In the times of citizen activism, protests and initiatives that require voices to be heard here’s a story that shook us and wanted to reach out to Vaishnavi. A story of a daughter who is voicing out her story loud and clear.
Vaishnavi is an independent media consultant, in her late twenties living in Chennai and she shares her story with Mums and stories on being a ‘rape survivor’. This was when the horrific incident happened when Vaishnavi was just 12 years old and now she is talking about it. As a fighter, she also shares why it is important for parents to listen to their children.
“It was at my cousin’s wedding. I was playing with some kids. One of the waiters from the catering service told us that we weren’t allowed to play where we were playing and asked us to go to the rooftop and play. When we went there we found it was a closed rooftop and he followed us there. He said he’d teach us a new game and asked the other kids to hide. I was targeted. Before I could react, he had covered my mouth and was pulling my skirt up. I was too scared to scream.
As a 12-year-old I didn’t know what had happened. I felt like I didn’t know what he did to me. I hadn’t been made aware of rape and so I didn’t know how to explain to my parents. I was also scared that they would blame me for playing elsewhere. I did tell them. I told them that he had handled me inappropriately. That he’d whipped out his genitals and touched mine. I was crying. I couldn’t say anything more. They were aghast. They yelled at me for straying away from the main wedding area. Then they asked me if I could identify him. And we followed it up with the catering service lining up the waiters.
He did get beaten by the catering service owner immediately on charges of molestation, after we identified him. I still believe taking the law into our hands was probably satisfying in that moment, but it wasn’t right. He should have been handed over to the police.
At that point of time, my parents believed it was a molestation case and I have let them live in that bubble without intentionally bursting it so as to not cause any additional trauma about something that happened over a decade ago.
The incident, however, is very relevant because many people are able to gain strength to share their stories and gain closure.
Mostly people try to sympathize with you, but end up feeling sorry for you. We treat rape victims with very little dignity and often patronize them.
Talking about this is the first step. The more we pretend like this subject is taboo, the more painful it gets for survivors to recover. It doesn’t help that we have people comparing women to sugar that ants are attracted to, or that the rape is the victim’s fault too.
The outlook of lawmakers has to change before the laws can.
My advise is to the parents: Talk to your kids about sex. Talk to your kids about rape. Let them believe you are there for them no matter what. Kids don’t tell parents things when they feel the parents will blame them for what happened. You need to be rational and hear kids out without being awkward or making a big deal about it. When they are scared they will go into a shell. Be a pillar of strength, such that they aren’t afraid to tell you even if they have committed a crime.
Raise your kids with the concept of consent. Never force your kids to hug/show affection to/kiss a relative or a family member because YOU want them to. The body of your child belongs only to your child. Even you need to respect that. You can tell your kids “I would like you to give Aunty/Uncle a hug/kiss, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to”.
There is no solid way you can prevent something from happening, but raising your boys to respect women and consent and raising kids that respect everyone’s personal space is a good start.”
Talking about the incident, Vaishnavi further shares, “It was only 2 years later that I realized I had been raped when someone at school explained what rape was, and I had a moment when I went back to the incident and now had a name to put to what happened.
However in retrospect, I am very cautious. And I think that’s a good thing. Because despite the caution many shitty things have happened later on in life. I don’t trust people easily. I actually became tougher after the incident. I started to want to be like boys because I knew if I was a boy no one would hurt me. So I started doing all the things boys my age were doing then – playing football, wearing boyish clothes. I used to get called a tomboy. It was an age when girls had to be girly and boys were boyish. And becoming a girl who behaved like a tough boy gave me strength to deal with a lot of things.
I truly feel I have been the strongest supporter to myself. ‘You are your biggest source of power. Believe in yourself’.”
Mums and stories thanks Vaishnavi to have shared her story, for being brave and opening up on an unpleasant memory that can trigger debates, discussions, changes in mindset that the society so very much needs to stand for its women.
We also believe if at all Vaishnavi chooses to be a mum further ahead in life, she’s going to be an awesome one.