A Conversation With A Child Abuse Survivor

by | Feb 8, 2018

“When we talk with our children about sexual abuse, we are not only taking a proactive step toward protecting them, we are building our relationship with them – grounded in honesty and trust. It’s a win-win situation.” – Carolyn Byers Ruch

We, as young individuals have moved to digital means of information because here, we can easily avoid seeing things which make us uncomfortable like rape, abduction and child sexual abuse. Every other news is about a child getting sexually assaulted. According to the Government of India 2007 survey, 53% of children in India have faced some form of sexual abuse. After interacting with a set of individuals on this topic, one of my close friends opened up with her story of being sexually and psychologically abused. Before proceeding, I just want to say that ‘Child Sexual Abuse’ is a crucial issue not just as an incident but for its impact on the entire life of an individual. The society we live in, where people do not talk about it, doesn’t help.


Avantika* comes from a higher middle-class family currently studying in one of the best colleges of the country. She was in middle school when she got abused by her first cousin, who had come to stay with her family for his higher education.

Me: What do you remember about the incident?
Avantika: I only have a few glimpses now. It was after many years that I accepted what my body went through as a child. I realized it wasn’t my fault and that I should stop blaming myself, but trying to forget about it wouldn’t be the best way to handle remorse.
He used to touch me inappropriately, indulge in sex talks and genital abuse. I did not remember anything major in early stages mainly because of lack of education from my parents or anyone else. The more I got to know about things, it came flashing in my memory. My mother was suspicious about the situation, but she could not validate anything. Meanwhile, he would go ahead, calling it love and affection. Hence, I thought to not object.
All this happened again when I was in 10th standard. He had re-visited us and this time, I revolted to handle it better. No one in the family was informed.

Me: How do you feel today? Does it affect your everyday decisions?
Avantika: What I find most challenging is the trust issues I have with people, which makes me an anti-social, at times. It is difficult to mingle with men and be comfortable around them. The visuals keep coming back and I get really conscious about my body. At a young age, I had started believing that world was unfair to me, which may have turned me into a rebellion leading to anger issues. The worst part is that I still cannot talk about this to my family for the fear of shattering them.

The conversation went on about her personal life and how she is trying to bring in the changes on a day to day basis. If you ask me, one of the most critical things to understand is that child sexual abuse is no lesser than a chronic illness, without a prescribed medicine. The scars keep coming back in different phases. Most of the people refrain themselves from acknowledging the fact that they were sexually abused due to lack of knowledge at a younger age. They often count it on the grounds of ill-represented love.

If we keep ignoring such issues in the fear of societal scrutiny, it will make things worse. The survivors live with these traumas for a long time. A lot of them even keep the abuse a secret for several years, or even for life. It could be personal resistance for lack of a safe environment or inability to find a reliable person. It’s crucial to know that there is no set timeline for dealing with and recovering from such experiences.

Survivors often struggle with low self-esteem and are apprehensive of their personal safety being ignored or violated. In turn, it may affect their relationships, career and health. It may further trigger mental illness, depression, intimacy issues, guilt, shame and much more. 

While Avantika chose to seek professional help and is fighting her battle everyday, we should understand how it can affect a child and take them to a dark place. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, also known as POCSO, is making stricter rules as a lot of old laws have become obsolete. Several organizations speak of supporting survivors. But how would that happen if the cases never get registered? Everyone should at least get a chance to talk about their experiences with those who understand and can help. Survivors can also play an important role in prevention of abuse to other children. Support system in the form of family, friends and partner is vital as well – just by acknowledging or being a sounding board, you can take a positive step towards creating a secured zone for these children and/or adults.

Change begins by educating the ones among us to raise voice about things that seem inappropriate. We always know right from wrong, but don’t usually talk about it. The more comfortable we become sharing such experiences, the easier it will be to spread the awareness.

*Name changed to protect identity.

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