When you’re nine years old, there are only a few “touches” that you understand: the bad one was the way they showed rape in movies, and the good one, which was the way your own parents behaved with you. To a nine-year-old, I didn’t know that there was another touch that had to be loudly spoken about: the unwanted one.
Unfortunately for me, at a very young age, I discovered that men don’t see a woman as a woman sees a man. Let me elaborate. To me, my cousin brother was someone I tied a rakhi to, someone I cherished deeply, having no siblings of my own, and someone who I knew would protect me forever. To my cousin brother, I was an object that he used to satisfy his sexual desires. I wasn’t a person, let alone his sister, but a mere body that he played with to please himself.
Even writing this today, years after that incident, brings tears to my eyes. And I request all mom’s to read what I’m about to say very, very carefully. Because if only my mother would have taught me the difference between a good touch and a bad one, I would have been able to speak up against my vile cousin much, much earlier.
As I said earlier, I was nine-years-old. My uncle's family would come to visit us and it was a celebration like no other! Mom would cook the best food, dress me up in the best outfits and friends and other families from all around were invited to spend these days with us.
For me, it was nothing less than a dark nightmare. Because along with my uncle, would come his extremely successful and talented son; one whom every single person in the family adored. And this boy was my rapist.
This was a time when video games were extremely popular. My cousin brother would get us all a pile of fun games, he would ask me to sit next to him, and all our other cousins and friends to sit on his other side.
With one hand, he would teach them how to play the game, while the other hand, would be hidden under my skirt, with his fingers deep inside my vagina. I never knew at that time that rape was this: this burning sensation inside of me. I would bite my lips to stop myself from screaming or crying because I wasn’t aware of what was happening to me.
At night, my mother would tell all the kids to sleep together. I would beg her to let me sleep in the same room as her, but she told me not to act like a spoilt girl in front of our guests. She would ask me to sleep next to my cousin brother and as soon as all our siblings would fall asleep, his hands would start touching me.
One night, I’m not even sure how, I fell asleep, only to wake up to his penis in my hand and four of his fingers inside me. The pain was unbearable and I screamed. Of course, everyone woke up and my cousin immediately turned away, to then wake up as if he too was fast asleep and now was trying to console me.
I ran to the washroom, ignoring everyone’s questions and irritable comments of having woken them up in the middle of the night like this. And to my horror, I saw a stream of blood coming out of me. I covered my mouth with my hands and cried. I cried for a long, long time. And I realized there was nothing I could do, except clean up and hope that I wasn’t permanently injured.
I wish I knew better, I wish I spoke up and told my mom about this; I wish I knew what had just happened.
The next morning, I couldn’t walk properly, my vagina was swollen and numb. I thought for a second that I should tell someone about this, but I caught this eerie smile on his face, almost as if he was challenging me to say something about it. I stayed quiet and went to my parent's room.
My dad was fast asleep. I went and sat next to him. I wondered, were all men like this? Or is it just my cousin? Maybe a father can never hurt his daughter like this…? I had all these questions, but no one to answer them. I wanted to cry again, but just went near my dad and hugged him.
This went on for three years and I never ever opened up to anyone about it.
Except for one person, my beautiful daughter. When I knew she was ready, I spoke to her about the good touch and the bad touch, and how sometimes, sadly, not even family members see you with good intentions. I cried as I spoke to her about this, but I knew that I had to pass on this story to her, and now to all the women reading this, to remind you to be aware and also to share. Don’t let any man, friend, colleague or family, touch you disrespectfully or against your will. And make sure you teach your beautiful daughters this difference too. More importantly, teach your sons, everyone has a right to their body and no one, absolutely no one, is allowed to misuse or mishandle it.