Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Broken Doll....

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now. Its been eating away at me for months. But I've also kind of been avoiding it. Some subjects are just too upsetting to talk about. I've always been the wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve, emotional type. My need to speak and draw and express myself is pretty intense. Sometimes, when I get a thought stuck in my head, I simply can't rest till I've let it out. So here goes... *deep breath* :

Pedophilia....is an ugly, ugly fucking squid of a thing that encompasses the whole world in its nasty tentacles. But the level of such occurrences, the lack of recognition, the unchecked freedom to abuse in much of the East is unthinkably disgusting. And the way these situations are dealt with is even more disturbing. If you're South Asian who actually grew up in Sexually repressed South Asia, chances are that either you've experienced some level of sexual harassment/abuse as a child or that you know someone who has. Without exaggeration, that's how rampant it is. From groping in the markets, to excessive catcalling, to trusted household help abusing children, and it's largely ignored because of 'shame' and 'honour'.

I wanted to write this post for those people... Those who are often not believed when they painfully recount their story, or those who are told to 'forget about it'. Many parents in my birth country (Pakistan) are not equipped to deal with such situations, they simply don't have the communication tools, the awareness, or knowledge about sex/abuse/consent related subjects. Since our culture's way of dealing with human sexuality is to repress it... often Parents' first reaction is denial, and then withdrawal. They aren't as unfeeling as they seem, but victims of a system that equates sex of any kind, even abuse, with shame and victim blaming. Too many parents are ignorant, uneducated, and simply ill-equipped..they are frightened of letting out the barrage of emotions that could come from such a thing. And so, rather than face the rage, defeat and 'humiliation' in front of society, by acknowledging the incident, many desi parents do what they do best: Sweep stories of sexual abuse under the rug and hope that they go away.

Of course, thats the worst possible thing you can do to someone (especially a child) who has been through even the slightest amount of sexual abuse or harassment. There is so much confusion and guilt involved... that a tiny little mind just can't process it properly. Instead of help innocent children, our society is set up to let them deal with such an experience all on their own.

Because of the taboo associated with anything sexual, parents often protect themselves (from 'disgrace' and 'humiliation') but there isn't enough awareness about the subject to realize that its the child that needs protection in such a situation. The problem perpetuates itself from there. Kids pick up on how closed the culture is about such matters, and are afraid to even tell anyone....imagine going through your whole life with that burden.

I hope at least the Pakistani parents of tomorrow will sit down and have a talk about sexual predators with their children. All parents need to do it....to warn and educate. And they need to make it clear that they're there to listen and support no matter what. Not scold and shame.

In a society that commonly employs live-in domestic workers, without any reference checks, its appalling that this isn't already happening. I personally know of too many cases, where friends and friends of friends were molested by domestic workers. (Of course molesters come in all shapes and sizes, and economic statuses -- they are not always household help, thats not what I'm saying... but more often than not... that is the story I hear in Pakistan - either that, or trusted relatives.)

It's troubling for me to write every word of this post, because this is a cause that's personal to me. I was a victim of some degree of molestation myself. And this is the part I'll really struggle with writing, recounting my own tale - mostly because I have cousins, friends and siblings that read the blog. I've never talked about this openly before (apart from with my husband and sister)...so It's kind of odd to put it out there, without a veil of anonymity....

I struggle with feeling ashamed about it (just like every other victim of sexual abuse will tell you), though logically I know it was not my fault.

I didn't grow up in Pakistan, so that's not where my story takes place. It was in Saudi Arabia (also an incredibly sexually repressed culture), where we had an Egyptian family doctor. A seemingly nice enough guy, my parents actually became quite close with him and his family, they'd go over to his house for dinner parties, etc. He had two teenage daughters when I was about 6, I hope they didn't have to go through any such thing. 

Anyhow, most of my encounters with him are all very blurry, perhaps because I tried to block it out, or maybe because I was really young...In the clinic, he had an office with a desk and visiting chairs, and then he had a separate examination room (some parts are really vivid however, I can still smell that sick sterile smell of the examination room... and I can picture the small beige mosaic tiles on the floor). 

