My father ensured I slept next to him, clad only in my innerwear. He insisted it was good for ventilation.
I was born in Chennai in a place called Adyar. My father was a businessman, my mother a teacher who quit the year I was born. I remember as a child wanting to ride my father’s back, like an elephant, but he always stopped me. He was away a lot, travelling on business tours. I lost my mother when I turned three, and was brought up by my grandmother who died when I turned 11. Since I was the only child, my relatives suggested I should be sent away to a boarding school. I said no. I was afraid of living alone.
My father would always insist I stay with him in his room. He always wanted me to sleep besides him, clad only in my undergarments. I was never allowed to wear a shirt or even a top. Every night I would find his hands on me. When I’d ask what he was doing, he would say, he was simply checking whether I’d fallen asleep or not. And would threaten me by saying that if I didn’t sleep he would send me off to a boarding school.
When I attained puberty and my breasts started growing, I used to feel embarrassed sleeping bare-chested next to him. Once I recall going to my father’s native place, for a cousin’s wedding, and everyone was shell-shocked to see that at 14, I was still not wearing a brassiere. One of my aunts shouted at me, and finally bought and gave me my first inners, including a vest. I, too, was surprised to see all my cousins sleep with their clothes on, and upon returning home, I questioned my father about this unusual practice. This time too he threatened to send me off to a boarding school.
As a child, I loved to be on Microsoft Paint. When I was 12, my father shared the computer password with me, but made it a point that I could only use it in his presence. If I would be wearing a skirt or a gown, he would make me sit on his lap, after yanking up my clothing… I hated it, and slowly I began to hate painting too.
Looking back, I never realised that he was sexually abusing me. I always thought what my father was doing was normal.
I began hating my life at home. Actually, one of the happiest moments of my life was right after the wedding in the family, when there were lots of relatives at home, and I got many presents. For two months, I slept separately. Sadly, as soon as they departed, I was forced to sleep with him again. Sometimes, I begged my father to sleep with his clothes on. He would flatly refuse. Even during my menstrual cycle, I would not be allowed to wear anything extra. I used to go with my friends and buy inner garments once in a while, but once I lost all my money. When my father got to know, he promised to buy them for me. One night, he asked me to wear only my inner garments. He wanted to “check my fitness”. He began to touch me. That night, I protested, saying I will not sleep half clad and even told him I was ready to be sent to a boarding school.
When I was in class 10, we were taken on a school tour. I was relieved as it meant getting away from home. Even though he didn’t grant me permission, I went anyway with borrowed money from a friend and using some of my own pocket money. My father created a huge scene in my school the night I got back. He was drunk. He attempted to abuse me. When I tried putting up a fight, he removed his belt, began to hit me and then he did it. I was wounded, my lower abdomen was throbbing with pain. I couldn’t even walk properly after that. He sent a note to my school saying I will not be able to continue my studies. I called a few relatives and showed them the bruises the belt had made on my back. Honestly, I didn’t really know how to and with whom to share what he had been doing to me all along. I was subsequently packed off to a boarding school. There too, I never opened up. I was always painfully shy… I never realised my own father had been trying to have sex with me.
My father’s name is Stanley Jason Arvind.
“Till my class 12, I remained in hostel. I never wanted to go home, even during vacations. Hostel was the best time of my life because my father never once came to visit me.”
My father would call on the hostel landline and ask me to return home, threatening to not pay my fees. I retaliated once by saying I would first discuss this with my mother’s relatives. He promptly cut the call. I was naïve to think he was angry, when in reality he was just worried I’ll spill the beans on him. After several warning letters, my fees used to get paid. I never received any pocket money and was deprived of going on many school tours because of this. Whenever a relative visited, they gave me Rs 200 to Rs 300 that I ended up saving just to be able to buy myself sanitary napkins.
In all that time, I had only one close friend, Sirisha Venkatraman. She often lent me money. In class 11, I only had two sets of bras and panties that I changed on alternate days. They were ridden with holes.
I resented the idea of going home on vacations, and often spent them at Siri’s instead. She sometimes slept near her father, but there was nothing wrong or dirty. He was such a gentleman, always joking with her, dancing with her. I didn’t know why my father could not be the way he was. I remember once writing a letter to him asking him what his problem was…
I spent my class 12 holidays in my mother’s family home, away from Chennai, in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. Owing to some problems with my father, they never talked to him or visited our home. It was them who helped me join Ethiraj College in Chennai on a government quota, as I wasn’t able to pay my full fees. I also began working in event management companies as a host/promoter for shows. Siri would mostly accompany me. Being more of a tom boy, she felt like my bodyguard.
My father is pure evil. My mind said I should report him to the police, but I always feared he would come back later and harass me. Besides, I was afraid I had no evidence against him… no body on my side…
There is a saying in the Bible that one should stay away from evil. That’s what I am doing. I met my father once during college admissions, but since then I have avoided him. Somehow I never knew when he was abusing me, I could actually have him put behind bars if I wanted. I still want him punished for what he did to me.
When I opened my eyes, I saw that I was in the backseat of a car parked near the beach. Raju slapped me hard a couple of times and shouted, “Bitch, you let your dad f*ck you, but you refused to wear my dress. I paid your fees.” I begged him saying, “Sorry Anna,” but he began removing my jeans and top, insisting I have to “suck his friends’ d*cks”. Only then would he drop me back to my hostel…
I did my MBA in Rai Business School with Siri. I needed more money for my projects and assignments, after my mother’s relatives cleared my fees for the first semester. It’s where I met Raju. He was a classmate and Siri’s friend. He always referred to himself as my brother. Being in an events company, he also helped me by giving me work. He was even kind enough to pay my fees for the second semester. Raju would come to me and say I could share anything with him. One day he asked me why I took Siri everywhere. I confessed I was afraid of men. He asked me the reason. I remained quiet.
