” My uncle was a nice man, everyone liked him. He used to buy me chocolates and ice- cream. He used to call me his ‘guriya‘(doll). He used to show over the top sui generis affection towards me which always sounded so fortuitous to me as on the contrary my parents , for some reason always favoured my brother Ahmad over me. Later I learned the reason and to my surprise it was because I was born a girl and he was born a boy! How unimaginably ironic! Not to forget that we come of a Muslim family yet this justification was nothing but smoke and mirrors to me since I had already come across this hadith in Islamiyat: “Your children have the right of receiving equal treatment” (Abu Daud), how come my parents missed out it in school? Nonetheless, I should not lament because after all, I was blessed with such a loving uncle.
He used to fondle me at times and he’d put his arm around my waist, caress my hair and kiss me on cheeks reminding me I really was his guriya.
He used to tell me tales of princesses and Barbies. There was one which he used to tell me very keenly of a princess from a far away land and her generous uncle who would take her to Disneyland, teach her to fly and help her walk on the rainbows and live on the clouds. Once after he finished his story, I asked him if he would do all this for his guriya and without any delay, with a grin and an enigmatic expression on his face he said,” Yes, one day, very soon guriya“
And that day arrived very soon as my ‘nice’ uncle had promised me, what a gentleman he was; he did really stick to his words. I still remember every minute detail of ‘that day’.
It was supposed to be ‘the most memorable day of my childhood’ and sure enough, it was!
That day my parents weren’t around because they had to drop off Ahmad at his boarding school leaving me with my 70 year old Grandma and my uncle came by while I was finishing up my homework. He took me to my room while my Grandma went to take a nap.
He told me I was going to have the most wonderful experience of my life. He told me he’ll take me to the fantasy world. He told me I could experience a fairy tale of my own today and I did, but somehow it turned out to be a scary one!
He molested me in my own house, in my own room, on my own bed! Alas, he molested me in my own kingdom.
I couldn’t say a word, but I cried , I cried rivers. I felt shameful, disgusted, and ignominious.
Before he left, he told me that it should remain ‘our little secret’ and I being scared to death, agreed. He told me that even if I were to tell this to someone it would be of no use as no one is going to believe me. What a shameful thing to be thought of as a liar and my parents would rather kick me out of the house and soon I would be the most notorious child of the family.
And I thought the same, why would anyone believe me? After all who was I? Just a child. And who was he? He was an adult and the ‘nice uncle’ of our family.
So I remained silent like thousands of other children who are abused every single day. Although I didn’t stand up for myself, I didn’t seek justice. I decided I’ll go with flow. I told myself it could be a misunderstanding even though deep inside, I always knew he had done a ‘dirty thing’ to me, I didn’t even have a name for it so guilt became my middle name. I grew obnoxious of my own self.
I was caught in the realm of unanswered questions. How could I let such a thing happen to me? I blamed myself for it. Had I lost my honor, my dignity? How would I be able to get it back? What would my parents think of me when they come to know about this. Are they ever going to forgive me? Would I ever be able to forgive them for leaving me with my 70 year old grandma? Would I ever be able to confront my nice uncle? Would I ever be courageous enough to tell my parents not to leave a child alone with an old grandma or tell my Grandma not to leave any other child of our family alone with any uncle however nice he seems to be? Will I ever be ever to forget this.
To my horror, I didn’t forget it but fortunately I did move on.”
This isn’t just the story of a girl, it is the story of more than 40 million children abused every year worldwide.
What is it exactly which makes such a heinous crime “shameful” for its victim rather than the molester? Is it merely because the abusers cause victims to feel stigmatized, deviant and responsible for the molestation or the cultural, social and religious barriers?
With sex still being considered a taboo in Pakistan and the unwillingness to discuss it making easier for abuse to happen? Or is this some Western propaganda as Maulvi Abdul Haq, a prayer leader at a local mosque in Lahore claims.
Whatever the reasons be, I know one thing for sure that Child abuse exists! Denying child sexual abuse is the acme of apathy. It exists in this very world we live in. It exists in Pakistan and if someone was to say that it exists in one’s neighborhood or in one’s family, I’d definitely believe that.
Child abusers come in all shapes, sizes, forms and not to neglect the fact that in all genders. Child sexual abuse is an epidemic, don’t treat it as an issue; it is a disease and that too, a well prevalent one! Every disease has a cause and most of the times, a cure too.
Why is our society so vulnerable to child abuse? Is it because of the joint family system but it hasn’t spared the western world.
The truth is that the pedophils know no geographical limits as I mentioned before.
So what can you do? Well first,we as a society, as a country and as humans need to accept the reality that every child is prone to sexual abuse and that it’s not the child’s fault if he or she is abused. It’s your fault that you let that happen. I’m not saying to be overprotective of your children, give them their space, let them grow on their own but since you’re a parent keep a watch on who is interacting with them and HOW. There is a fine line in being overprotective and being protective. Your child deserves your protection,attention and affection so treat them accordingly. Don’t make your children vulnerable to fell prey to those ogres by not treating them equally. Since you’re an adult now, you should be able to differentiate between the kinds of affection one shows towards a child. Listen to your instincts, don’t ignore the red flags, observe how the ‘chacha’ who works at your home or drives your car or some relative from your family shows intimacy towards your younger siblings. The ‘maali’ who keeps your garden all fresh and green can turn your vibrant child into an impoverished field where only insecurities dwell as weeds. Don’t let that happen, your child, every child, deserves a better life.
If you have been abused or are currently a victim of abuse and have not yet spoken out, I urge you to reach out to someone who’d trust you. Speak your heart out. Don’t hide your story, it doesn’t make you any shameful rather it makes you a warrior. You too are strong and courageous and deserve to live an abuse free life. Don’t be discouraged if the first person doesn’t support you, look around, keep on searching you’ll find the one who deserves to be taken into confidence.
Stand with me, no longer as a victim but as a survivor; as a warrior! Speak out, let the world know so that people believe it exists, so that they take measures to prevent the future generations to become the victim of this horrendous crime, so that no more children have to go through the agony of being sexually abused.
We can and we must play our part to eradicate this disease. Today, right now, make a vow to protect the children around you from any such monsters who might disguise as fairy Godmother. Each and everyone of us can be a superhero and trust me we don’t even need capes because courage and determination is all what it takes!