The Womb
Opinion

I Spoke Up About Against My Sexual Predator – Will You?

The battle against the struggles of having to deal with the post traumatic effect of sexual assault still plagues me even after 23 years. Memories of my repeated molestation and sexual assault for over a month when I was only 14 years old by my private tutor constantly keeps appearing in mind and playing on repeat mode like a broken tape recorder. On the surface everything seems normal. You will probably look at me and think I am a confident, well-spoken, well-travelled senior capital markets lawyer who had the good fortune of working for some of the top law firms in India, London and Hong Kong. But only I know the demons that I have and continue to fight till this day.

Living with the aftermath of sexual assault is like living with a beast. A beast that keeps raising its head from time to time and triggering floodgates of vivid memories of the nightmarish experience without any warning. No matter what you do, what you say, the beast keeps reappearing and you do not know what triggers the opening of the floodgates of images of that nightmarish experience. So you are left powerless and alone to grapple with the myriad of vivid images that you have spent years trying very hard to forget. Sometimes the images come up to you and replay in your mind while you are giving an office presentation or simply chatting with a friend or just watching television or waiting for someone at the airport. The world looks at you and thinks you are doing fine, but only you know the struggles you are going through. Struggles that you cannot even think of talking about to anyon

Today even as 37 year old woman, a lawyer and a teacher, I struggle to recount and tell people the details of my horrific experience at the hands of the very adult who was entrusted with my care and revered by my parents for being my teacher.

Looking back now, growing up in the 1990s in the quiet hills of Darjeeling I did not have access to the internet or any other information that would explain the difference between a “good or bad touch”. Back then schools did not teach anything on the topic, my parents did not have such conversation with me and society considered it an outright taboo to talk about such things. In hindsight I wish topics such as these were talked about more often. I would have been saved and so would have many others.

Unlike other crimes, strangely the shame for any sexual assault always falls on the victim and even the 14 year old in me knew this. I knew the burden of shame would fall on me and not an ounce of it would be shared by the abuser. Also, my abuser did not mince any words and he was quick to let me know that the shame was all mine as I was the girl who had responsibility to hold up honour of my parents. Besides no one would believe me, he told. I wondered even as a child and now as a woman why the responsibility of maintaining honour always rested on the woman even if she were a child? Why don’t men (even as adult) share the burden of keeping their family honour? I am yet to find an answer to this question.

This shame that was engrained in me played havoc. It crippled me and it was nothing like anything I had experienced before. Shame and fear became my constant companion and they both did exactly what my abuser needed to flourish in his favourite pass-time. It kept me quiet and quiet for the longest time.

As years went by, I thought I was coping well by hiding my shame and trauma in the deepest corners of my heart, never realising that I was only multiplying my suffering by hiding and not coming out with the truth. The more I tried to hide, the more flashbacks and nightmares I continued to have. The more I tried to run away the more I was plagued by images of my abuser’s face and his tight grip and the little mirth that played on his face while he continued to assault me. I did not know then that the only way out of this misery was to deal with the shame and my abuser head-on.

As years transformed into decades, the pain did not seem to ease. When the nightmares happened, I actually felt I was living through the experience in my present day. It all seemed so real, as if the assault only took place yesterday. I cried and cried for long hours. With the passage of time, I began to think, “How could I speak, it has been so many years?”, “Who will believe me?”, “Who will unquestioningly support me?”, “Will I have the strength to bear the burden of the plagueing shame from the time I tell everyone of my trauma?”, “Will my family accept me?”, “Will my husband be fine?”, “Will my husband support me and choose to stay with me even after I let him know that I was sexually assaulted?”, “How will my friends and teachers and everyone I know react?”, “Will they avoid me?”, “Will I get a job after I come out of my shame?”.

I am a woman before I am a lawyer – and the 14 year old girl in me and the 36 year old woman in me convinced the lawyer me that the shame would still be mine. To the questions I raised, I found myself answering that it will still be I who is questioned and the abuser will be let off the hook. And I was not fully wrong – for some still question me and not my abuser. So I decided it was not worth the risk and kept doing what I had learnt to do all these years, ‘just keeping quiet’ and hoping that I miraculously forget about the assault.

God had different plans though. In 2019, I came to know that my abuser continued to teach in a jesuit school in Siliguri and sexually abuse children. Something in me changed when I came to know this. Being a survivor of sexual assault myself, I know the lifelong pain and suffering such an experience brings – it shatters your soul and you struggle to trust anyone for the longest period of time. You live in constant fear for something that was not your fault in the first place and you are burdened with a sense of guilt on your little shoulders even though it was the adult and the society (who had a duty to protect you) that failed to protect you as a child. I had suffered for too long and I continue to do so and I could not in my right conscience allow another child to go through what I had been through at the hands of this man.

Every time we fail to question the abuser, we fail our children in the worst possible way. That day was a turning point, a day that I decided that I will no longer run away from my predator, or my shame or the nightmares. I will deal with the human beast and my shame head-on and do everything in my power to question the abuser and save other children from coming under his grip!