After me, my parents had my brother and sister relatively close in time... so they were always struggling to handle 2 young babies simultaneously. Whenever we went for a check up (which I dreaded) - my parents would stay behind in the office part keeping the babies quiet - The doctor would take me alone to the examination room. He did everything a doctor should do, except that he let his stethoscope linger on, and graze parts of my body that it really shouldn't have. He would see the fear in my 6 year old eyes and get off on that power. Eventually I'd cry and call for my parents and they would come running, of course.... but I didn't have the words to tell them what had happened - I would say right there, in front of the doctor, 'he touched me with that' (his stethoscope), and I'd say, 'He was trying to take my clothes off' but he would laugh it off and look at my parents and say, of course I was - I had to lift her shirt to examine her chest (it was not my shirt I was talking about), and of course I had to touch her with the stethoscope...I'm her doctor. 

And my parents were none the wiser. He had perfectly reasonable explanations for my accusations, he explained it away as me being afraid of doctors and check-ups (which I am to this day, mind you) - but that's not what I was talking about, and he knew it. He even gave me an evil smile, that would acknowledge that he knew exactly what I was struggling to articulate.

Frustrated at not being able to express myself, I'd give up. And the process repeated itself maybe 2 more times, till I figured that the best thing would be to ask my mom to come into the examination room with me. She was happy to oblige of course...she just couldn't figure out why he upset me so much, but chalked it up to a fear of getting a check-up (which a lot of kids have, and it makes them wail and cry.... )

Now, I wasn't penetrated or even touched or fondled inappropriately - he just brushed his hand and stethoscope past inappropriate areas. I suppose if i had let him do more he would have, but i screamed out to my parents immediately... so he couldn't get very far. But my point is, even though, he didn't really get the chance to do much to me, It has affected me forever...I feel broken by it...till I was about 26 I couldn't go to the doctor alone... and even now, just that cold touch of the stethoscope sends an awful chill down my spine, in a hospital gown I feel naked and vulnerable...my hands get clammy and my heartbeat increases like mad. I feel powerless, vulnerable... and almost always violated. If just the brush of a hand could do that to me for decades, I cannot even begin to think of what it feels like for someone who has been intensely fondled, or raped. Especially as a child. My heart breaks into a million pieces just thinking about what that would be like.



Children are so very fragile, it doesn't take much to break them and paint the rest of their lives with a palette of molestation, grief, guilt and shame....

Now, my case was confusing for both me and my parents, because that particular situation did require the doctor to undress/examine me to an extent. So it was very hard for a 6 year old to try and explain that it violated me, or even process it. I was confused because I wondered if that was indeed part of the check up, but I knew deep down inside that it was not. Unfortunately I couldn't find the words to express that. It was 'mild' enough that I struggled with understanding it was sexual abuse for a very long time.

Soon though, we got news that the doctor had died suddenly of a heart attack. I felt relief..... and then immediately after, I felt guilt. I was guilty for feeling relieved, but also.. I wondered if I had caused the doctor to die. Because he had done something inappropriate to me, and 'god' disapproved ... it was all very puzzling. We went to his house that evening. Seeing the red, tear-streaked faces of his wife and daughters made me feel awful. Because I was, in truth, a little relieved that this man they so evidently loved, was dead. In fact my 6 year old brain  had tried to convince me that I may have been the reason he died. It was too much to handle I think, because from that day onward I buried it somewhere so distant, that it didn't resurface till I was in my 20's - and I was shocked to realize, all of a sudden, that I had in fact been a victim of molestation. When that recognition swept over me in my adulthood, I began to put a lot of pieces together...my excessive fear of doctors, it all made sense.

I had been carrying this with me without any recollection of it...so much of my life affected....just by the brush of a hand.

A couple of years ago, I mustered up the courage to tell my mom - her first reaction was 'noooo maybe you're mistaken honey' but I persisted, looked her in the eyes, told her that there was no way I was mistaken. I just didn't have the words to explain myself earlier.

In that split-second, she seemed shattered, she apologized with a look of horror in her eyes.

I told her it was ok. I told her not to tell my dad though. He couldn't handle it. He really couldn't. There's no point in telling him now...it wouldn't change anything. It would only break his heart.

