No One Noticed
A little girl. Four years old? Five?
She doesn’t understand…
Is this how grown-ups love children?
My parents seemed okay with it.
You certainly told me so.
Kept telling me, while kissing my lips
caressing my flat, child’s chest,
stroking my clitoris, and I wouldn’t understand
why I would suddenly get wet.
I don’t remember how, I don’t remember when
I suddenly understood
that it wasn’t okay, it wasn’t right.
As my body grew, so my confidence shrank.
Your hands became more demanding
your leering grin more unbearable.
The horror, the shame, the blame,
I took it all upon myself.
No one noticed. No one found out.
Of course no one did,
your confidence, the right with which you possessed me
in front of other people
in front of my parents
when you would grab my ass
from behind, while we watched cartoons.
When you would bite my lips, forcing your tongue in
in a brightly lit room,
your paan juices staining my teeth.
And my parents stood laughing just outside.
When you held me down,
your hand, papery and wrinkled, smelling of Lux
(the roses and cream one)
covering my mouth and nose, so I wouldn’t scream
(and I couldn’t breathe)
When you shoved your other hand down my shalwar.
Such audacity, given that anyone could walk in any minute.
(How I wished someone would!)
When you stroked yourself in the shadows,
where only I saw you
(your hand moved up and down so fast it was a blur)
and you saw me
(secret tears falling in my lap).
But other people were in the room!
And no one noticed. No one found out.
I was asked to write from a perspective that is less frequently heard. I debated with myself incessantly as to the theme of this piece, writing and abandoning three different pieces before I realized that I was unable to stick to one topic because I knew this is what I was supposed to write about. This is the “less frequently heard” voice that I wanted to feature, because it has been silent for too long.
There is a stigma surrounding sexual abuse everywhere, but more so in South Asian cultures, because we, the victims, are programmed to stay silent. We believe that it is our fault. Maybe we wore something enticing. Maybe we shouldn’t have been at a certain place at a certain time. Maybe we imagined the whole thing. Hey, it can happen, right? Maybe we are told that it wasn’t our fault but we should still stay silent anyway because society will blame us, would destroy us, if we ever spoke up. This is my attempt to break the silence.
I wrote the poem above last year, when I started going to my first sexual assault survivor support group, and finally started facing the reality of my childhood. Until then, I had simply shut myself to the horror of my experiences, and refused to acknowledge them. When it finally got to a point where I could no longer continue the practiced oblivion, and still remain sane, I decided to join the group. It was the most difficult decision I have made in my adult life. It meant I would have to start legitimizing my fears, and giving voice to my worst nightmares. It meant that I could start feeling angry at my parents for not noticing my pain and confusion, without feeling guilty. It meant I would have to stop blaming myself for not being more articulate as a child. I am still healing. The fact that I have decided to put this out there in public, where other people can read my words, and know exactly what happened, shows to some extent that I am going in the right direction. However, the fact that I am not prepared to disclose my name is testament that I have still a long way to go. With this piece, my aim is not to give validation to my own voice (because that is something I need to learn to do in private first), it is to provide solace and comfort to others who went through similar devastation as a child. I do not mean to discount the abuse suffered by adults, but sexual abuse is a special kind of hell for a child to go through, and I want to acknowledge that today for the sake of the child I was.