India’s hot summer sun filtered through the wooden window panes onto the pages of her book. An easy Tuesday morning meant being able to relax in her room until going to a friend’s house a few hours later. Sister pushed aside the curtain in the door frame and sat beside her.
“Uncle is here,” Sister said as she pulled down the bottom of the girl’s nightgown to cover what skin was exposed before leaving the room.
Who is Uncle? She thought to herself. Usually, the house was absent of males since father had left long before.
Uncle walked into the room, by himself, and looked around evaluating each of her belongings separately. His eyes were brown with a darkened shade of cream instead of white. Shorter in height with a build of what would be expected of a man in his 40’s. He stared. After examining the room, he examined her.
“No TV? No stereo? Very simple room you have here. I own the shop where your fan was bought. Isn’t it nice to have the breeze in this heat?”
Sister must have heard Uncle’s voice since she came back quickly and sat beside her again. He asked about her favorite foods, how she liked living in the village, how she spent her days. Simple questions, yet the eager look in his eyes kept her shifting in her fragile skin.
Mother entered the room and Uncle reached into his pocket to present a couple of eggs from the local market. He demanded that Mother make omelete’s with the fresh eggs. Both Mother and Sister left to prepare them, leaving her with him again. Alone. He towered over her as she remained sitting on the bamboo mat on the floor.
Why isn’t he leaving as well?
Even with the fan on, the air became hotter and thicker. Uncle told her how he lived in the back of the shop with his wife and two kids- maybe she could go over sometime and meet them. He said something and then leaned over to kiss the girl on the forehead, both hands embracing her face in his palms. He leaned down again kissing first her left cheek and then her right.
Never did a kiss feel so bitter.
She froze as she heard Uncle exhale through his nostrils.
Something isn’t right. Is this what Uncles do? Where is Mother and Sister?
Where Sister had sat before, Uncle now sat. More questions.
“Do you drink? Smoke?”
Why is he asking these things? What is his hand doing on my knee?
His deep gaze was even more disturbing as he sat closer to eye level.
Mother and Sister re-entered with a cooked omelete. Uncle quickly stood up and took the plate. Mother left to check the early afternoon chai. Cutting off a bite, he pushed the fork into the girls face until she ate the egg off the metal prongs. Then Sister. One bite each was enough and both girls refused his awkward offer for seconds.
“Do you have a measuring tape? A new tailored shirt is what she needs!”
Sister lied and told Uncle there were none in the house. They both knew there was one under Sister’s bed. A tailor measures people all the time for new outfits and that’s ok.
Does he only want to measure for a salwar top so he can have his hands closely around my chest?
She pulled her night gown around her so it loosely laid over her body. Concealing her shape within the blue and white pattern.
“How about a dance! Do you like to dance to music? I’ll be leaving soon so you should stand and dance!”
Stand? What, so you can look even more intently at the body I am trying to conceal from your gaze?
She grew weary of his comments and his stare. An object to gawk. She sunk her shoulders even further forward and looked at Sister.
Is this normal for Uncle’s? Why is he still in my room? Please, make him leave!
Her ears shut out the tone of his voice as he kept rambling to Sister. Sister said something and Uncle left to find Mother in the kitchen cleaning dishes.
Sitting there, she tried to read another page of her book but couldn’t focus. His eyes, those yellow brown glaring eyes… the hand on her thigh as he stared at her with those eyes. And the kiss- not a sweet kiss as from a mother embracing the child she loves. No, rather a bitter kiss by a man abusing his position over another- tainting her skin with the sound and touch of lust.
… that girl was me. About three months into my time in India. Looking back, I feel like such an idiot. I should have known better than to let “Uncle”, who wasn’t anything more than a shop owner in town, to stay in the room. Unsure of the cultural differences when it pertains to family members, I sat there not knowing how to react. Instead of doing anything, I sat there like a sitting duck. I’m 24 years old, and was even reading a book called Bitter Chocolate about child sexual abuse in India. I remember turning the book over so he couldn’t see the cover. The pages I had just read were about adults taking advantage of their authority on others, and yet there I was frozen when it was happening to me. What if I had been a local four year old? How helpless are they from these types of situations from reoccurring and progressing into child sexual abuse?
