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Sep 15 2013

Too petrified to talk about it

Rupa Jha talks about sexual abuse at home as opposed to out in the streets or on the buses.

She lived in a huge family in a two bedroom flat.

Distant relatives and cousins kept coming and going through the family home.
Being the youngest girl in the family, I was “loved” by them.

These love sessions would happen only when I was alone with one of them.

I hated it but, like many others in the same situation, I was too petrified to talk about it.

Getting rubbed, touched, kissed or being locked in bathrooms was the “love”.

Even though the house was always full, I felt completely lonely and violated.

One day when she was about ten she finally had had enough, and sat on the floor howling. That relative was told to leave the house, but that’s all that happened.

But talking to my sisters, cousins and friends, I discovered a sorority of the abused – so many of them suffered similarly harrowing experiences.

Experiences of abuse which were followed swiftly by experiences of silence, forgetting, and then pretending these things did not happen at all.

So when the news came in about the four guilty men being handed the death penalty after being found guilty of the fatal gang rape of a student in Delhi last December, I again wondered: When will this omerta, this code of silence about abuse in Indian homes be broken?

One hopes it will be now.

2 comments

  1. 1
    Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin

    I felt so sickened viewing photos of child brides, and their older partners, that I had to completely switch off. Then I began to think it out rationally, and realised that the images were not about how I was feeling, but about the torment that those young brides were having to go through on a daily basic. It was their pain. Their anguish. Their sorrow. I can only empathise with their suffering. It’s so easy to turn away from those who’ve endured hardship in life.

    Again – I have to put myself in the shoes of Rupa Jha. She speaks so eloquently about the child sex abuse she suffered at the hands of distant relatives. She was so young to be able to pluck up enough courage to stand up to the perpetrators. I guess, that if the relatives had taken it any further at the time there could have been serious repercussions for the whole family. As one hears so often of serious violence happening to young girls who squeal in their communities. The last thing they cannot do is bring shame on the family. It’s such a terrible situation to find oneself.

    I again wondered: When will this omerta, this code of silence about abuse in Indian homes be broken?

    It will only be broken when Indian women in their millions stand up and shout STOP! It has to start with little ripples of testimonies from brave people such as you, Rupa Jha.

  2. 2
    Maarten van den Driest

    It is unfortunate that the judge in this case handed out the death penalty for murder. A death penalty for rape would have been a much more clear signal. In a way, the judge took the easy way out.

    Although I am myself not a proponent of the death penalty itself, I hope judges in India will punish rape more severely and clearly in the near future.

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