Child Abuse: Could This be an Exceptional Case?

By Anil Kala

[I saw Amir Khan’s show on Indian TV about child abuse with some interest. I suppose I qualify for victim of child abuse therefore the interest. My case appears curious in the sense I don’t feel I was abused at all. I am telling this story so that we do not lose sense of proportion in demanding punishment for offenders. Remember some fellows asked for death penalty for rapists.]

When I look back through the hazy tunnel of time, picture of this curious but very vulnerable kid crystallizes in clear focus. Even though that kid was me in distant past, I can’t quite identify with him anymore for we have moved so far apart in character and attributes that he could be just any vulnerable child. Yet, I know this child very intimately; a shy fellow, fidgety when meeting strangers but compensates that with extra effervescent with those he was familiar. When alone strange thought would occupy his mind making him abruptly look around to check if he was queer! But, for now, I am drowned in an overwhelming urge to reach out and take him in my protective cover.

The child was looking intently at that mysterious door, a wide single panel light brown door at the corner of the big room. The building used to be a barrack but now converted into four dwelling units side by side. The door on the wall separated the two neighbours. It was latched firmly from both sides. A large wooden box painted black with address stenciled in sharp white lay snugly between the frame of the door as an additional measure lest the door suddenly open and invade our privacy. An identical box was set similarly on the other side of the door in our neighbour’s house. Neighbour had three children, eldest a boy in class eight or nine, the girl seven years old and my class mate and the youngest one, I have no memory. The family appeared to be in sexual over drive. Husband would chase wife around the house and the girl, big and full, would often grab me in tight grip. Even though it felt heavenly in girl’s ‘aagosh’ (I will use the word ‘aagosh’ instead of hug, for it connotes that transcendental joy, warmth, comfort and security of womb) and yet, like a total jerk, in reflex response I would try to wriggle out of her grip. The big girl would laugh hysterically at my feeble attempt. Sometimes we would run away through the trees at the back of our house to the boundary wall of campus. A fallen tree trunk on the wall made bridge for us to climb to the top of wall and sitting there we would watch single propeller small planes flying away from the runway of an obscure flying club across the road behind the boundary wall. Sometimes we would sneak below the tree trunk when this girl would whisper conspiratorially ‘let us talk dirty’ a euphemism for getting undressed and exploring each other.

Memory of brother is sketchy; an ocean of maturity separated us. I guess he was remote, business like. He had crooked lips; when he smiled, he seemed to leer. Once he cornered me in the room with that queer door on his side of the house. Talked casually then dangled a glistening fountain pen. We were not allowed to use pen, only bland pencils. ‘You can have it’, he said. Then we discussed the details of the deal which was wrapped up with me declaring incredulously, “is that all?’ I was supposed to undress and lie face down on the large box set against the door. When I shrieked in pain, he was rattled, quickly retreated. I have little memory of the rest but I did get that fountain pen. This thing happened one another time.

Once in the evening lights went out, the whole cantonment sank in darkness. We were playing near the temple, lots of trees and bushes around there. We began to play hide and seek when this boy cornered another kid and made that indecent proposal. The little guy freaked out and suddenly all the kids began to talk about him. A few had stories to tell. Here it occurred to me that the arrangement I had made with him was taboo, socially sinful. I don’t remember if this was the reason we never had such encounter again or our family just went away on transfer to another station.

The point is, this episode left no permanent psychological scar. In fact the memory remained dormant in some very remote recess of my mind but for this TV episode it would have remained buried there. Now I look back and remember this incident amusedly.

This post, submitted by the author, appeared earlier on his own website.

 

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11 Responses to “Child Abuse: Could This be an Exceptional Case?”

  1. Kabir Says:

    Thanks Anil for sharing this.

    Different people view abuse differently. What can seem a fairly minor incident for one person can be extremely traumatic for someone else.

    That said, to me it seems that the two situations you described are very different in nature: one is experimentation with a peer and the other is exploitation by an older child. I would not call the first case abuse, while I think the second case falls under that category.

    You say that the brother was in class nine, which I guess would make him about 15 or 16 while you were about 7 or 8. Certainly he was old enough to know what sex was and even if you did not think that what he wanted you to do in exchange for the pen was particularly terrible, he was mature enough to know what he was asking. In my opinion, forcing yourself on a younger child is not acceptable, given the vast power differential.

    Once again, thanks for sharing. It takes a lot of courage to share such an experience.

    • anilkala Says:

      Yes Kabir, different people experience different degree of trauma for the abuse. I consider sex crime to a have two distinct aspects; one is the physical part which is no more significant than a bully confronting you, may be thrashing you without serious injury but the significant part is emotional trauma. Strangely emotional part is our own making therefore its impact varies from place to place. Present day South Asians have made sex outside marriage into something of a gigantic monstrosity couple this with our propensity to consider misfortune also a crime and you have emotional trauma that could drive some people to commit suicide.

      In essence emotional trauma caused to victim is the making of society.

      Like the girl in show said, she was not the perpetrator of crime but victim of it therefore where is the need to summon courage to tell the story!

  2. anilkala Says:

    btw Kabir that statement of yours ‘experimentation with a peer’ is mother of all understatement. Those were moments of discovery, Nirvana!