41,594,735 young boys and 62,853,160 young girls up to the age of 14 were projected to be sexually abused in India by 2002. That’s one in for four boys and almost half of the girls. People taking advantage of their authority to deliberately humiliate or torment others isn’t something pretty to think about- which could be why child sexual abuse is one of the best kept, yet darkest, secrets. We may think that it only happens to “those” types of people. Our attempt to expand the gap between our idealistic world and reality is only hurting our nation of youth. Our lack of knowledge on child sexual abuse neglects the idea of stepping in as an aware adult wanting to protect and help those traumatized and those cases we could have helped prevent.
After re-reading the academic definitions of child sexual abuse in the book, I don’t know if it would be wise to type it out on a blog where someone of any age can read it. Part of me says no because of the graphic nature and it makes us uncomfortable to realize how perverted people are, but the other part says yes because it is a serious issue. How are we to understand an issue if we don’t know the meanings behind the terms? Luckily for you, after looking through my journal, I realize that I didn’t actually write down the graphic definition from the book. Here is a much calmer version:
Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent abuses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of CSA include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure of the genitals to a child, displaying pornography to a child, actual sexual contact against a child, physical contact with the child’s genitals, viewing of the child’s genitalia without physical contact, or using a child to produce child pornography.
It’s amazing how twisted and perverted humankind is. On the wall surrounding a college I would pass everyday going into Kolkata, there were multiple graffiti where students had painted images of the world depicting how we need to save the environment. Conserve water. Stop polluting. One even said “Stop spitting. It’s not an urge!” This may not make sense to anyone who hasn’t walked the streets and almost been spit on multiple times. Men, women, black stuff, gross nose rocket slime… it’s gross. Oh, how gross it is to see the evidence of the urge to spit.
After reading Guilty Without Trial which says the universal explanation for the existence of a sex industry is man’s uncontrollable sex drive, aka “the urge”, Terrify No More dealing with the injustices on young children sold into brothels to supply the demand of a certain type of “urge”, I wonder how mankind got to this point of no self-limitation.
“It is difficult to bring ourselves to sacrifice and self-denial because in political, public and private life we have long since dropped the golden key of self-restraint to the ocean floor. But self-limitation is the fundamental and wisest aim of a man who has obtained his freedom. It is also the surest path towards its attainment. If we do not learn to limit firmly our desires to moral criteria, we, humankind, will simply be torn apart as the worst aspectsof human nature bare their teeth. It has been pointed by various thinkers many times: If a personality is not directed at values higher than the self, corruption and decay inevitably take hold. We can only experience true spiritual satisfaction not in seizing, but in refusing to seize. In other words: self-limitation.” -Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, author and winner of the Nobel, in an essay on the abuse of the world’s environment although I believe what he says pertains to much more in life.
In an age where everything and anything is at our fingertips and we are told to take advantage of the opportunities at hand, limiting ourselves seems, well, confining. Yet it is a life directed towards a higher purpose and not giving in to our lustful desires that will lead to experiencing true spiritual satisfaction. Oh, how the world loves to pervert what is supposed to be pure. In the case of child sexual abuse, this lack of limitation is tearing apart our children inside and out..
Child sexual abuse can start as early as a newborn and has the possibility of not stopping until the child is able to leave the house. Someone they are supposed to respect and who is supposed to love and protect them, like a father or uncle, abuses their authority and responsibility to protect the child and instead has violated them. The child becomes confused at what and why things are happening and starts doubting their identity and existence. Shame wraps around them as they feel isolated from the world. Telling someone about it is seen as a huge risk. Even a one time experience as a little boy or girl damages the psychological health of the man or woman they will become.
In India, there have been cases where an older brother will molest their younger sibling. When the 8 year old goes to their mother, the child is told that she is lying and then quickly married off to protect the family name for she wasn’t virtuous anymore. Nothing is done to the brother for he is seen as not being able to do anything wrong. Another girl felt too ashamed of herself to tell her mother about the Uncle who was living with them touching her late at night. She wanted to flee but felt she couldn’t because then he would go for her younger sisters so for years and years she put up with him. A boy is fondled by an older family friend and became an obsessive hand washer to the point of bleeding when scrubbing.
“It needs to be said out very loud that sex is not about making love and making love is not about penetration, ejaculation and orgasm. It needs to be understood quickly that genital sex cannot be connoted as mainstream sexuality and that virtue cannot reside only in a woman’s vagina, it can well be in a male body. Virtue, after all, is an internal state, virginity is a choice and the vagina is an anatomical structure. There are two messages which need to be changed. That maleness is not a natural endowment, rather a precarious state which you must achieve at all costs, that the penis has a mind of its own and once aroused it has to do its own thing. Any message that can underscore the point that males need to stop f***ing little girls and boys, along with their childhood, is welcome.” -Dr Seshodri who works towards true masculinity awareness workshops in colleges.
