Sexual abuse of children and minors is incredibly common. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 have experienced sexual abuse from an adult. Girls are far more likely to be victims of sexual abuse; the organization reports that 82% of all victims under 18 are female, and those who do suffer from assault and abuse are more likely to also develop mental health issues like depression, PTSD, and drug abuse.
I come from India.
The country with the rape capital of Delhi, where we three sisters were raised. The place where the powerful gender — men — decide what women must do, when they must do it, how they must do it, and what they should wear.
We were born to Christian parents in a Hindu-dominant country, to a dysfunctional set of parents. Not only did they not get along with each other, but they also dared to display their illegitimate relationships openly. My father’s mother was half-Scottish and half-Indian. She played the piano loud and clear so that the adjoining neighbors heard its sound. She banged those keys to drown the cacophony created by the Satsangs and Jagrans — Hindu prayers and songs on loudspeaker by day and night — that went on in the temple nearby.
Her three granddaughters with perfect pitch were a source of pride and she grandly displayed their talents forcefully to every person who visited. She was also the loudspeaker for other music — she announced the goings-on between my incompatible parents to the whole world.
My father was too lazy to provide for the family. He was spoiled rotten by his mother as the only son born after a period of twelve years.
Money had to come from somewhere, so my father rented out rooms that were adjoined to ours, and could not be cordoned off, to male paying guests. This meant men had to freely cross private areas like our rooms in the night to get to the bathroom. My grandfather was in the army and blessed with an army of servants to take care of our every need. He was away for days on end when my grandmother had to resort to other options to satisfy her sexual needs.
Our huge bungalow was famous for the sophisticated waltz ballroom parties she proudly hosted. They continued while her husband helplessly lay in bed after he had lost one leg in the war, and after he was no more.
My father was nine years older than my mother. He would gallivant in the dark of the night with fellow friends, who found his wife attractive. He did not attempt to stop them from misbehaving. In fact, he considered it an honor when someone he wanted to please danced with his wife.
So did my grandmother. Her wonderful parties carried on until the dawn. The next morning, I would find unmatchable partners on every piece of furniture one could lie on. My white sophisticated grandmother had also Indianised herself and was not content with the fact of having three girls, two of whom were not fair like her.
Society at large had the same attitude.
No matter who my mother introduced us, girls, to, the other side would sadly exclaim, “Only three girls! No son?”
“Yes, just three girls, and I am proud of them”, my mother would reply. I was my father’s son. He took me fishing and shooting with him with friends who took advantage of me.
He called people randomly to spend the night outside my room. I was expected to cover up and sleep, making sure nothing showed when I twisted and turned in bed.
I was more mature for my age and a voracious reader of works like Mills and Boon, Danielle Steele, and Jeffery Archer. Had I not read these books, I would have not known that married partners are actually supposed to be romantic only to each other.
I went to a girls convent school and all my friends had smaller houses with loving parents who slept together in the night and woke up to send their children to school in the morning. My parents were hardly home. Even when they were at home at night, they did not sleep in the same room.
Dejected, she busied herself running a cab business at the airport with another business partner. The cabs ran night and day and opened our girl-filled house to male drivers who went in and out those doors at odd times.
The business partner had to stay the night several times due to the odd shift timings. He was ten years younger than my mom, and perhaps just who she needed for herself and her three daughters at the time.
One day he caught the vegetable seller trying to hump my six-year-old middle sister. He beat him black and blue and threatened him to never come back. My father would never have done such a thing. The cook picked me up every day from the bus stop after school. He bought me goodies with a promise to let me be fingered through my panties.
I knew this was wrong, but did not know who to tell. Having grown up in a house filled with men who casually touched me in my sleep or my waking hours like I was a corpse who did not feel anything, I became cold and lifeless.
When I was 12, I got infatuated with one of those paying guests, double my age. I looked forward to seeing him when I came back from school.
My mother realized the twinkle in my eye and thought he was abusing me secretly. No, he did not lay a finger. But if he wanted to, he could have gone all the way. On the other hand, my five-year-old youngest sister was being abused by another 32-year-old man who lived on the same premises.
Today he is married with two daughters. How he could ever live with himself after what he did, I did not understand. If there is a God, how could he have let him thrive all this while?
But there is a God.
We were never raped. We never had to be victims of unwanted pregnancies. We did not start drinking and doing drugs like the many paying guests who stayed at our place.
We did not watch porn when the drivers forced the three of us at different times to see the action, while they desperately and shamelessly masturbated in front of us.
We weren’t lucky enough to live in a protective cocoon until we stepped out into the unsafe world. Our childhood home was a living hell that helped us appreciate the place we were destined to call home in the second chapter of our lives.
The hatred that we as women experienced in India helped us understand that a woman, especially when single, couldn’t survive in this country.
My mother is now married after an abusive marriage of 30 years. She lives happily in Germany with her new partner.
My grandmother’s extempore piano performances which involved the three of us came to our rescue.
She inculcated in us a talent for music and singing that helped us drown our sorrows, win accolades in school that brought appreciation we otherwise lacked, and maintained our confidence despite our abnormal living conditions.
My two sisters, my strongest support system, are the greatest gifts my parents produced as a pair. We are all married, each blessed with a pair of boys and girls under ten now happily settled in the USA.
We make sure that our children are before us at all times and work to preserve their innocence for as long as possible.
None of us would like to raise our daughters in the rape capital and teach them that it was normal to be abused.
In the beginning, it was hard to trust a man.
It was hard to be felt loved as the sense of touch was associated with something disgusting.
Perhaps, all of those episodes still come back to haunt us from time to time, but on the whole, we have survived, we feel more alive than ever, we are enough.