    As you can guess the boy was habitual offender, may be deriving inspiration from his father but my point is that emphasis should be on counselling the victim rather than making example of the offender by disproportionately severe punishment. I believe if sex is demystified then our perception of the dimension of all sex crimes will be reduced significantly.

  3. SouthAsian Says:

    Anil: My reaction was the same as Kabir’s. A distinction needs to be made between children discovering their sexuality and the exploitation of a minor by an adult. If the older boy was 13-14 years old, it would be the former; if over 18, the latter.

  4. Reader Says:

    I think I agree with what Mr.Kabir says. The second case does fall in the category of abuse, without an ounce of doubt.

    However, what I want to discuss here is something else. Actually the idea was triggered in me when I came across the sentence, “The family appeared to be in sexual over drive”, in the above article.
    Now what I want to discuss is what leads to this particular reaction. The most famous argument put forth is that it is the highly ‘gender-segregated” social set up of the South Asians that is responsible for such extreme sexual libido in the people. The young men and women suffer from seclusion, as they are not even supposed to talk to each other forget having an affair. Resultingly, the atmosphere is highly charged with this sexual lust for each other. This argument does seem to be rational but if that’s the case then we are directly and indirectly targeting the centuries old south-Asian culture. As far as I know, the religions followed in South-Asia strongly forbid per-marital and extra-marital relationships. And trespassing these limits is not only considered sinful but is also punishable by the law. So, its trouble from every angle. And the result: gang rapes, child rape, prostitution, secret affairs etc.
    So, what is the solution? Anti-religion or Anti-sex?

    • Kabir Says:

      Reader raises an interesting point. I agree that the highly gender segregated set up of South Asians creates many problems. Boys never learn to see girls as people rather than simply as sex objects. There is something to be said for the Western cultural practices of dating, school dances, etc, providing opportunity for courtship.

      Yet at the same time, we don’t want to encourage pre-marital sex. So it is a difficult balance that needs to be maintained.

      • SouthAsian Says:

        Kabir: You must be aware of all the ‘Once Big Things’ that are the ‘Now Little Things’ or on the way to becoming so. The most striking of these are in the area of sex and gender relations. I am wondering why you have taken such an absolutist stance.

        • Kabir Says:

          SouthAsian,

          I think that we should take the best from Western culture and the best from our own culture. There are many benefits to the culture of dating and supervised courtship, allowing both sexes to get comfortable with each other and learn to socialize with each other as people while growing up as opposed to meeting your prospective spouse for only a short while before marriage. At the same time, the sexualization of the Western culture as seen in advertising and clothing meant for adolescents has many negative consequences as well, such as teen pregnancies,etc. That is why I am arguing that we should not go too far towards either extreme.

          I think that South Asian adolescents should be taught about sex by their parents or perhaps in schools. The sexes should not be discouraged from socializing with each other, but at the same time, it should be made clear what kind of behavior is and is not acceptable.

          • Reader Says:

            Well Mr. Kabir, I think you are being idealistic when you suggest the notion of such a society in which this sort of “balance” may exist. Teenage is a very crucial time of life and it is really very difficult to implant ethics or morals related to sex in them at this stage. (this fact can be verified from any psychologist).

            You might have noticed that when teenagers are nearing puberty, they become more stubborn and at times are completely devoid of logic and sensibility. The aggressive attitude, mood swings, emotional decisions, a craving to break rules etc; these are all triggered by hormonal changes going on inside them and this stage is never good for trying to teach them to refrain from sex. And honestly, even if they are taught about morals and ethics at this stage, I really don’t expect them to follow as their condition is almost pitiable.

            And assuming this type of freedom is introduced in South Asia, what will happen is that the whole situation will soon get out of control. You can’t free a tamed lion and expect him not to bite just because you think you taught him some manners because ultimately he is a lion and he will devour a man when not given “enough food to satisfy his hunger”.

            Secondly, you say that parents and schools should teach the teenagers about sex. Well it happens in Western States. How much has it helped in eliminating the teenage pregnancies and premarital sex? I daresay, it has contributed in augmenting these problems in the West.

            Thirdly, the system you are suggesting is also not possible to adopt. Assuming Pakistan adopts such a system and gives free reins to its youth, then how do you expect to counter the wrath of “Arabi Sheikhs, Afghani Brothers and Irani partners”. Such a social system will ridicule Islamic Republic of Pakistan in the network of whole Islamic countries, leading to a boycott from the Muslim world and next thing we know Pakistan is on the mercy of cunning American and European states. Forget the international problems, how do you expect to counter the internal strife such a move can cause. You might know that the Mullahs still have a strong hold on Pakistan. And you can imagine the riots such a system can induce within the state.

        • Anil Kala Says:

          Kabir: You think it is possible to take selectively from Western culture? Won’t desegregation of sex will eventually lead to a similar state as Western society i.e. acceptance of sex outside marriage? Beside your obection to sex outside marrigae appears kind of sophistry.

          • Kabir Says:

            Anil, I think it is possible to take the good things from a culture without taking the bad as well. While I think that the sexes should mix and that too much gender segregation causes a lot of problems, certainly in the case of Pakistan, Islam will never allow pre-marital or extramarital sex. Outside of the religious angle, I personally feel that it is not appropriate for teenagers to be having sex. I feel we have to use our common sense and not go too far towards either total freedom or total control.

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