The #Metoo Victims you will not hear about.
Image used for illustrative purposes only. Adopted from the internet and may be subject to copyright
If you live in India, unless you've beeen hiding under a rock, you would have heard about the #Metoo movement gathering pace in the country, in recent times.
Ironically, the #Metoo movement in India is being subject to more ridicule than understanding. Starting from cheap shot memes on WhatsApp and downright degrading comments on Facebook, there is no dearth to the number of people who think this whole thing is an excuse for incorrigible manipulative women to get back at men ( The Rohtak sisters are just a convenient excuse, but not representative of the larger populace, are they?)
In the past 10 years or so, I was confided in by a handful of women and one man who were subject to intense sexual abuse at some point in their lives. And guess what, not in ONE instance did any of these people breathe a word about what happened to them - not to parents, not even to their spouses (in 2 instances I was the only person who knew).
And the perpetrators? Relatives, people with substantial respect/authority in educational/religious institutions who were close, family friends, and in one instance, the domestic help (there was not one case in which abuse was done by a stranger).
The more saddening part in these incidents is that these victims simply tried to block their memories of those events and move on but never really come to terms with it even many years, or decades later. At times when they recollect it during a vulnerable time (in one case almost after 20 years), they break down or shake in fear uncontrolingly wishing that they would rather die than go through that again.
The scars are just too deep despite all the time that passed.
The only word EVERY one of them described how they felt was 'dirty'. They felt dirty after being abused even though they were the ones violated without a choice.
Of course, I had nothing to offer them than just my time and a patient ear. They begged me to secrecy. These people were psychologically scarred for life. I felt for them, but there's nothing much I could do than show empathy and wishing that their fate would not fall on anybody else.
And why did these people not come out ever?
Because of how they thought they would be perceived in the society or even by those close around them.
Judging from the attitudes I have seen from most people around today, they weren't wrong.
The bitter pill we need to swallow is that survivors such as these lie hidden among people like you and me. It could be your own spouse who you think you know too well, or your grown-up children who are married and with children of their own. It could also be some of the closest friends in your circle.
Do not for a second think it never happens to those around you just because you weren't told or because you personally weren't subject to abuse.
Victims will not open up to you about their past; not unless they have 100% trust in the fact that you would be sensitive to their story, wouldn't judge them or hold it against them.And they will never confide in a person who they think cannot understand them - no matter who that person is. Doesn't matter if it's a parent, a sibling or a spouse.
No, they WOULD likely not have any PROOF either and just a story you have to take on their word because they weren't prepared with a camera or an eyewitness to corroborate the story at time the abuse took place.
They are forced to live with their innner demons for the rest of their lives diverting their minds from anything that brings back memories of that tormented past. Sometimes never being able to come to terms with it and not even being able to talk about it.
What about the perpetrators?
They will get away scot-free most of the time because victims will almost never speak up. After all it's the vulnerable who were targeted not the strong. Without a society that's more sensitive towards victims of sexual abuse, victims will stay in the shadows and never call out the predators and in the end justice gets denied to these countless millions.
Remember that when you share that insensitive meme or post that comment ridiculing victims or talking among yourselves making fun of those who come out, remember that there is probably a victim close to you who is seeing your actions and burning inside, but will never let you know how they really feel - because you are just not trustworthy or understanding enough.
And know that if only people like you and me show that level of empathy, these victims would atleast get a chance to open up about their past.
We need to strive to create a better society where victims can open and speak without fear of ridicule or having to wait years for a MeToo movement to appear to gather the courage to speak up - a better society in which silent victims of sexual abuse need not suffer in silence for the rest of their lives.
Creating that better society is the moral responsibility of each one of us.
PS: Also posted on the author's blog at : https://sixstringsforsupper.wordpress.com/2018/10/13/the-metoo-victims-you-will-not-hear-about/