Topic: Child Sexual Abuse
*Content Warning: Childhood Sexual Abuse*
It’s taken me 37 years to tell my story of child sexual abuse to people I don’t know. 37 years of wondering if the thing that happened to me when I was 3 would affect me for the rest of my life. Prevent me from finding a lasting love, a stable job and career.
A relative sexually abused me when I was 3 years old. It’s taken me a long time to share my story with people I don’t know. To hear my own mouth form the words and draw that pain out from deep inside of me.
I shared my story recently in a podcast, and this post will excerpt some of what I shared in the podcast, so if you can’t listen to it or don’t have time, you will see my heart on this page. But, if you can listen to the podcast, please do. It’s important to me that I tell my story in my own voice. It’s important to me to stop hiding, as I have spent many years in recovery trying to heal.
I view what happened to me as integral to my life – it has led me on a path to help others share stories that are very similar to mine. It has become my life’s mission to help bring those voices out. And there are so many of us, it’s unreal.
At 3 years old I came to India from the US, and this is when the abuse occurred. We visited a relative and he had access to me. I remember him carrying me around a lot – and there was a deep affection there.
When I met this relative again in India as an 21 year old adult, I remembered what he had done to me. He hugged me and I literally felt like the skin was crawling off my body and my insides were spilling out. The feelings from within – dread and panic, stopped me in my tracks. His touch was revolting.
I returned to the US and dealt with debilitating nightmares and lack of sleep. In the nightmares I could see myself as a little girl and my relative about to start touching me, but I couldn’t see any further. A few months later, nightmares still haunting me, I told my parents what had happened.
My parents were shocked, but they supported me. My mom’s reaction was “Are you sure?” – maybe she didn’t know what else to say. That “sure” that she asked for, I didn’t have. All I had was the panic and the nightmares – no facts. So, I started doubting my own feelings, and did for a long time.
On the one hand, this “knowing” of myself as a survivor gave me a sense of peace because I always felt something was wrong with me. On the other hand I questioned myself and my entire existence. If I was abused at such an early age, who was I REALLY supposed to be? I felt lost. I tried seeking therapy but couldn’t keep it up, so the secret just burned inside of me.
Fast forward ten years, I am now in my 30s and back in India in 2012. India is the triggering place for me, so at this time I actively started recovering memories of the abuse. I saw the details. These flashes came when they wanted to and had no respect for the work day, my personal life, sleep, or anything else. Anything could set them off. I am instantly transported to that place. The 3-year old girl inside of me trembling with fear.
On rides on the metro in New Delhi, I’d be looking out the window and suddenly a thought would cross my mind. I would leave my body and transport myself to a small, dark room in Mumbai. Window facing the train tracks. I’d see my small body pinned down, dress lifted, hand over my mouth to muffle my cries. These memories broke me; I was a walking zombie.
All around me, my world was crumbling. My eight-year marriage was breaking up. I impulsively got myself into a relationship that was emotionally abusive. All of this pointed to a lack of self-worth, starting from when I was 3. After all, if the people that are supposed to love you the most, hurt you so badly – it must be something in you that caused it, right?
Getting the Help I Needed
I reached out to the RAHI Foundation in Delhi for therapy. Dr. Anuja Gupta helped me navigate through the worst parts of the flashbacks, marriage ending, and bad relationship. I survived the year, recovering memories through the better part of the summer.
After returning to the US, I kept myself in therapy. I recovered memories over two years, staying in therapy throughout. I have struggled every day to love myself, to honor myself and voice what I feel deep inside every day of my life. Even at 37 years old, it’s not easy for me to do these things, but I keep trying.
The worst part about recovering the memories, and the thing that still makes me break down, is this image of my tiny little body being helpless. It’s not the violation of my body that makes me angry and upset. It’s seeing his hands covering my mouth, muffling my screams and cries – taking away the chance for someone to help me, to rescue me. Taking away my voice. This image is burned into my brain and it still makes me cry. Even as I write this and see it again … tears are just coming down because the feeling of not being able to do anything makes me die inside.
Speaking My Story
I want him to know that he can not shut me up. He doesn’t have that power over me to silence my voice. When he covered my mouth to stifle me, he set in place a pattern of silence that I have had ever since. I didn’t fight for myself. I silenced my own heart, desires and mind. His violation of my body made me hate mine – my own body didn’t keep me safe. It is the thing I have to deal with every day of my life. He left me as a shell of a girl, fighting to make sense of the world – stuck in a 3-year old’s mind of terror.
Every single ounce of pain that he caused I will channel into helping others who have similar stories. If people can feel like they are not alone and there is someone to listen to them, then I have done my job. This is the primary reason behind starting Lovedoctor.in, a confidential counseling platform for love, relationships and sexual health. So many people I know have these stories. This platform is for them to release that pain.
Although telling this story is incredibly hard, I know that it is the right thing for me right now.
I am old enough to deal with any consequences – good or bad, that come from sharing this story. I know what happened to me was not my fault. It doesn’t make me broken, it doesn’t make me “dirty.” It makes me a survivor. And for that I am proud.
To hear me tell this story in my own voice please visit this link: https://soundcloud.com/avani-parekh/avanis-secret/s-XfSHq
Have you sought any sort of medical help, therapy etc?
Any particular resources that you recommend or have used to help you recover?
The book “Courage To Heal,” therapy. Rahi Foundation helped me the most.
(Image courtesy of Pixabay)