It took a lot out of me to bring it up. I didn't want to revisit it, but I had to tell her....and I'm very close to my parents. They're very open minded and understanding people. My mom has always made it easy to talk to her about anything. And yet, I didn't talk to her about this till I was well into my 20's....

I can only imagine how hard it is for victims of worse crimes, who are not so close with their families.... how does one even broach the subject then? And what if they don't believe you? How badly does that make your self-esteem crumble? I'm lucky, that my mom is understanding enough to recognize how awful it must have been.... but even she did not want to have an extensive conversation about it. Neither did I.

Mine is a story that didn't occur in Pakistan, but it happened to me and my Pakistani family. We were not well equipped to deal with it. I was not warned about predators, my parents were too trusting about leaving me alone with the doctor...maybe they are just from a better time.. when this kind of thing didn't happen.... but thats not likely. They're from a culture of denial that doesn't accept the existence of such things.

That's what I'd like to see change - the bloody taboo associated with sexuality. Is it too much to ask that people get a little more comfortable with the issues surrounding sexuality in our country? Is it too much to ask that Pakistani parents have a talk about potential predators with their children as soon as they are old enough to understand the concept..... perhaps it is too much.... but I'm still going to ask.

Next time, I'll be putting up an interview that deals with this topic. Its ever so painful to hear these stories, but I am glad that some people are speaking out. Getting heard is important and necessary to educate. And sometimes, an important part of healing. I am always happy to provide a place for that. 











23 comments:

  1. I am sorry that this terrible thing happened to you. I've been through this too and an Indian cousin of mine was responsible. When I grew up I spoke out against him because I couldn't bear for it to happen to anyone else in my family or outside. And so I know that it takes great courage to speak out against a member of your own family. I had to face a lot of aggressive denial by everyone, but I stood my ground and now that person is treated just the way he should. I hope your post gives more people the courage to speak up.

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    1. THanks a lot for your comment A, Im so sorry you had to go through that... it horrible. But you were brave to speak out - and im especially glad that he gets the treatment he deserves. But i wonder if he even understands the extent of damage he has caused. Someone should at least spell that out to him. Just so he knows the extent of it, and the permanence of it.

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  2. Very brave post. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Hope this helps us better understand how to deal with these situations.

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    1. Thank you, it means a lot to hear that :)

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  3. This is a heartbreaking truth and I really respect you for speaking out so clearly about such a sensitive topic, especially a personal experience. I wouldn't doubt for a second that even the slightest experience of sexual molestation leaves a shudder of vulnerability and confusion for too long a time - simply thinking about it in general makes my skin crawl. It is so sad to think of this, the effect and what it has to say about sexual abuse in any culture but particularly that devastating inability to deal with it properly. I do wish that soon a childhood will be seen as the delicate and valuable founding for an individual's future self more often instead of a time when they are too young to be affected by such a grave reality, so that issues like this can be prevented.

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    1. Thank you, thats very well said. I certainly hope so too...

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  4. These are some of the things which are extremely hard to confront and even talk about. I am glad that you are able to talk about it.
    I was molested when I was 10 by the guy who used to teach me Quran, and at that point I didnt even know what was going on, all I knew that I was very uncomfortable. My aunt asked what was going on and she went up to my parents, to which they responded in this way, "why would you go and tell your aunt about this?"
    Its really horrible that our parents are not the supportive ones and they are more concerned with their own societal status. Growing up, I made sure, that all of my sisters were prepared for any kind of sexual violence and they would know how to detect it, and they would have an ear, if they wanna share.
    I havent forgiven my parents for not being there for me and it took me 15 yrs to come in terms with my reality but as I said I never had that support.
    I just wanna tell you today, that you are not alone, there are people like you, who have gone through the same things that you did and we are here in solidarity with you.

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    1. Ash, I'm really sorry to hear about what happened. That's terrible. And good job on educating your sisters.

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    2. Thank you so much for your comment Ash, Im so sorry you had to go through that...the way your parents responded when they heard what was happening is so so sad... but not uncommon. I really would love to help change the attitudes on this...If only parents could be more aware, and more understanding... it would make a world of a difference. I think its excellent that you turned your horrible experience into a learning one, and taught your sisters from that. You did an excellent job on protecting them <3

      The most disgusting thing however, is that someone molested you under the guise of being a trusted, religious man. Its sick, and goes to show that you can never trust anyone with your children, no matter how 'pious' they claim to be.

