The skeletons tumbled out as I chose to speak the truth

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I grew up in a household where speaking the truth was not just encouraged but diligently practiced. Baba always believed that when one speaks the truth, one always stays true to their conscience. Besides the stated facts always stay the same. Ma had the same version personalized when she had asked me to always be the first one to let them know the truth, even if it was something that might leave them appalled. Such principles shaped my nature and character in such a way that I grew extremely close and comfortable with my parents. I knew that I was believed in my house and was one of the strongest factors that built my confidence. The only not so likable attribute that I developed because of speaking the truth was my inability to sugar-coat my words or be diplomatic in my approach.

#MeToo was a movement started last year by Tarana Burke that exposed monsters like Harvey Weinstein. Since then, there have been skeletons tumbling out of closets everywhere. However, it is only recently that this movement gained mass momentum in India after Tanushree Dutta called out Nana Patekar in a decade-old case of harassment. And for the past few days, there have been stories about media personalities, journalists, writers and stand up comics. People like Utsav Chakraborty, Gautam Adhikari, Kiran Nagarkar, Kailash Kher and many others have been called out by women who have faced harassment in their hands. India has finally woken up to #MeTooIndia and #TimeUp movement.

Amidst all this, I realize how pathetic the state of affairs is in our country. Is there any girl who has not faced harassment at any level ever? Right from being groped in crowded buses, receiving unsolicited pictures of private parts, getting masturbated at and being felt up, the list seems to be endless. Beyond a point, every girl has learned to keep her sixth sense in the maximum alert mode and be armed with a device for protection like a pepper spray. Even I have had the most horrible experiences. Most of these abusers were random people whose perverted minds derived pleasure from such sickening acts. But what does one do when this kind of sexual predator lurks in their closest circle!

S has been a family friend for ages. His father had been my Baba’s friend and mentor. Despite the huge age difference, I grew up calling S as Dada (elder brother in Bengali). I had met him many times as a child and always found him to be affectionate and caring towards me. So, I was taken aback when I felt his hands brush my chest area on the pretext of picking up a paper from the table. I was barely thirteen then. But I was so sure that it had happened by mistake that I forgot about it soon. Unfortunately, this started becoming a pattern very soon. I met him during family functions and festivals and each time he made me so uncomfortable that I started avoiding him. The mere sight of him would make me run indoors. Sadly, my parents loved him like their own son and they could never understand my sudden disappearances. The hide and seek game went on for another two years till it was my board exams and I was excused from attending all events until I completed my exams.

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WOW prompt by BlogAdda.com

After my board results, he had come with his wife and his infant son to congratulate me. I had no option but to meet him. On the pretext of appreciation, his hands lingered on my shoulders longer than necessary. I was disgusted at this sick man who had no hesitation in feeling up my bra straps in front of his own family. I wanted to tell my parents about him. Knowing the kind of open communication we followed in the house, this shouldn’t have been so difficult. Yet I kept thinking of my father and how disappointed he would be after knowing about this man. I chose to stay silent not because I thought they would not believe or support me but because I didn’t want to shatter their faith in someone they loved so much.

It became a little easier for me after moving out of my hometown for graduation. I returned home only during vacation and avoided meeting him in every possible way. When abuse comes from someone one grows up knowing and believing in, it is plausible to develop trust issues with people of opposite sex. I was always on an alert lest this was repeated by someone else. It was quite heartbreaking that at such a point of life, I was surrounded by people who either didn’t believe that sexual abuse was predominant in most families or they simply chose not to talk about such issues.

After moving to Delhi next, my trips back home were confined to just annual visits once a year rendering it improbable for me to bump into S anymore. In 2004, when Baba was admitted for an emergency surgery, Ma informed me that it was S who had run pillar to post arranging for all the requisite facilities in Kolkata. By the time I could reach Kolkata from Bangalore, Baba had already been successfully operated on and S had proved to be their pillar of strength. I was going through such disturbing thoughts that there were days where I convinced myself to believe that I had imagined most of the incidents. My family had only enhanced their feelings of gratitude towards S while I was fighting my inner demons.

However in 2011 when S took it upon himself to take care of my wedding arrangements, I knew that I was heading towards a nervous breakdown if I didn’t talk about his behavior to someone immediately. T and I had been friends for twelve years before we decided to step up our friendship to a life-long partnership through wedding vows. In the one decade of being his friend, I had known him to be extremely non-judgemental. Also, I didn’t want to start a new life filled with so much emotional baggage. In April 2011, I had come down to my hometown for the Ashirvaad ceremony (Engagement in a traditional Bengali style). I had been waiting for the right moment to talk to him and it happened when we went out on a date exploring Kolkata by ourselves.

