I was born in Tamil Nadu, India, into a Christian family and while I believe I was loved and wanted by my family, it was all overshadowed by the sexual abuse I endured from as early as I can remember. My childhood was a path marred by sexual immorality, denial and deceit.
Tragedy struck when I was only one and a half years old—my dad died in a devastating car crash but I didn’t find this out until I was about five years old by reading his gravestone. Up until then, I was always told that he worked in Singapore, and even after finding out, I would wave at planes as they passed by and daydream in my classroom that he would finally come back to rescue me.
My mum worked tirelessly, toiling six days a week for a few dollars a day, all to ensure I received a good education. She wanted to provide me with a better life, but her dedication meant she was busy and tired. So, my grandmother would fill in the gaps, becoming my guiding light in my early years. She would teach me old hymns and tell me about Jesus as I sat wrapped up in her pallu (loose end of her sari), gently stroking the wrinkles on the back of her hands as she held me.
I would attend Sunday school and church, believing in the existence of God, but I didn’t quite comprehend the possibility of having a personal relationship with this God.
The first person who sexually abused me was my elderly neighbour. Manipulating my trust, he kept his actions hidden. I thought this darkness was normal, that every girl went through it—a dreadful price to pay for being female. I would walk everywhere holding on tightly to my grandmother’s pallu (loose end of the sari) because I believed that hell would open up and swallow me whole as the lies of grooming, that I was despicable and unworthy, became my identity.
By the time I turned eleven, I was abused by 6 men and one older girl. By this time my mum remarried. We hoped that this new man would be our protector, bringing an end to our struggles and be the father that my heart longed for. Little did I know that the abuse I experienced prior to him would merely be a shadow of what was to come.
The first time it happened it was pitch black…
But each time the abuse would happen in a riskier and more public place.
The second time was during the day when no one was home,
Then it happened as other family members slept in adjacent rooms, oblivious to the nightmare I was living.
Then it happened as I was hanging clothes to dry on our rooftop terrace. I looked over the edge and I dreamt of leaping down into the busy concrete driveway.
I was gripped by fear and crippled by the thought that this was my secret to keep in order to protect my honour.
I felt the colour drain from my life in a slow drip.
With each day that passed, I felt less powerful, more disempowered and less human.
It was a constant domination and degradation of my humanity.
Abuse left me nothing but a shell of what I used to be.
By this time, my grandmother had also died. My one solace, gone.
I was convinced I deserved the suffering, that I was inherently bad. I tried to confide in three adults I trusted, three different times, but my abuser had created a charismatic public image. No one wanted to believe that the words I spoke were true.
And this God who seemed silent, who allowed me to suffer for so long was nothing but a stranger to me. A passive bystander who took my grandmother, as if He needed her more than I did.
I stopped waving to planes. No one was coming to rescue me.