The story behind “Circles of Safety”

WC Desk:

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse

 

“It began when I was 5–my house help would lay me down on Grandma’s bed and touch me inappropriately, all without undressing me. Grandma would be in the pooja ghar; Mum would be busy with her chores. After he was done, he’d just carry on as if nothing had happened.
This went on for a whole year but I was too young to understand the difference between safe and unsafe touch, so I never said anything.
It didn’t stop there–I was also molested by my watchman. He’d press my breasts over my clothes; he’d talk to me about sex and say, ‘You’re born to please a man.’
I’d accepted that it was very ‘normal’ for little girls to go through this. Even my classroom wasn’t a safe space–once, during an exam, my supervisor sat next to me and placed his hand on my thigh and held my other shoulder tightly; I was terrified.
As expected, I failed that exam and had to repeat an entire year. So at 13, upon my insistence, my parents agreed to send me to a boarding school. It was a relief to be away from all this.
But a few years later, when I came back home for my holidays, I found a relative’s video camera in my bathroom when I went in for a shower. In utter disbelief, I put on my clothes and ran into my room.
For the first time, it struck me that what was happening was wrong. Even then, I just repressed all my pain.
But I had serious body image issues; I’d never be able to pose for a selfie. And for 2 long years, I was in a toxic relationship because I thought I deserved the ill-treatment. I still remember, I’d always choose ‘ugly’ as my password everywhere.
I only took my first step towards healing a month before I was about to get married–at 26, I told my Mom and my would-be husband everything. I thought it would finally free me from my past, and let me go into my future unburdened.
But a month later, on my birthday, when my parents gifted me a collage of my childhood photos, I spotted the same servant in one of the pictures. I broke down in front of my family.
That’s when I realised that I was nowhere near being healed–I began therapy. I started reading about child sexual abuse and in 2015, I founded ‘Circles of Safety’–to educate kids and parents on preventing child sexual abuse. I’m even trying to introduce Sex Ed to kids right from grade 1. But honestly, 30 years later, I’m still trying to heal.
Now, I’m a mother to 2 daughters; I started teaching them about consent early on. If my 3-year-old feels uncomfortable with somebody, she unabashedly says, ‘I’m not comfortable with hugs.’ I’m glad they raise their voice, for something as seemingly ‘small’ as a hug.
Because you know what– they didn’t even need to take my clothes off to violate me. And a layer of cloth means nothing when you take away someone’s consent.”

Reproduced from Humans of Bombay.

Note: “Pooja Ghar” means prayer room.

 

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