How can I talk about something that doesn’t happen
In this article, I want to thank all the people in my life who believed that I was indeed molested. They validated my terrible experiences. Jesus Christ, and through Him, all these people helped me gain freedom from the oppression of molestation. Thank you for accepting the truth when other people lie about it or live in complete denial. I’m not using real names in this article to protect people’s privacy. The ethnic origin of these names does not carry any meaning. I have just used names that I like.
I have not gone into rape along with molestation because though rape is a huge issue in India, without personal experience, I do not want to assume to know how it feels to be raped and to experience the aftermath of that.
I’m talking about molestation from my personal experience and from my point of view as a Christ follower. This is a very touchy, taboo topic. It has been swept under the carpet for way too long. But before I talk about the topic on hand, I have a confession to make. I’m a hypocrite. I was tempted to sweep It under the carpet myself because I was afraid of the repercussions. I didn’t want to rock the boat by talking about it. Then, Kanesha, who knows me well, challenged me to write this article. The challenge was, if this issue was important to me then I should write about it. Challenge accepted. So now I’m jumping in with both feet and there’s no turning back. So when I criticize other people for not responding to the situation, I’m criticizing myself also by the fact that I have similar struggles.
Here’s the situation. Men grope women in public transportation in Chennai. There! I said it out loud! The conspiracy of silence has been defeated. One of us has spoken up. We should no longer be silent about the molestation. The place to start is by openly talking about it- in our homes, in coffee shops, on the radio, on the TV, on Facebook, on Twitter etc. We need both women and men to come forward to explore solutions to this injustice. It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders just by saying those words. You know why? As I’m writing this I don’t have to listen to the molesters being defended. If molesters are being defended I have to defend my point of view. It’s freeing to boldly declare the truth. Period. What do I hear when the molesters are defended? “Molestation never happened. Women/girls like being molested, they want it. Women/girls just imagine it when they are in a crowded bus/train. It is not reality. It is an “invented problem”, invented by women and girls to attract attention and make themselves the victims.”
Why do men grope in public transportation in Chennai? My ex-husband (I’ll refer to my ex-husband as Deiondre, Deon for short, in order to protect his privacy) and I have a theory, albeit an unpopular one. We may not have been the first ones to come up with this theory. I’m sure some of the credit for the theory goes to the fact that Deon is caucasian and we both were living in the US at that time. So we were outsiders looking at the problem with a perspective different than that of Indians residing in India. (Both the theory and Deon were unpopular because he pointed out the truth) Here’s the theory: When a society suppresses the normal expression of love, that frustration comes out in extremely perverse ways. Let me explain. When Deon and I ( at that time we were married) visited Chennai I told him it was inappropriate and culturally insensitive to hold hands, to kiss in public, to put our arms around each other, and to display any public expression of love. These are some of the ways Deon and I expressed our love for each other. We are both very tactile people. It was extremely nonsensical for us to go through this ban on holding each other and on top of it, the whole thing was illogical. Why illogical? No one will protest when they see that a man is molesting a girl or a woman. But people are very vocal about criticizing people going against “tradition” when a couple puts their arms around each other. Does that mean that groping is part of the Chennai “tradition” that is silently acknowledged and approved by the general public? Imagine what would happen if even 75% of us, both women and men, protested against molestation by raising our voices and showing it in our actions.
The following statement will probably be offensive to women and liberals. God put an innate instinct in men to protect women. The molesters violate this instinct but the men who watch and do nothing when they have the power to act are also violating that instinct. To further reiterate this point, here are two of my favorite quotes from Elie Wiesel. They express and explain my thoughts:
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
The first time I was molested, I told my mom about it and she said that I can’t make a sound or can’t protest. If I do so, I’ll be raped. She was probably right. On the other hand, would Chennai be a different place if mothers fought back and taught their daughters how to fight back? How long are we going to take this lying down? How long are the molesters going to be considered as exhibiting “normal” behavior? How long are the men who don’t molest going to stand by the sidelines and not defend and protect the victims? When are we going to become really angry about molestation? Angry enough to effect change? When will all of us get the opportunity to experience a tradition that promotes respect, truth, safety, and dignity?
On a personal note, the molestation totally destroyed my self-confidence and the spirit to fight back and to fight for something. Not making a sound when I was molested has an effect even to this day. A funny yet weird story; Deon took me out on our first date. He opened the car door so I could get out. He is a very chivalrous man. By accident, when he went to close the door my hand got caught in the door. Obviously this hurt. But I didn’t make a sound. Deon was very apologetic and I told him not to worry about it. But he was flabbergasted that I didn’t make a sound even though he figured it would certainly have hurt. At that time I didn’t know the reason behind this. Deon gave me a hard time about me being an alien since I didn’t have a human response to pain. Later I realized that my response to pain was silence. I learned this in the public transport in Chennai where I was molested. (In the last couple of years, I have started saying more and more, “Ouch” when it hurts. That’s a lot of progress!)
