Sexual abuse, abandonment, ghosting after an intense relationship:
unimaginable cruelty by the predator leaving victims in a dark tunnel.
An act so evil by those who have power over women, or have them in their
care, it leads to wrecked lives, and suicides.
A 57-year-old professor reached out to me this week after last week’s
column on Harvey Weinstein with her ‘me too’ secret that has haunted her
these 50 years:
“I was a child of seven. A male cousin in
his 20s sexually abused me when he was ‘babysitting’. There was no pain
inflicted. It was sexual—touching, kissing, ‘lovemaking’. There were
unsuccessful attempts to penetrate. If I acquiesced, it was purely a
physical response based on emerging adolescence. Nothing else. As a
child I didn’t feel outrage. As a child you trust adults. You don’t
expect adults to hurt you.
“After one such incident I said, ‘You
know, I have to tell my parents about this...He said, ‘You can’t tell
anyone’. That’s when I knew it was wrong. I didn’t tell anyone till now,
when I’m telling you. I didn’t see him until after I was married. I
ignored him. When I heard he died I felt enormous relief. He carried
around my secret, and with him, the secret died. He was in his 40s.
“I felt the shame as an adult, wondered
what was wrong with me. That dissonance between what I accepted then and
what happened to me until I saw the damage. It was not my fault. Not my
doing. I blocked it off. But by numbing sexual abuse, I numbed my entire
childhood. I don’t remember any of it. He robbed me of my innocence, my
childhood. Yet that memory is vivid with pain. Today, 50 years on, I can
close my eyes and see it happening. It was inappropriate to engage a
young child who doesn’t understand it was abuse of power.
“Men ask why women don’t speak up. It’s
because women and children don’t recognise that it is even something to
speak up about. We are supposed to be in a lesser place in the world. If
we try to assert ourselves, or don’t see ourselves as objects, we are
branded as angry women. Men and women conceptualise things differently.
A man’s narrative has credibility as a rational, logical being.
“Men say women are emotional. People
minimise women’s feelings. They think the only strength lies in being
logical like a man. I embrace my emotions, even better when I can name
them, label them so I understand what I am.
“It doesn’t preclude being rational,
critical thinking. If we were all solely rational, we would lose our
“We would lose love. As a woman I want to
live an intentional and authentic life. This is the story that the child
in me could not tell.”
I thank this brave woman for telling me
something she has not told another human for 50 years with the hope it
A Pakistani friend observed that she found
it peculiar in T&T that she saw men and women engaging in the lewdest
acts towards one another at Carnival, but outside of it rarely saw
affection, hand holding, between couples.
It made me see many male (not all) loins
work overtime, but their hearts automated, perhaps because they were
socialised like that. Relationships between the sexes are increasingly
transactional, sexual. This is why women mostly, are discarded,
forgotten like a ragged Carnival costume once used.
Perhaps if men dropped their macho
stereotype, that didn’t have to do with exercising power, or silencing
women, feeling emotion would release them from their barricaded hearts.
And if women were not branded angry ‘bunny
boilers’ for speaking the truth, but seen as human beings, we can all
find our way to enduring love, which is everything in this briefest of