In the times of #Metoo meltdown of series of incidents and assaults coming to light it is important we acknowledge and even begin conversations in our homes, in workspaces and elsewhere. Consent is essential and with the case of children it is an abuse where one cannot let go of the crime, assaulter or the memory.
Vandana finally has taken the stance to talk on a horrific childhood incident. As an individual she works with children, where she works as a child welfare manager at a NGO and she shares on why is it important to deal with conversations on body, sexuality and many more topics that are considered taboo. However these conversations probably might save someone at home from being abused.
(Photograph taken for representation only. A No is an absolute No. )
Vandana shares with Mums and Stories, “Being the last child, I had ball of a childhood, I have always received love manifold from everyone. My two elder sisters and brother were always pampering me. I was father’s pet and mother’s sweetheart (she used to call me her Mishri Mawa). I was good at studies and was considered a strong and understanding girl. My father encouraged us to be independent in terms of travelling alone and making our own decisions in the limitations of traditions and society.
One of the funniest memories is hiding in the bathroom to escape school, or going off to uncle’s house bunking school.
When I was about 5-6 years old, we stayed in a two storied house with tenants in the ground floor and my paternal aunt and her family in separate portion. One day my cousin (he must have been 19-20) found me alone and carried me to the basement where he molested me. I was scared and confused. I couldn’t tell anyone as I felt that I’ll be scolded. Next time when he tried to take me I jumped off his lap and broke my nose and lip. For a long time I didn’t understand why I had jumped but looking back I think it was instinctive.
Most families shy from speaking on abuse or sexual connotation to children. Even for me, it was difficult to talk to my six year old niece about it, mainly thinking why should we expose them to all this at this young age. When a child gets hurt on hand or leg or when someone hits him or her, what is their reaction? Do they shy away? Don’t they come right away complaining?
Then why when someone hurts them sexually, they don’t speak? Let me tell you why, because from childhood, we create a taboo around private parts. If we see someone naked even with children, our reactions are extreme. We either laugh, tease, embarrass or hide…we don’t talk about it normally. So for a child, this is something not to be talked about. It’s not only fear, one of the most common feeling associated to being touched sexually is pleasure, and for a child, it could also be the guilt that he/she has felt nice about something that is dirty or shameful. “
Talking about topics with her students, Vandana shares, “While talking with my students and other children I am careful about my expressions. I make sure that I use clear voice and do not murmur; I use the right words and not look embarrassed about pointing towards the private parts too. I believe, we need to teach children about self-awareness, protective behaviour and respect. This is not only while talking to them; it is also what we talk about in their presence but other aspects like how does carry oneself in public or are we behaving the way we expect them to behave?”
Recalling the incident she shares with Mums and Stories, “ Well…I had spoken with my family much later when I was in college, and unfortunately, though they all support me and condemn the act, I have to fight alone, no one will take a stand for me. He is still entertained in my parents’ house. My husband was my first confidant and has been my biggest support in the journey of healing and he has been hurt many a times too. I speak to the children about my experience during my training sessions and workshops.
My mom, I’ve found to be a really strong lady. She is a person who will support her children in right and wrong. You’ll be surprised to know that in all the 39 years of my life. She never raised hands on us and although, she wasn’t very educated, she always encouraged us to follow our dreams.
When after growing up I told them about my abuse, she was heartbroken, but I guess no one knew what to do and hence never talked about it.
Yet I would like to tell this to others if at all you go through an abuse, do remember, You are not alone, but you need to take the first step. There are people out there waiting to help you – prayer warriors, therapists, counselors and activists. You need to move towards healing. As a parent –please stand by your children and this is very important for the child to be aware of it.”
( Vandana didn’t want to share her photograph or her complete name and we have adhered to her request).