Each one made me shiver inside; yet, I carried on. I wanted to retrieve that memory, bring it out of its corner. It had been so long since I last thought about this incident that I had forgotten it completely, as if willing myself to believe it hadn’t happened (hence the whole confusion about the memory). But every photo I saw brought it back…in fragments…the terror, the revulsion, the disorientation. Until I was finally face to face with the complete incident that I had made myself forget.
My first thought was, “Wow. This actually happened. Another fucked up experience. I guess I’ll never run out of them!” I felt sad. Disgusted. And then, it struck me. Yes, it is a fucked up experience but it’s not I who should be running away from it. Of course, I don’t like remembering it. But I don’t have to be ashamed of it. I was not the one at fault. And I sure as hell am not the one who should be feeling fucked up. He is. Whether he realises it or not.
Because I’m done feeling fucked up!
I lived nearly two decades blaming myself for all that has happened (and I’m not talking about this lone incident). Nobody I opened up to (except my best friend) ever told me it was not my fault. Nobody pointed out I wasn’t to be blamed. That, even in situations when I shouldered some blame, an equal part of it went to the other person as well…that if I were fucked up for doing something, the other person was just as fucked up too.
By completely blaming myself and considering myself screwed up, I was just punishing myself, self-sabotaging. It was only recently that someone helped me realise all this.
While I do my best to remind myself that I’m a good person, I’m constantly trying to figure out what I am, was and was not responsible for.
I still struggle with issues of self-blame. Especially when I think of past situations, the first thought I have is always to blame myself. I think, “Why did I do it?” I never console myself, say it’s ok or forgive myself for whatever share of blame I might have. I take it all on myself, like an idiot. Well, until sense kicks in and I tell myself, “Hell no!”
I’m tired of it. Tired of people putting the blame on me and asking why I did it, not giving a damn about what it must feel like to go through something like that and then open up about it. Well, to hell with them.
I’m finally trying to relearn and reaffirm some basic life lessons, trying to move on from a past that keeps haunting me. I think that’s what drove me to write this today, after coming across that profile.
If you’re wondering why I’m doing it now after all these years, it’s for the same reason I always write – to let it out and let go.
And also, to reach out to anyone who has been through anything similar to what I have.
Dear person, I hope you know you are not alone. I hope this gives you atleast a tiny bit of strength to get over whatever scarred you, to rise and truly shine. While you’re at it, always remember — it’s not your fault. It really isn’t. Don’t blame yourself. And like I’ve already said, you need to understand what you are, were and were not responsible for. Get help if you think you aren’t able to help yourself. I hope your wounds heal.