“It is such a revolutionary concept in India – to accept that one has been the victim of CHILD abuse which is physical and emotional – in no way connected to sexual abuse. After all, it is a parent’s right to “discipline” a child, right?” – An Indian Teenager
This is a guest post by An Indian Teenager.
This was a very difficult post for me to write, but here it goes –
Since the past ten-eleven months, I have been having feelings of anger and hopelessness. Anger – mainly towards my father. Also towards myself. I couldn’t understand it at first. I mean, I’m in my late teens – surely, I have already passed the rebellious age?
Like all children I was naughty and troublesome. I was disciplined regularly.
Even as a child, I knew my father was unpredictable – I never knew what could make him angry and what would make me gain his approval. If he laughed indulgently at me for doing a particular thing today, he would be furious tomorrow. It was normal for me.
I remember that I especially hated dinner-time. Dinner was basically used to belittle me and curse me – for not spending enough time studying, for example. Saying stuff like “you filthy bitch” was very common. I remember I always went to bed crying. It was normal to me.
Slowly, I started becoming more and more introverted. I didn’t talk much. I didn’t speak much to my father, never knowing what could let loose another one of his tempers. It was normal to me.
He hit me – sometimes for half of the night if my behavior was not pleasing. It was normal for me.
I first questioned this when I was in class 7, I think. I kept a journal in which I wrote after events of this kind. Once, after a really long session, I just reached my limit. While writing, I declared that I would not take it anymore and I would rebel. I think that was the beginning of my “teenage rebellion” period.
Here are a few instances
#1 I was in class 1 when one night my mom suddenly rushed into the room I was sleeping in and screamed “save me, save me!”. I thought she was playing some game and playfully extended my hands, making a barrier. My mom sat behind me. Imagine my shock when my father slapped me and I fell down. I didn’t know what to do. I heard my mom slap my dad and my dad shrieking “What?! How dare you do this to your HUSBAND?!”. I think I repressed what he did after that because I can’t remember it. I haven’t been able to get this incident out of my head even after more than 12yrs.
#2 once, during the usual late night violence my father slapped me and bellowed “HOW DARE YOU LOOK ME IN THE EYE?!”
#3 After that, I always kept my eyes down when he shouted at me. I don’t know why, but one day he suddenly screamed “LOOK ME IN THE EYE! ARE YOU A CRIMINAL TO NOT DO THAT?!”. See what I said about being unpredictable?
#4 Once, I was changing clothes and I was a bit late in opening the door to my room. My father was repeatedly banging the door and I opened it in the same moment he banged it again. The knob hit my lower lip. He hit me again, looked at me with murderous eyes and went away. My lips got swollen and I had to lie to everybody who asked me. In an ideal situation, I shouldn’t have lied. Everybody makes mistakes, right? I guess I didn’t tell the truth because in my heart I knew it was not normal. My father didn’t even apologize. Ever. So, he didn’t regret it, right? That’s how I felt at that time anyway. And still continue to now (I guess you could say he regretted it but didn’t show it – but, well.. Maybe I’m selfish in wanting him to say it out loud).
I felt so humiliated – walking around, lying, not speaking (because the swell resulted in speech difficulties and then everybody would ask “what happened?” etc). Basically, I felt like one of those women I always read about. They got beaten and lied to everyone around it.
I still didn’t think I was abused, though. No, never. What an alien concept it was.
#5 A few months back, I and my mother had a misunderstanding and I told her to not sleep with me (she sleeps with my dad. But, that day I wanted her to sleep with me and then, due to an argument, I changed my mind. I wanted to be alone).
My dad came storming to my room and hit me repeatedly (I still don’t know what triggered it. My mom going back??) and started verbally abusing my mother and started saying things like – nobody loves her, not me, not him and we just wanna get rid of her. I felt so bad, then. I wished I didn’t say anything at all. I love my mom. We have fights and she scolds me too and even though she doesn’t say anything when my dad hits me, I still love her. I know its not her fault and she doesn’t walk out because she doesn’t want ME to have any problems (financially) with my studies.