The molestation in all its repercussions affected me deeply. It affected the choices I made as an adult. And I made several bad choices because of the trauma from the molestation. For those of you who think that I’m exaggerating, I’m borrowing this phrase from Keisha who knew me. She said, “Don’t judge me, You don’t know my life.“ — paraphrase. I know that not everyone is affected by molestation the same way that I was. I know Lachelle and Tyrina who are very close to me where one of them was moderately affected and the other one was not affected at all. For Lachelle, it was just something that happened. How I envy Lachelle! I’m writing this article because it caused me deep wounds. But God is using my deep wounds to want to write this article. He is using my bad experiences to be passionate about this injustice.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 NIV
God is also helping me in the process of forgiving my molesters. It is the worst I have struggled with when it comes to forgiveness. I’m totally justified in hating these men who messed up my life. Why should I forgive? The non-Christian world says that you forgive so you don’t carry that burden and that it is you who finds freedom. All this is very true and the Bible says that too. But there is a deeper reason for forgiving those that have wronged us. Jesus Christ died so my sins could be forgiven. This means that I had and still have a long list of sins that have been forgiven and are being forgiven every day. What kind of a person would I be if I received this amazing, unfathomable, forgiveness bought with the blood of Christ but refused to extend it to others. You may say that you have never molested anyone. But God wants us to remind ourselves of how much we have messed up and how much we have been forgiven. Forgiveness does not mean that we do not fight for justice. Quite the opposite. It gives us renewed vigor and freedom to pursue justice. It frees us from anger against the offenders and turns it into compassion toward the victims. We are free from bitterness. And when Satan reminds us to hold on to bitterness, we have to remind ourselves of the freedom we have been given by forgiving our offenders.
Isn’t it time we stopped only talking about molestation? Isn’t it time to jump into action and once and for all put an end to molestation? Come on, what is it going to take for us to go from complaisance to talk to action? In my opinion, it’s motivation. Motivation determines what and how much we talk about. Motivation determines how much of the talk is converted into action. Motivation determines the quality and quantity of action. So let us get motivated to end molestation.
Let us learn some serious self-defense. I am partial to the Krav Maga hand to hand combat technique from Israel since it uses a combination of boxing, judo, some martial arts, and street fighting. For more information on Krav Maga please go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krav_Maga. Please learn any self-defense techniques that work for you.. We need to act and actively protect ourselves from predatory men. The following sentence is graphic but is necessary to make my point. Just think of the numerous times you have felt the erection of the guy standing behind you or the time a guy’s hand touched you where it shouldn’t have touched you — the examples are endless. Think of the anger you felt when you stomped on this guy’s feet with your pointed heels and that didn’t stop the hands behind your back from doing unspeakable things. Now channel all that anger into learning how to protect yourself.
Let this be the beginning of the end of rape and molestation in Chennai. Let India as a whole follow our successful model and let us export this idea to all countries around the world.
I want to conclude with a couple of anecdotes. After I got my first scooter in college I told myself I’ll never use public transportation again. I don’t know about you, every time I have said that to God he puts me in that situation and challenges me. I rode the bus a couple of weeks ago for the first time in 24 years. It was a terrifying experience that brought back all the bad memories.
God used the incident that followed to show me what was in my heart. I was so grateful to get a seat so I could avoid groping. The bus became crowded with standing room only and a blind woman. There were no seats left and I let her walk by me without offering my seat. (I thought, “I’m sure God understands that I did this to avoid molestation in a crowded bus.” ) But it was gnawing at me that I wasn’t helping her. She went to the seats reserved for the disabled. The two older women sitting there didn’t want to give up their seats. I don’t blame them as there were enough younger people including me who could have given up their seats. Then the bus conductor intervened so he could find a seat for the blind woman. At that moment I was so consumed by the conviction from the Holy Spirit that I talked to the conductor and told him that she could have my seat. I was feeling extremely remorseful and wondered what kind of a person I have become. A few weeks prior to this God had shown me that I need to give sacrificially, give till it hurts. Never imagined this could be one of the situations he has in mind. I was unwilling to put myself at risk of molestation in order to help a blind woman. My heart had hardened so much that fear overtook compassion. For the rest of the ride on that bus, God protected me as I stood in the crowded bus. Not one guy touched me the entire time. I’m not saying this will happen every time but it happened to me that time. This abundant expression of grace from God led me to ask God for forgiveness. I’m grateful that He is faithful to forgive.
In conclusion, I would like to say, don’t throw the baby with the bathwater. Please don’t discount the content of the article because of the references to Christianity. I hope you investigate Christianity just like you scour the web when you are ready to buy a refrigerator, for example. Please don’t discount Christianity without giving it a chance. We even take a risk with a candy bar. We buy one knowing absolutely nothing about how it tastes. But we want to find out if we like it. Please afford Christianity at least that much time and effort. Again, don’t throw the baby with the bathwater.
Thank you to Kanesha who challenged me to write this article. Without Kanesha you wouldn’t be reading this article right now. Thank you Deon for believing that I was molested and for helping me process the trauma that rose out of the molestation. Thank you Keisha for your nugget of wisdom regarding the fact that other people shouldn’t be judging my life. Tyrina showed me how to survive this unspeakable act on a day to day basis. She was more fortunate than me that the molestation affected her moderately and not as much as it affected me. Thank you to all who have helped with editing and giving feedback, especially Aaliyah. Aaliyah, thank you for your invaluable feedback and detailed editing. Next only to God’s encouragement, I wouldn’t have written this article without Lachelle’s encouragement. Thank you for having such a positive influence in my life.Thank you for helping me in every way. Without you, I wouldn’t have found my way back to India. Thank you most importantly to my God the Father, my dearest Daddy in Heaven, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for giving me the words to write.