Trigger warning: This article narrates scenes of child sexual abuse, it may act as a trigger for survivors.
Life is at a standstill, owing to the current pandemic situation. Lockdown, an inevitable vital step, but none the less a lazy vacation; ensures we get ample rest and rest and some more rest. Idling in front of my laptop, with my home screen on, a question struck. How do we feel about this day? Google immediately cleared my queries. The sixth day of the month of July is demarcated the International Kissing Day.
As weird as it may sound, each hiker on a different trek would eventually end up at the same view. It is to rejoice; celebrate the feeling of being in love. A kiss is a statement; a basic instinct to express affection during surges of happy emotions.
The train of thoughts took me a few years back. I had come across a platform, people speaking out against abuse and victimization. One article voiced self-experience; written by Pakhi, an old schoolmate; shy yet friendly and helpful.
As I was scanning through the article, feelings of disgust, rage and empathy curdled. No one is liable to justify the misfortune of being an abuse survivor. Pakhi had been barely 9. Her article was written in the third person.
“Pakhi felt at ease, a familiar face amid the anxious guardians waiting outside the school gates. Alok Dada (Older Brother) was her father’s secretary; an ideal, intelligent, diligent man; excellent at his work, a trusted employee. Standing at 1.7 meters, he was practically a giant for her. He differed vastly from all the other people around her; kind eyes, jolly nature, and a warm aura. She had never experienced the joy of having her parents pick her up from school, but she used to look forward to her time with Dada. He would listen to her talk and smile at her childish jokes; in return, talking animatedly about fables she had never heard of. He used to buy her favourite cheap orange candies, those which mothers forbade in dread of tooth decay. She loved him in her own small way.
Pakhi imbibed the habit of reading books from an early age; hours stuck up in her little library, fuelling her imagination. Her parents feared that she would be lonely and introverted, but she had no complaints, Dada was always there to listen; an important existence in her life.
Alok Dada used to talk about his daughter, Risha. His fondness was evident every time his eyes used to light up. Pakhi had imagined her through the eyes of her father. As she had no siblings of her own. She had reserved a little corner in her heart for her.
A week before Risha’s 9th birthday, Pakhi and Maa had planned out a nice gift for her; a card and a beautiful violet princess frock. Pakhi gave Dada Risha’s birthday gift. Rejoicing in the thoughtfulness this small kid had spared for his daughter, he picked her up in his arms and kissed her lightly on her lips; a genuine show of affection, it seemed. But this time he had forgotten to mention, “Pakhi baby, it is our little secret. No one needs to know. It is because we love each other.”
Pakhi’s innocent mind had registered that it was safe to tell Maa since it was not a secret. She was perplexed. Why this took a turn for the worse?
Maa was shattered on hearing about it, sobbing and asking her to explain what other secrets they had. She shared about those frequently showered kisses and forceful, rough touches.
That was the last day Pakhi had seen Alok Dada. As she grew up and understood what she had been through was sexual abuse, her mind withdrew and shut itself. She felt violated and disgusted. The scars left years ago etched into her memory, itched and no amount of scrubbing or scratching brought relief. How could someone as Alok Dada be a predator? A model of a man, feasting upon the innocent lamb. She had trusted him to protect her, but he was the one exploiting.”
Years of therapy and meditation sessions later, she was finally out of her nutshell, voicing her self-experience, opinions and fights against abuse. Children have the biggest of hearts to recognize and love kindness in any form. We should protect this innocence, as it is prone to attract exploiters.
A kiss is a statement; a basic instinct to express affection during surges of happy emotions. A kiss is to celebrate love, not the hunger of a predator.
The primary equations to fight against child sexual abuse are:
Familiarizing ourselves on noticing changes in their behaviour
Educating our children on the difference between right and wrong touches and kisses
Encouraging them to speak their minds.
The people at large have a moral obligation to speak up against such predatory behaviour. It is within our potential to step up. A little concern, a small gesture that can save a child from getting his/her innocence robbed.
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