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  5. Eiynah, I'm really sorry to hear about what happened. My sympathies to you for what happened and the conflicting circumstances it created.

    This was a truly horrid thing and Pakistani parents need to be more aware. My parents always insisted on vigilance and I think I agree with them on this worldview.

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    1. Thanks TLW. Im glad your parents were so vigilant, we need more to be like them.

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  6. E... Im glad u r the one writing about this horrible thing openly. One thing for sure I learned from my childhood experience never to trust any man be extra cautious when you are alone and try to stay strong. Its hard to share! But im glad you did.

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    1. Thanks MCD. I hope it gives others some strength to know they arent alone.

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  7. Just stumbled across your blog. Find your work interesting.
    Khair, I am really sorry to hear about you being molested. My ex was molested so I know for a fact how badly messed up you can be and opening up is the first and hardest step.

    Best of luck!

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  8. It's just strange, because you had nothing to do with it at all, and should not feel scared or victimized. I wonder if there is a culture where people get robbed but are too afraid to speak up, despite being the ones innocent. Though I guess that our culture has that as well.

    Regardless, I empathize, this is way more personal. I just wish this portion of the brain that made us feel scared was not there at all, nonexistent.

    It probably comes down to the trade-off between your connection with the world. The more emotionally connected to people you are, the more sacrifice you will give to your own wellbeing, to ensure you don't trouble others too much.

    On the other hand, if you are selfish enough you would raise hell if anything suspicious happened, and might be shunned by society as a result.

    This doesn't apply to you of course, you were too young to think it through.

    But even adults can't make this decision universally, and if they would in that split second just be selfish enough to curb all future perception for this torture, maybe their offspring could start learning early.

    As for the doctor, I would not feel guilty for him at all. He had family, but if he was molesting me, I couldn't care less what he did for his daughter or wife. It would be more than enough kindness for me to keep my mouth shut and not ruin his image to his family.

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  9. I've been meaning to write about it but it kept taking a back seat. http://todayhazbeenokay.blogspot.ca/2012/06/silent-screams_25.html

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    1. i've got goosebumps. That was so painful to read...and yet so beautifully written. It sounds like it comes from personal experience :(

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    2. There's beauty in pain I guess. :)

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  10. Eiynah this is a very important and brave piece! I'm glad you were able to talk about this experience as difficult as it must have been. I am really sad that this happened to you, but am happy you are using this negativity to encourage others to deal with similar or worse encounters, and that truly is noble. This piece will give victims of abuse the strength to speak out, if not take some kind of action.

    As for the doctor *shudder* he is hopefully burning in hell.

    Love your work xxx

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  11. I didn't realized I had tears in my eyes when I got done reading this piece. Your story echoes of my story, the way you described the whole experience reminds me of my molestation episodes. I have some recollections of it not the entire thing, and each time I was violated I didn't even knew I was being violated. Never understood it until I was old enough to understand what happened but thankfully those episodes had stopped by then.

    I'm really sorry you had to go through it, as a victim myself I know this nightmare torments you for the longest time. Makes you feel insecure, uncomfortable etc. In fact one of the reasons why I don't want to have children is that I'm afraid I won't be able to protect them. Maybe one day I would want to have children but all I know is that when I do, I will educate them about this and let them know that things like these aren't their fault.

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    1. I am so sorry that you had to experience something similar. I know how it feels..... and the best thing we can do is to create awareness.... and look out for the kids around us. Parents and other adults need to be alert....and make their children aware of what constitutes as inappropriate behaviour...and the fact that the kids should not be afraid to talk to them about anything. Much love and strength xx

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  12. I still have a literal pain in my chest after reading these stories. I am so very very sorry. No one, especially no child, should ever have to experience these things. No one should never have to grow up with these fears and anxieties. My heart goes out to you. I've learned much, and this lesson especially. Thank you for doing this, I can't begin to imagine how hard it was. Strength and power to you.

    K

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    1. Thank you, that means a lot. It's been lovely to get comments from u on old posts that I haven't thought about in a while!

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