Most of us think of sexual abuse against women or against children to be something remote and not associated with our own everyday lives. But, just because you can’t see violence, doesn’t mean it isn’t there! Please be forewarned that the following piece has graphic details of a sexual nature.
Vaishali was glad that she had finally found a maid who would help her take care of her daughter, Mishti. She was getting worn out taking care of the house and kitchen, in addition to her active three year old. Kamala came highly recommended by her neighbour’s maid, whose distant relative she was and the best part was that Kamala had agreed to be a live-in help. Hers was a story of hardship; her husband had kicked her out of the house and now Kamala just needed a decent roof over her head and salary, and she didn’t have an family ties to interfere. This suited Vaishali very well. On the days when she was running helter-skelter trying to get the cooking done and the laundry out of the way, she was happy to let Kamala take care of Mishti.
It was the night of the office party at their house. Vaishali knew it could go on until the wee hours, so she told Kamala to make sure Mishti was in bed at the usual time. “Just stay with her for a little bit until she falls asleep, Kamala”, she told her. “Ji, memsahib,” murmured Kamala and led Mishti off to her bedroom.
Mishti was fretting while lying in bed. Why did her parents have this stupid party? Now, Ma was not even with her so she could hug her and sleep. She didn’t care for Kamala being in the room and it was too hot to sleep anyway. In the dim light filtering in from outside, she could see Kamala lying on the floor next to her bed with her sari all the way up to her thighs. ‘That’s a good idea,’ she thought and hoisted her little nightie up as well.
She was just drifting off when she heard Kamala whisper, “want to play a game?” She lifted her head up; Kamala was always aloof and never played with her. “Let’s play a tickling game,” she continued, “you can tickle me first!”. Mishti nodded half-heartedly. Kamala grabbed her hand and guided it. Mishti felt hair; was Kamala asking her to tickle her head? Then, she opened her eyes and saw that her hand was between Kamala’s legs. “Go on!” whispered Kamala hoarsely. Mishti started moving her fingers against skin and hair. Gradually, she felt a stickiness and an odor that made her nauseous. She wanted to stop, but was scared of Kamala getting offended. She continued but gradually slowed down, pretending to fall asleep and eventually stopped, letting her hand fall, dangling from the side of her bed.
Kamala propped herself up, breathing heavily and gazed at the child with her eyes scrunched up. She smiled. There was always tomorrow.
This post is a semi-fictional story of a friend (with all names changed) and is in collaboration with Protsaahan and UNICEF India‘s Time to sound the Red Siren campaign. Sexual abuse cuts across class, ethnicity, religion and origin. Millions of girls in India face obstacles in their lives, experiencing various forms of discrimination, exploitation and abuse on account of their age and their sex. Each year, an increasing number of children in India face sexual violence. Recently, there have been cases of rape that have galvanized global attention and sparked mass demonstrations and widespread debate on the issue of sexual violence directed at children. However, there are many cases that go under reported. Fear of social stigma and victimization often stop children and their families from reporting these crimes. Since much abuse is hidden from public view – and because it is too often tolerated – the numbers do not reflect the true magnitude of the problem. When violence occurs, the physical wounds or bruises may disappear but the mental scars may not.
Please click here to learn more about the UNICEF campaign and to spread the word to #ENDViolence.