Another time he coaxed me into telling him everything. You are like my sister, he kept saying. When I told him the sordid details of my life. The truth. He said it is fine, and that there’s nothing to worry to now. He added that in case I was tense about venturing out alone, I could always call him. He was there for me. He’d protect me.
After a few days, he called saying he needed an MC for a bride’s maiden ceremony. He asked me specifically not to tell Siri about this and that he would personally look after my security. When he came to pick me from my hostel, I sensed he was a bit drunk. I didn’t panic at the point, knowing he was like a “brother” to me. He handed me a bag, asking me to wear a dress he had carried for the event. It was a short skirt, so I resisted saying I wasn’t carrying any stockings. He said it was fine.
When we reached the club, it was already packed. The party was on in full swing. I asked when I had to go on stage, and he replied, “in two hours”. I panicked, sensing I would be late in getting back to the hostel. I also expressed my discomfort about wearing the dress. I refused to put it on. I could see he was getting angry.
He then handed me a drink, said it was a welcome drink. However, the drink was flat, so I put it away. He then handed me another. Reluctantly, I took a sip. That’s when the whole room started to rotate… I told him I was feeling sick and asked to be dropped back at once. I couldn’t even walk straight, so a few of his friends walked back with us. I didn’t mind, I knew Raju was there with me. I sat in the front and must have dozed off. I felt like I was flying. It was hard to keep my eyes open.
When I finally came to my senses, I realised I was in the backseat of a car parked near the beach. Raju slapped me hard on my face a couple of times. He was shouting, “Bitch, you let your dad f*ck you, but you refused to wear my dress… I paid your fees.” I begged him saying, “Sorry Anna,” but he began removing my jeans and top, insisting I have to suck “his friends’ d*cks”. Only then would he drop me back. Or else he’d leave me naked on the beach.
God was perhaps on my side that evening because while Raju was yanking off my jeans, my phone accidentally called Siri. Her number used to be on the top of my speed dial list. She ended up overhearing the conversation. By then, the men who had accompanied Raju had begun to remove my inners and were forcing themselves on me.
Siri called Raju and threatened him to leave me alone. Her call scared him, I think. He told his friends to back off, gave me back the clothes I was wearing, and dropped me off to another friend’s room, who was close to Siri.
I didn’t attend college for a week. I just couldn’t. Siri tried her best to get me back to normal, and even her father visited us. After a fortnight, our college woke up to the shocking news that Raju’s car had met with a fatal accident en route from Pondicherry.
I felt as if God had punished him.
I am afraid of travelling alone in lifts with men. Each time I use a taxi, I make fake phone calls so the driver knows I am talking to someone. I am petrified of the dark. It was there in the dark that my father raped me…
After finishing college, I struggled to make ends meet, till I finally got through to an event management company – a domain I think is my core strength. I still have a problem with men. I remember in college I used to scream each time there was a power cut. Now I search frantically for my phone. Whenever a man comes near me, I feel frightened thinking he will touch me inappropriately. I consciously avoid crowded buses, malls and trains. My cost of living inevitably goes up since I commute by autos or cabs all the time. Whenever there was conversations of sex back in college, I would find myself irritated. Many a time I didn’t recruit a male colleague out of mere apprehension. Perhaps I need to meet a good psychologist to help clear my mind of the past.
Initially I was afraid to go out. I couldn’t sleep properly and began taking sleeping pills to numb my pain… I even tried killing myself…
Siri was an angel really, who saved me. Now, she’s married and settled in the US. We stay in touch over mails and Skype. I have shared my past with one person, and was so humiliated and violated, that I am not ready for the next… is what I always told myself.
There should be an international court for women with rules and legal codes of conduct that apply internationally. Rape is not an Indian phenomenon alone. Like how NATO and UN has courts that decide on war crimes… what about the war on women? Why not for crimes that we face daily?
You know I wanted to kill him when I read in the papers what the accused in the Nirbhaya case said about women and rape. One day Mukesh Singh, I hope, will realise that any woman can be a soft target… Boys have to be taught by there mothers how to respect women.
I Googled to find a woman swimming instructor, but did not find one, so I learnt on my own by drowning inside a four feet pool. It was safer this way, I suppose.
There are so many rehabilitation centers for drug addicts, but why are there not enough for women rape victims? It’s like this – whenever you keep a precious gem, it’s not safe. You store it carefully within, outside, protect it by tucking it away in a concrete box, still there lurks an element of harm. Women are precious. Their bodies. Their soul. Their identity is under threat.
There’s an old Tamil song.
“If a thief doesn’t realise his mistakes and change his character, we cannot stop the theft…”
It applies to men.
We cannot win this battle alone. Let the change begin…
What I have shared with you will not change the mindset of a rapist, but it will I hope spread awareness.
Three months ago, a woman I met on a bus in Hyderabad who shared her story with me. That was the seed I guess. Then when I read your pieces, I realised that keeping numb will not help erase my past, neither better my own future. Sexual abuse isn’t the end of a woman’s life. It wakes up a latent monster in her, making her stronger, independent, more confident to face the uncertain tomorrow on her own feet. Believe in yourself, never worry about falling down.
(All names in the story are original on the request of the survivor.)