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Need to make safe spaces for girls


Our childhood is a reflection of the kind of adults we grow into. It is like learning a language. We learn it when we are kids and it stays with us throughout our lives. We learn routines of going to school, loving and respecting others. We imbibe some unknowingly and these surface when we grow into adults.

At 23, I started dating my childhood friend. We spent days together at college and went for walks in the evenings. One evening I and my boyfriend were having an intimate moment when I started feeling a strange discomfort with his touch. I couldn’t understand what it was. I stopped him. I kept stopping him the whole time.

His touch brought back the haunting memories of an unwanted touch when I was a child. We used to live in a joint family. I was the youngest child in the family. My eldest uncle was the head of the house and we all knelt before him. His daughters were my first friends while he himself was my first molester. For as long as I can remember, he would make me touch his private parts and touch mine.

This continued for years and because I had never been taught about the rights and wrongs of a touch, I thought it was normal. He would call all the kids to his room, one by one, on some evenings. All kids, including me, would come out with a chocolate or two after he was done molesting me. This is what I would presume he did with everyone. Till date, I don’t know if my presumption was right. We never spoke about it. I had never recalled it while growing up. It continued till my family moved out and started living in a separate house.

The encounter with my boyfriend caused me pain. I did not want anyone to touch me like my uncle had. I don’t want to see a man in that intimate space with me but that is not something I can go around telling all the men I like or feel romantically attracted to. Today, as I struggle with my feeling and inability to find closure, he keeps playing with his grand daughters all through the day. It terrifies me to think that they might have to go through the same. As much as I dread it, I try to talk to them about good touch and bad touch, something if my parents or elders had told me about would have changed my life.

Unfortunately in Kashmir, like in rest of India, talking about sex is never seen as a part of parenting. At school, such lessons are left half taught, leaving more doubts in young minds. And at times, in course of children learning on their own, they become dented and scarred for life. And even unreasonable one is that I would be expected to marry with a guy who they choose for me and indulge in the most intimate relation.

Leave alone physical relations, our parents fail to teach us basic lesson of love and empathy. The emotional distance that parents had maintained since early childhood kept me from sharing anything. Would my father be able to handle what his brother had done? I guess no.

More than holding a grudge against my family for what they failed to provide me as a child, I know how not to let those around me suffer. My closure will not come through my molester apologizing to me or my parents confronting him, I am finding my closure in working to provide others the safe space.

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