I realised after 22 years that the shame is on the abuser and not on me or any child – and the realisation was empowering to say the least. Strangely, I was not afraid anymore to be questioned, to be standing alone or laughed at. The fear of not being validated or supported in my quest for justice did not cripple me anymore. I realised the truth will not diminish by any cent whether someone chooses to believe me or not. The truth will remain the truth and that will be my biggest power over my assaulter.

It is no secret that, one out of four women are sexually abused, yet very few dare to come out with their story and even fewer amongst them choose to knock the doors of justice against the offender in order to prevent the suspected serial child molester from continuing with his sick pass-time. I am glad I had finally mustered courage. I was ready for the fight and in September 2019 I formally lodged a complaint with the Darjeeling police.

I told myself that I would atleast have the satisfaction of having tried to bring the predator to justice and in the process also protect some children from his grip. I also knew if I did not speak up, this monster would continue failing our children in the worst possible way and I somewhere would play a role in him continuing to abuse our kids by keeping silent.

When formally lodging the complaint, I knew what an uphill task this battle would be, given that sexual assault crimes are always committed in the “hiding”. Hiding not just behind the doors of a room, hiding behind the friendly and respected garb of relationships like that of a tutor (in my case) and uncles, grandfathers and sometimes fathers. One cannot even begin to fathom the breach of trust that the child experiences when the very adult that was suppose to protect her invades her in the worst possible way. Added to this is the fact that the child has no prior experience of such degree of trauma and therefore is often left alone to fend for herself and live with the responsibility of protecting family honour when the adult perpetrator is absolved from all questioning and is given a free ticket to continue with his sick-passtime.

As 2019 rolled into 2020, I was confident that with the evidence the police had gathered the arrest of the accused was imminent. Then a normal day in October brought me my first ray of hope in this battle. On October 5, 2020, the hills of Darjeeling were resounding with the arrest news of a teacher at a jesuit school in Siliguri. Many congratulatory notes started pouring in from my school teachers and friends but I would give a fair share of the credit to the investigating team for their tireless and painstaking effort in gathering evidence against this well-hidden monster even when COVID-19 was raging at full spree.

In only a day’s time of the news of the arrest becoming public, other victims mustered courage to come forward and while with each victim coming forward I am strengthened in my belief that justice will be served, it personally pains me to witness the number of young minds the predator has scarred for life. The sexual predator has been a teacher throughout his life giving private tuitions and teaching in various schools in Darjeeling and I shudder to think what could be his real victim count. Only he can say that and I know he will not give that number out so easily.

It is well-known that predator chooses his victim amongst the most vulnerable, because he knows he can get away with and constantly feed on the silence and shame of the victims. It is time to break this silence and let me tell you, I am healing by talking when all the time I thought I would heal by hiding. In fact truth works in strange ways. It is scary to speak the truth at first. One is hounded by thoughts of doubters, by the questions that will be raised and the fact that one may be standing alone in the fight. But once you speak the truth, truth emboldens you in ways you thought it will. After speaking the truth you do not wait for validation anymore, you do not fear standing alone for you always have the peace of mind that you did the right thing. And that is the power of truth!

To all who is reading this today, I would say that hiding away and burying your thoughts brings no solution. I tried hiding for 22 years and I am telling you this. What has empowered me and has started to heal me is knowledge that I spoke out and did not remain a silent spectator. I spoke out for our children and for the 14 year old child who was betrayed in 1997.

If you have to take-away one thing from this read, I would say, ‘Do not question the child – question the adult!’. When for all crimes the perpetrator is questioned then why is that for crimes of sexual assault and molestation the victim is doubly victimised for no fault of hers by being again subjected to questions?

For a change, let the abuser (a father himself now) answer now why he did what he did 23 years ago? Why did he not stop his predatory behaviour and instead chose to continue sexually abusing kids even 23 years later? For once just question him and make him answerable! Our kids have born the burden for way too long – let them unburden their little shoulders for they deserve better. Let the kids be kids-do not burden them with the shame that should be totally of the adult!

My predator continues to be in judicial custody after his bail got rejected and I hope he continues to be in jail for a long time. I know justice will prevail and I have complete faith in our judiciary. I am also hopeful that more victims will come forward to tell their stories of horror. If you have been a survivor of this sexual predator who taught in several schools in Darjeeling and continues to be a teacher at a jesuit school in Siliguri, please provide all helpful information to to DYSP at +91 90832 70405 or OC Sonada at +91 96799 85143.

Now is the time to unburden yourself and place the shame on the abuser!

As for my sexual predator I would like to say, “I have taken the power back from you – the power of forceful shame that you have exercised over me all these years after sexually assaulting me for over a month. If you are reading this just know it is who you are powerless today and not me or the others who you have abused! I will not let you steal my or any other child’s life and happiness anymore -23 years has been enough and I know we will win this battle against you!”

#women #genderviolence #justice #chronicles #violenceagainstwomen#violenceagainstchildren #thewomb #children #SaveOurChildren #SaveOurChildrenNow

Related posts

21वीं सदी में दलित महिलाएं

Guest Author

THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA NEEDS MORE WOMEN JUDGES

Guest Author

The Arrest of JNU Activists: Of Misplaced State Priorities Amidst Lockdown

Mani Chander