Suffering in Silence

It began when I was only six. My family moved to Libya because of my father’s work. I was excited to travel in an airplane for the first time. It was also my first time abroad because we were the first in our family to go to a foreign land. I looked forward to settling down in a new place and making new friends.

But all the optimism came crashing down when, one tragic day, a domestic help sexually abused me. No one knew about it. I didn’t have the courage to seek help. I used to dread going to the house where this person was working. Even in the company of my friends, I felt he singled me out. Out of fear, I locked myself in the bathroom. I came out only when I was sure other adults were home. The incident did come out in public and my abuser was deported back to India.

I never thought adults would want to damage children.

But my ordeal was far from over. I was abused for six more years by different people close to my family. I don’t know why I was the victim. Was it because I was a shy girl? Did it have to do with the fact my family was not well off? Did all the bullying by my cousins make me weak and timid? I never thought adults would want to damage children.

I thought it was all my fault — that I was cursed. I didn’t open my mouth because I was ashamed. What would my family think? I started to live in denial, trying to convince myself that if I pushed the thought of what had happened out of my mind, then the abuse would stop. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not silence my self-accusations. I thought I was the bad person in all of this. Incriminating thoughts spilled over into other areas of my life. I couldn’t do anything right.

As I got older, I still suppressed my thoughts and refused to call what had happened to me abuse. Was it because I enjoyed it? I tried hard to ignore all memories of the abuse in an attempt to get back to normalcy. Little did I know the damage was already done.

Finally, I broke down. I started to detest my feminine side. I became tomboyish and I could no longer trust people, especially close relatives. I became paranoid, always defensive.

I am nearly 40 now, but the memories have not blurred.

Now I realise I had no one to talk to. Even my parents didn’t know how to help me once they learned of the attacks. They kept quiet, thinking time would heal me or at least make me forget what happened. I desperately wanted a friend I could confide in — someone who would talk to me, assure me that whatever happened was not my fault, and tell me I wasn’t alone. I never found that friend.

I am nearly 40 now, but the memories have not blurred. I can vividly remember each instance of abuse. Now as a mother, I get paranoid when my children are in school or have gone out to play. I have talked with them about sexual abuse and taught them to be careful. Looking back, I realize that if only I had spoken out, sought help, and hadn’t blamed myself, it could have eased the pain and helped me have a normal, happy childhood.

If you've been sexually abused, please don't stay silent like I did. Burying the memories and pain only gives the abuse more power over you. You don't have to face this alone. You can connect with one of our free and confidential mentors — compassionate listeners who will support you in your journey back to wholeness. If you fill in your info below, you'll hear back from a mentor soon. You can give your real name or a fake one. It's completely up to you.

Author's Name changed for privacy.
Photo Credit: PROHarsha K R