Sexual Abuse and a Crushed Childhood: When Your Own Home Is Unsafe

Trigger warning: This article contains mention of child sexual abuse.

Seven years ago, like many other small-town kids, I came to Bangalore from Ranchi to study engineering. For the world, it was a usual thing.

But for me, it was an escape. An escape from 11 years of sexual abuse within the walls of my own home.

I was around seven when it started. For a child so young, and that too two decades ago, it was impossible to understand what was happening. I wasn’t taught the difference between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’. As the years passed, and I approached puberty, I could sense that there was something wrong.

A man fingering my vagina and playing with my breasts every night when everyone in the house was asleep wasn’t supposed to be a part of my childhood.

By the time I understood what was happening to me, I was stuck. Stuck in a never-ending loop of abuse, shame, and trauma.

Also read: I am a Child Sexual Abuse Survivor – And I Don’t Want Your Pity

For many years, I used to think I was the only person in the world getting sexually abused by a blood relative – or even a relative. I kept suffering alone. I would cry inconsolably every single night. I used to keep my hands on my mouth so that no one would hear me.

He would always come to my room when I was asleep. In fact, for many years, it never happened while I was awake. I began to fear falling asleep. I would try to stay awake for as long as I could, but I was just a child.

On some nights, the abuse would happen repeatedly. He would touch me and the moment I would get up from the shock of it, he would dash back to his room. He kept waiting for me to sleep again so that he could barge in.

In my teenage years, I would scream loudly and say things like, “Get out of here, you bastard.” Nobody at home understood why I was saying those things and I was labelled as a spoilt teenager for disrespecting my elders.

I was a bright student and would perform well at school. I clearly remember how on some days I couldn’t sleep the entire night out of fear of his nightly visits and would then write an exam the next day.

Over time, I started noticing sexual abuse cases in newspapers and on television. I was in Class 11 or 12 when I saw the movie Highway. During the final scene, where the protagonist confronts her abuser and narrates her ordeal, tears rolled down my cheeks. What I was seeing on my laptop was my story too. But I wasn’t courageous enough to tell anybody. I believed my family would be destroyed if I said anything.

Finally, one day in August 2015 I was finally in Bangalore and lying on my hostel bed. It was the first night of my life where I slept peacefully without any fear.

My classes started and I hardly went home during the semester breaks. I thought that since I was now in college, the man would be afraid of continuing the abuse. But that was not the case – he would try every time I visited home.

I fell in love with a boy during the second semester, and he was the first person I spoke to about the abuse after we had been together for a month. He did not receive it well. His first reaction was to let me know that he would not have started this relationship had he known about this earlier.

His words broke me and triggered years of childhood trauma that I had yet to deal with. I had been depressed all my life, but this was the time when I could actually name it and identify the toll all of it had taken on me.

The boy broke up with me ten days later. He abused me verbally and emotionally when I tried making amends.

Also read: Telling Your Parents Your Child Sexual Abuse Story

Cut to 2022, 11 years of sexual abuse, three heartbreaks and several panic attacks later, and I felt a desperate urge to break free.

We are a family of five at home. There are my parents, my two younger brothers and me.

My mom and brother visited me in July this year. My mom and I got into an argument and that’s when I started crying and yelled that her husband is a terrible man and that he would touch me inappropriately.

Yes, it was my own father. My father is my abuser.

My mom froze. She couldn’t utter a word. All these years, I somehow held her responsible for not knowing what was happening in our home, for not understanding my hostility towards him.

Now, every day, my mom calls and cries and questions her motherhood and 27 years of marriage. Many in the family know about the abuse now. Some are supportive, but most expect me to let things be for the fear of social stigma and for the sake of my siblings and cousins.

I don’t know if I want to do anything about it. I don’t know if I want to take any action, but I do know that I will do my best to find every space I can to tell my story so that another child does not suffer in silence.

The child inside this 26-year-old woman never really knew what childhood means, but she will try to save the innocence of at least one kid out there.

Sonali Kumari is a QA engineer at an IT firm. She is also a full time dog mom, and part time animal rescuer/foster parent.

Featured image: Dmity Ratushny/Unsplash