Although it would be great if we could put all the responsibility and blame on child sexual abuse perpetrators for destroying children, we must share that responsibility. Evil thrives when good people do nothing, therefore, the good people need to be proactive in protecting our children as well as helping those struggling. For too long, we have blinded ourselves from the signs and created a world that makes it difficult to come forth when hurting.
Society labels people all the time whether we acknowledge it or not. We see kids as the rebellious against authority, the irresponsible failing student, the aggressor who loses their temper at the drop of a pin. We label and write them off having no future. Something has happened in that child’s life to cause those outward effects of evidence. What if they are rebellious against authority because the cousin they are supposed to respect didn’t respect their private parts? Maybe they are failing in school because their father comes into their room late at night, molesting them when they should be sleeping therefore resulting in the inability to focus during school hours because of fatigue? Could they feel powerless against their abuser resulting in a false toughness and redirected aggression, creating a barrier to keep others from getting close and feeling vulnerable? Those aren’t examples taken from the book written about India but rather of close friends or girls I have worked with in Indiana. Although the other servant team members felt distant from this topic, I couldn’t. I couldn’t stop thinking about the girls and women back home that I know who were sexually abused.
It sucks. It sucks hearing the pain in a teen’s voice as she opens up about the rape that caused her to become pregnant at 13. Since she was a kid with a “history” the police didn’t believe her. Yes, she has a history of getting in trouble with the law, but what about her hidden history of getting molested which could be the root of the problem? Telling her mother took serious guts. Then to retell the horrors to the police of a male friend who she had told him she wouldn’t date, lied about his mother being home, gave her some water after her long walk, put a date rape pill in there, his forcefulness as he whispers of her wanting it in her ear, she trying to leave but unable to move her body… and then not to be believed by police?
“In the Indian setting refusal to act on the testimony of a victim of sexual assault in the absence of corroboration is adding insult to injury. Why should the evidence of the girl or the woman who complains of rape or sexual molestation be viewed with the aid of spectacles fitted with lenses tinged with doubt, disbelief or suspicion? To do so is to justify the charge of male chauvinism in a male dominated society. On the principle, the evidence of a victim of sexual assault stands on par with the evidence of an injured witness.” – An Indian judges opinion on a case against a man who sexually abused his daughter’s child-friend who had come to their home to play.
I pray that we become a nation where those who are hurting don’t feel threatened by those who are supposed to help.
I pray we would stop stereotyping and look down upon others.
I pray that we would look past the rough outer layer of individuals and instead look at the brokenness that is within us all.
I pray we wouldn’t write people off but rather get to know them and listen to their stories.
I pray more people will become aware and sensitive to the signs of child sexual abuse and intervene as early as possible on the behalf of innocent individuals.
I pray that adults will keep each other accountable for their actions; that we would stop glorifying sex and thinking of sex as an urge we can’t restrain from.
We can’t eliminate the past but we can be the one that helps others move forward, to be a presence of peace when their life has been a hellish storm, to love and build trust with those who have been rejected and betrayed, to give hope of purpose when there is a deep sense of despair. We have a God that loves us even when the world has chosen to be corrupt. A God of justice who wants us to be his hands and feet bring about that justice in a real way.
Today, I saw two girls ages about 10 and 7 walking around a store in shorts without any sort of top on. Instantly, I was angered at what I saw. Does the mother not know what she is doing by letting her children walk around like that? While walking the streets of India, it wasn’t uncommon to see begging children with only shorts on or to see a child naked laying next to their mother on the edge of the sidewalk. I saw how vulnerable the children were with being physically exposed to everyone and saw how easy of a target they were. I thought of the children born in the brothels where their mothers would put them under the bed while she pleasured a man just a couple of feet above their head. Makes me wonder how often those innocent children are sexually abused by those men. Tonight, I watched a show about toddlers in pageants and the importance placed on beauty- at 3 years old. All dolled up with make up, big hair, swinging hips, and little outfits creating a very young sexualized image. To some degree, are we teasing those who have a hard time with self limitation towards young children? People, please protect our kids.
Well, by now, it is really late and am going off more tangents than I should. God help us all…
“Children can have two types of deaths.
The real one.
And the one later, when they grow up, which people see.”
-Bitter Chocolate, pg 230