And, I mean, he hit me repeatedly – and I thought it was OK because he was my dad but I just got really angry when he suddenly picked up a sandal and hit my mom on her head.
At first, I was so shocked I thought I must have imagined it. I always justified his actions on me on the basis of the relationship we share but to hit his wife? An equal partner? And she didn’t even protest? It was too much to take.
I’m giving instances and not really saying much because I just feel so.. disturbed.. while writing this that I’m afraid it will be incoherent.
So, as I said, I’ve been having feelings of anger and hopelessness. One day, I decided to google “child abuse”. I knew what I was seeing was definitely domestic violence and I saw a few comments saying that a child should not be hit and stuff. It made me wonder about my feelings – is it normal teenage angst or an effect of child abuse?
When I read up on child abuse, it made me accept so many other feelings – too disorganised to think about it consciously – as normal. For eg – hesitation in speaking to my father even about the most trivial of things, distancing myself emotionally from him, hating him (in no way temporary) , etc.
It is such a revolutionary concept in India – to accept that one has been the victim of CHILD abuse which is physical and emotional – in no way connected to sexual abuse. After all, it is a parent’s right to “discipline” a child, right?
I know for a fact that my father was mistreated by his mother and his sisters were given far more importance (ironic in India) than him. I realise that this shaped his attitude toward life and discipline in a major way. I realise it, but I cannot excuse his behaviour.
Due to this, I even have a lot of commitment problems and every (esp romantic) relationship to me is some sort of a power-game. I know it is sick. I didn’t even notice it before but I realized it during a couple of sessions in school with my counselor. I try to consciously make efforts to change this, but it is not as easy as it sounds. I felt so pathetic, crying in front of her, complaining about my father – who, in all fairness, had given me a decent education and pays for everything.
It has shaped the way I look at relationships and men and it will probably take months of therapy to be at peace with myself. Even to think about a serious relationship/marriage (which most girls my age do) is traumatising for me.
My father even admits he hates me and we have lived under the same roof without talking to each other for weeks. I cannot pretend to love him. I hate him too. I guess its disrespectful, but I can’t really respect him after how he messed me up. Atleast, not now.
I remember thinking once – What is the use of being a feminist? How is feminism helping me here? I still have to deal with this, don’t I?
I couldn’t find any answer straightaway and promised to rethink my association with the movement if I didn’t find any satisfactory answer. Also, wouldn’t this question crop up repeatedly in trying circumstances?
I thought for a few days and formulated my answer -:
I need feminism because even if it doesn’t change anything for me right now, my daughters won’t have to suffer if I bring them up in a feminist way. And won’t I get my own place and have my own life when I move out? I want to and I will not let myself be restricted by social norms when I’m financially independent. Isn’t that feminist? Isn’t even the courage to think about these and follow these feminist?
That day was a big day for me. It made me more of a feminist than ever and anytime my previous doubts crop up, I remind myself of my answer. It feels great to know that I’m a feminist and feminism DOES have the power to change lives – by encouraging you, empowering you, giving you choices – and most importantly, letting you live for yourself.
Many people may say this is selfish – but really, you live only once and why would anyone wish a person to waste away her/his life following some hypocritical moral societal standards? Why would anyone not want a person to follow her/his dreams and ambitions?
The people who do the above strike me as the most selfish, because they expect OTHERS to conform to THEIR standards so that they will feel less threatened about the way they live or won’t feel insecure about their morals. After all, if most people follow a particular way of life (even if some are bulldozed into it), its gotta be correct and moral and ethical and all things nice, correct?
Anyway, I wrote this to tell the people who read this post (not everybody who reads this blog comments, nor are all comments published so not all who comment here are as liberal as some of the faithful commenters) – please think about the way you are raising your children. No matter whether it is traditional or you were brought up this way or you see a vast majority of people following a particular way of parenting.
“Is this humane?” – that is the question you should ask. Please do, it may mean one less person who has to go through the amount of anguish I go through while with my parents (dad) everyday.