I don’t remember what got me speaking but I had suffered in silence for so long that I felt suffocated. Probably, it was also because T was ready to hear me out sans prejudice. I told him everything and he listened to me without questioning any incident. He comforted me when I cried, hugged me when I sounded doubtful about myself and held my hand as I shared the traumatic experiences. By the end of this conversation, I felt relieved. For years, I had kept imagining what it would be like when I tell the truth about sexual abuse from a close family friend. In my mind, I had cooked up scenes of my character being questioned and my words not being trusted because somewhere I had also started assuming that it could have been my fault. But never for once did I think that when I tell the truth, there was also the probability of someone saying ‘I trust every word that you say and I am going to support you unconditionally if you decide to take any action against this.’ These were the words that T said before he dropped me back home that night.

For the past seven years that we have been married, T has stayed true to his words. During the wedding rituals when S had told Baba about his willingness to carry me as the brother of the bride along with my cousin brothers for the saat feras, I had suggested that I would prefer to walk instead of being carried outside by a bunch of men as per the ritual. T had spoken up for me. During the marriage reception, when we stood to receive gifts and presents, T had made sure to be around when S came to wish me. Over the months, at every single encounter, not only did T ensure that he stood by me, but he also helped me muster enough courage to face this predator. S had finally picked up the cues and probably realized that T knew about his true nature. It was his turn to start avoiding us. We had met S and his family on multiple occasions in the past two years but it is amazing how the tables have turned now. It is S who seems to be too busy or preoccupied to meet us these days.

Having lived all by myself for twelve years of my life, I had realized that my defense is my responsibility. I have called out and confronted men who made me feel uncomfortable. But it is always the most difficult task to name and shame someone who is well-known to the victim. The stakes involved are too high. The emotions range from disbelief to disgust but from my personal experience, I can share that though speaking the truth might require a lot of courage yet it is the first step towards the healing process. And if you have someone in your circle who needs to be heard, please do it patiently and without judging them. It is important to trust them if they have decided to share a sore incident of their life.

‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Authors’ note –

There were a lot of stories that I thought of writing after this prompt was announced. However, for this edition, I chose to talk about a dark incident that killed a part of me in the initial years and made me go through a trauma that I bore for a long time. It is only when I decided not to let it overshadow a new beginning that I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel. So, if you want to share your #MeToo story with me here or anywhere on my social media page/DM/PM,Whatsapp, let me assure you that I am going to hear you out and trust your words. Sexual abuse is a hard reality but it is time to let the molesters know that we stand in solidarity to face them heads on.

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Who am I? Ex-Banker turned Blogger/Writer/Solopreneur. Any qualifications? A Post graduate degree in Chemistry followed by Post Graduate Diploma in Management. I am still trying to figure out how and when I can connect all these dots to what I do presently. Have I done any real work? If two years in Market Research and six years in Banking (three different Banks though) as Branch Head can be considered as real work. Where do I live? After a nomadic sixteen years in Delhi, Bangalore & Mysore, I am back to where it all started from - Kolkata. My favorite things - Food, travel, books and my two and half year old toddler son What is this blog about ? Sonia's musings is an attempt to channelize emotions through words and pictures hoping they touch a chord with my visitors.

58 thoughts on “The skeletons tumbled out as I chose to speak the truth”

  1. This is a really powerful article Sonia. You are so brave to speak put on this. It is a sign of how traumatising sexual harassment is that even after years of it, the victims are scared of speaking put or even naming the predators. How do you feel about those incidents now?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I somehow feel you should have talked to your parents when that attitude repeated from S. There is no need of this kind of family friends who change colours when they get an opportunity. But I understand during younger age, we do get confused over certain things.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is extremely brave of you to speak and write about this issue. What you thought at your age n stage was right but then I believe the truth is harsh n if it requires giving lives for it one should stand by and be vocal about it..U dared n all the more power to u Big Hug.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my God! When it comes from someone who’s close to you and your family, it becomes even more complicated. There are so many factors involved. But, nevertheless, I’m glad that you had T by your side as a pillar of support all through the extremely testing phase. I’m happy that you finally found the courage to confront him about it. The times are changing. What movements like #MeToo make you realize is that, the victims are no longer scared to speak up. Yes, several cases do go unreported still. But several more are being reported. It’s a change that can snowball into a massive movement. When someone speaks up, others gain the courage to do so. Knowing that you’re not alone in a fight can be reassuring, and so, is knowing that you won’t be judged because they have also experienced it first-hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So brave of you to step up and confide in your partner- that is just amazing! While I was reading this, I was remembering how my mother behaved when I told her of one such incident involving her cousin brother with me. My mom is pretty old school and didnt want to believe me. She hushed me up and asked me never to repeat this – I cant tell you how agonizing it was to meet that Man in family weddings, etc. He would always try to hug me and I would run a mile when I would spot him. He would call me and then complain to my mother about me never taking his calls. It went on for a while till I decided to just snub him publicly – it wasnt done very overtly but he has got the message that I dont like him and wont tolerate nonsense from him.
    I too went through the sickening doubt in my head about my imagination – thankfully it was all cured when I met him next and saw his dirty way of looking at me.
    Since then I have talked about this to my friends and felt better about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that Shalini. Love and hugs to you too. I wonder how these perverts get away with such things while we are engulfed by trauma. But times up and it is essential that we start calling them out. Proud of you my dear.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Appreciate your way of handling things. If the behaviour of the culprit is really made public, then it may be bothering them for a couple of days and then it’s gone. The worst punishment is to make the culprit realize that people “may” know what they did and live in the fear of when it may come out in public.
    Great.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Its Terrible when a close one tried to take advantage of your innocent self. Shakes the whole foundation of trust and leaves you scarred for life. I am glad you were able to face the demons after so long. So glad your husband was supportive and protected you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hugs Sonia. I can’t say much on this topic as it is very triggering for me. It’s one reason I have not been able to engage or read the #MeToo threads on social media. Suffice to say I believe you and I am glad you confided in your husband about the incident. It takes courage to speak up. I know that.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hugs, dear!

