Shares a lady...
I was abused by my uncle in my house when I was 13. He took me to his room and he completely undressed me. He started fingering me. I was in shock and really scared. Once he was done, He washed his hands and he told I was fine and didn't need any medicines for my leg pain. I have not shared this with anyone in the family yet. I am 28 now and married, he is 94 and alive and healthy for a person at 94. I still have the creeps when I meet him. I was wearing a frock when the incident happened.
The above experience is the real story of a woman who found the courage to share. Sexual abuse is one thing which a woman dreads to report about. Either she is very young to understand what is happening with her or she is unaware of the procedure to report or in many other cases, it is just a matter of shame. It is also evident through many cases that some women don't talk about it fearing societal or family pressure. There are many incidents of sexual abuse which go unnoticed and becomes one haunting memory for life. Just because women don't gather the courage to share their horrible sexual abuse, they become anti-social and some slip into depression. But now, things have slightly changed. Unfortunately, sexual abuse cases have not come down by a drastic number but many helping hands have come ahead to support.
A group of like-minded have come up with a website and a tweet handle ‘How Revealing’ which provides a platform to women for reporting their experience of sexual abuse and helps them to unburden themselves. “I decided to start this website project because I realised that a lot of people go through experiences that never speak about for a variety of reasons. So, the website is a safe space for people to share without feeling judged for whatever emotion they are experiencing - whether it is guilt, apathy, shame, fear, these are complex emotions and we want to website to be an outlet. I also realised that a lot of people do not share because they think they are alone in their struggle or experience, and a project like this helps people know that there are many others like them. The website is also our attempt at changing the narrative of victim shaming and blaming that usually accompany incidents of sexual violence,” said the founder who chose to keep her name anonymous.
Until now, 90 women have shared their ideas and there are 105 chilling stories you will get to read on the website. Sadly, 60% of their stories are of child sexual abuse and many others are of of people who have assaulted by someone known to them.
‘How Revealing’ is not a gender biased platform and anyone who has encountered sexual abuse can report to the website.“We are not a platform for women alone, anyone who had an experience of sexual assault or sexual harassment in India can post on the website. Our platform also provides links to support organisations on our ‘Support page’ where people can access these organisations as per their convenience and if they feel they need. So we are trying to make it easier for people to access mental health support,” said the founder (name has been kept anonymous on request). She also believes that there is definitely a need for a dedicated platform like theirs which performs the function of allowing people to post, share and read the stories. She thinks it is crucial that a platform like this exists so the people know they are not alone and they are not the only ones who have gone through something. Also, it functions as a mirror to Indian society, to increase awareness and help people understand how widespread and common sexual assault may be.
“We do have stories from people who have never spoken about it and are experiencing trauma and depression because of the incident. Some are extremely grateful for the platform as they have stated that the first time they shared their experience was on How Revealing,” added the founder. Mostly they get stories from people in their 20s or 30s who have gone through child sexual abuse.
Shares a man...
When I was 7 and living in a joint family, my mausi (aunt) used to shower me with love and make me stay in her room. At night she would be naked and ask me to perform oral sex on her. This continued for a year. I had no idea what was happening. Next year, we moved out of our joint family and I start living with my parents and elder sister. Now it was her turn. For next 3 years, she would have sex with me. I do not know what was it that she wanted. She was older and I followed her commands. I was scared when guests came over. I blamed myself for everything. I never felt that my sister was doing anything wrong. The first time I "acknowledged" my sexual abuse was at the age of 20. I developed a sexual addiction by the age of 23 leading to the destruction of my relationships. I also became addicted to porn. My life and approach to relationships had been ruined. Every time I met my sister, it would twist my soul. Now I live in Norway. It was only last year when my current partner (she is a doctor) introduced me to a psychologist that I was able to make peace with my past. The emotional damage that I suffered has altered me personally forever. I still lack the ability to trust. I am not sure if I can recover it.
Another such platform is 'KrantiKali' a social media profile on Facebook and Instagram (also known as 'The Liminal Lens'). It is a multi-platform, social start-up working toward the gender revolution, with an aim to educate, spread awareness and generate discussions on gender equality.
“Eve teasing, stalking, flashing and unwanted sexual advances at the workplace are some of the stories that were almost generic to all women. Women are willing to speak about issues given an accessible medium. Approaching women for something like this has been difficult at times which is, of course, is very understandable. But when I show them the Instagram feed and they read the comments etc they realise it’s a safe medium and that by sharing their stories they are furthering the discourse on the topic. Usually, they speak of situations where they thought it was a minor incident to report. It's beyond finding empathy it's giving other women the strength to be able to talk about and that there's nothing to be ashamed of. Talking about it as they felt it be very therapeutical and knowing/hopeful that it will help give other women the strength come forward and share their experiences with sexual harassment because talking about it is still a taboo, shameful, hopefully they'll also be able to report it,” said Bhani Rachel Bali, founder of ‘KrantiKali’.
She adds that sexual harassment is a fairly common occurrence for Indian women which still goes unreported in cases where women can’t pinpoint the perpetrator for example in crowded spaces such as trains/buses/marketplace. “We mostly get a lot of messages across India through social media-Twitter, Facebook and Instagram-where women have asked for legal help regarding domestic violence. We got a lot of people asking us to direct them as to how to proceed for help in such cases of sexual harassment at workplace. In the case of those seeking legal help we reconnect them to lawyers and social workers,” said Bhani Rachel Bali.
Shares a lady...
I was abused by my uncle in my house when I was 13. It went on till 10 mins, he kissed me forcefully and made me feel his genitals. It is been 7 years now but I am still affected by it. In 2012, I told it to my mom and shockingly I got to know that man has harassed her when she was younger. What disturbs me the most is not being able to speak up. I can't tell anyone because it will break our family.
The group asking questions is mostly social media users - early 20s and late teenage, but there are times when the issue is raised by their friends or family.
Shares a lady...
She was walking back to her apartment from the bus stand about 3 years ago. It was just a 5-minute walk home entirely along the main road. She wasn't taking a shadowy, ominous route home. It was a brightly lit road, with constant traffic on it. She was walking with her head down because she learnt that not making eye contact in public spaces makes her less susceptible to unwanted attention. She caught a glimpse of this guy walking towards me. He brushed her shoulders as he passed her and he grabbed her behind (posterior). She was so petrified in that moment she couldn't even scream. He ran away. She reached home, completely shaken, angry and scared. It happened so fast, she wouldn't even be able to recognize him if she saw him again. She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt when the incident happened.
These incidents are real and as you are reading this, some or the other women must be getting molested nearby. A woman or man who is a victim and the one who knows about the incident should speak up. It is high time, victims should not hide themselves fearing societal pressure but should stand tall and report the abuse. Today we have platforms to raise our voice and bring about a change. It is important we use it the right way. It is time to act, and react.