    I know how exactly it feels. I had a similar experience with a family acquaintance & I just felt lucky that Mom had warned me about him around the same instance I met him for the first time in life. I was barely 5 then. I, a terribly shy & easily intimated child & teen, only found ways to escape from coming into his touch. He’s always been a clearly misogynistic & entitled mind. While I found it hard to share the same with my Dad, I always had Mom to shoulder my grief & shock whenever he used to touch me. And I haven’t been the only one; my female cousins too used to blanket their fears by choosing to play in a room while keeping the door latched.

    Today, I have the grit to talk to him by looking him in the eye, while he chooses to speak without seeing my face. Well, the talks have always been the general ones though.

    I’m so happy for you that you have such a caring husband who actually sticks to his wedding vows. We’re in fact, both lucky, Sonia, to have partners who only buckle us up to take on the monstrous world.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. All appreciation for your relationship with T. I mean to have a friend for a partner is the best thing that can happen to anyone. Hope you have healed of the hurt of those years when you had to carry a baggage all by yourself. You have very rightly mentioned that every girl has gone through some kind of abuse. It reminds me of my 13 year old self, who was felt up by a cousin of my cousin. Gladly for me, I did not have to meet him again until many years later that too in a public meeting where I could completely avoid acknowledging his presence. Your story reminded me of that incident in my own life and gave me creeps

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It is unfortunate that you had to go through this Sonia. I am glad you shared it with your spouse, and with us. I hope S is reading it too.

    It is almost always people close to us who can get away with this behaviour, which is the most heart-breaking part of this ugliness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words M. Means a lot. I hope this reaches S because I am sure he would know that who I have spoken about. Unfortunately, abuse has become a regular pattern of a woman’s life. But it is time that we start calling out these perverts.

      Like

  12. I understand what you’ve been through, Sonia. The sad part is, I think most women have gone through similar instances in varying degree. It’s good that you have a super supportive husband who listened to you, stood by you, and helped you to finally face down S.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. So sorry that you had to go through this, Sonia. I can completely understand why you held back or all the doubts you had all these years. Also how traumatic it must have been for you. But I am so happy that your spouse stood up for you and that you finally got it off your chest. It is tragic when someone close to our family, someone in the immediate circles do this. Been reading so many heart wrenching tales. Thank you for sharing with us and kudos to your courage.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. So sorry to hear this. You’ve been extremely strong through horrible scenarios of having to face the person even today. The best part is having a true life partner whos there beside you and understands, helping you heal.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sexual abuse is a harsh reality, but to beat it with courage is the need of the time. Appreciate your courageous account and hope that the message you have tried to convey will get delivered with impact.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a bold and honest post. More of than not these perpetrators are from the family or close to the family. They are fearless because they know we will not speak up, thats what makes them bold. So glad you could open up to t and t supported you. As for s, not sure how they live, how feeling up a bra strap satiates them? Depraved people of the society.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Bravo you, Sonia! It is great that you’ve shared it with your partner, and with us too. I really wish this blog reaches out to S too so that he understands what you had gone through, and also that you have spoken it out and shared it with the world. Sadly, in most of the cases, such perpetrators are known to us or even the family members who are sure of never being caught up. Shameless creatures, deserve only hell.

    Like

  18. Applauds to your speaking out Surbhi. At a time when many skeletons are tumbling out, it pains to hear of creeps floating amidst us, especially these are ones we know and live around with. Iam glad this momvement is picking momentum in our country. Times up for all these creeps.

    Like

  19. So true Sonia – I think not one girl in India might be untouched by stray groping incidents…luckily awareness has increased and nowadays we teach our daughters the difference between “good touch” and “bad touch” and speak out early if anything happens…

    Like

  20. Sonia, reading this brought tears to my eyes. It is horrendous that you had to go through this kind of abuse. Your husband sounds wonderful… I am so happy that you were finally able to confront the abuser in your own way. God be with you!

    Like

  21. Kudos to you Sonia for this post. The world is becoming worse day by day na.. the people we trust the most are the ones who take undue advantage of us. Hope that S and his family reads your post !

    Like

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