“I tried to run but he grabbed me by the shoulders and pinned me against the wall. “Do as I say,” he whispered into my ear, “And I’ll let you go.” I tried to break free from his grasp but his huge hands were too strong. With one hand, he placed my hands behind my back and with the other; he held my head against the wall. “Please, let me go!” I pleaded to which he laughed. He removed the dupatta from my neck and I wept uncontrollably as tears continued to fall down my cheeks. I dug my long fingernails into his hand but he only sighed and aggressively pulled down my kameez. I couldn’t do anything about it, he was about to take it away.
He punched me hard in the stomach and I squealed in pain. “Now, I’m really getting tired of your shit. Do as I say,” he growled. I nodded silently and said to myself, “He’ll let me go if I do, he’ll let me go…”
10 years later
“Zahrah? Are you even listening to what I said just now? Take this to the dining room right now!” my mother said to me as she hastily handed me the tray laden with fruits, jalebis and samosas. I nervously carried the tray to the dining room and put it on the dining table. I glanced at him. He sat there on the sofa adjacent to my father; he had slight stubble, his hair was slicked back and parted from the side and he wore a spotless white shirt with black jeans. Ironic isn’t it? He wore a white shirt and it was spotless, such a contrast to what he had done. Clearly, the way I saw it, why would he be stained? It was I who was because it wasn’t consensual for me. I was raped by him.
I felt stained. I felt dirty; those invisible stains loomed over me since the day it happened. I woke up every day trying to erase the memory but it always proved futile and I would end up with puffy eyes and a runny nose. Every day, I struggled to somehow not let this define me but I always ended up feeling miserable. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. I had carried this weight on my shoulders till then but I was done. Everyone needed to know. My virginity was taken from me forcefully, I didn’t ask for it. I never did. He forced himself on me. And now, he was sitting in my house talking to my father under the perfect Prince Charming façade he puts on for everyone, hiding behind, there was a cruel rapist who had committed a sin. His parents, my mamoo and mami had come to ask my parents for my hand for their son.
I vomited in the washroom when my mother first told me about this. I smiled weakly at her when she went on saying how Sarmad was absolutely perfect for me with his job as an architect, designing buildings for corporate companies. “He’s an absolute delight,” she went on, “he’ll take such good care of my darling.” As I rested my head against the cold washroom tile, the horrifying event played vividly in my mind. He raped me in my maternal grandparents’ house when everybody was out shopping for my sister’s wedding. I didn’t go because I always felt claustrophobic in public spaces full of people so my mother decided to leave me in Sarmad’s good hands. I was only 15 back then. He was 23. I avoided talking to him after that, I didn’t want to see his face or feel his presence in the same room as I was.
He always pretended to be nice to me, cracking jokes and complimenting me and I feel disgusted and wanted to strangle him with my own hands. DOES’NT HE KNOW WHAT HE DID TO ME? HOW CAN HE PRETEND IT NEVER HAPPENED?
He entered my body without my permission. He took away my virginity. He stained me. He hurt me. And now he has the audacity to arrive in my house with a proposal of marriage?
“Zahrah, how are you?’’ Sarmad spoke to me directly. “I’m fine.” I replied curtly. I sat opposite to him between my mother and father and kept my eyes down; staring at the floor hoping the words would come out as bravely as I played it in my mind. I would tell them. It’s been too long. My life was already damaged since that day and I didn’t want to be betrothed to my rapist. It had to end. “I’m bursting with happiness at the thought of our two families uniting, Sarmad isn’t going to be just my son-in-law!” my father exclaimed proudly, “he’s going to be our son.” I stared at my father in disbelief. But I couldn’t blame him. He was clueless because I never told him about it. I looked at Sarmad and a mischievous smile played on his lips. “I couldn’t have been happier!” my mamoo told my parents as he clapped his hands together with joy. “What about you, Zahrah?” my mami asked me, “How do you feel about this? How was I supposed to feel? I felt angry and disgusted.
I stood up and strode over to the middle of the dining room, distancing myself from my parents, my mamoo and mami and him. My parents looked over at me with daggers in their eyes, watching what I would do. My mamoo and mami threw puzzled looks at each other while Sarmad inched forward and folded his hands on his chest, watching me with curiosity in his eyes. “Look, I cannot marry Sarmad.” I declared loudly. “What are you talking about?’ my mother hissed at me. “I’m doing what’s morally right. You cannot absolutely expect me to marry this rapist. He raped me. Remember, when all of you went out for shopping for Maliha baji’s wedding? Well, I was at home with Sarmad. He took advantage of it and raped me.”
Everyone stared at me in silence with shocked looks on their faces. Sarmad broke the silence and asked in a quiet voice, “Do you even know what you’re accusing me of? Rape and that’s such a heinous sin.” My parents shifted their gaze towards Sarmad now. “Do you remember raping me? How you tied my hands and feet tightly with Rope? I’ve suffered since that day. Do you even know how much courage it takes to remind yourself that it’s going to be alright but it’s not? I kept this dark secret all to myself, never whispered a word to anybody. I was emotionally and psychologically broken. For the fear of society judging me because I was a female so I must’ve asked for it BUT I NEVER DID.
I feared that I would be silenced so I never spoke. I feared everything. But, you have the audacity to come into my house with a proposal asking me to marry you?! THAT’S MESSED UP. I feared I was going to take this to my grave but this happened. I needed to take this burden off my shoulders, I needed to feel light.” I stopped and looked at my parents. They both had tears in their eyes and opened their mouths to say something but closed it. My mamoo and mami looked rather confused and stared at me, hoping Sarmad would call this a lie and put a stop to this madness.
Before he could say anything, I turned towards him and said, “Before you accuse me of lying, remember Allah is watching each and every one of us. If you deny this, remember, He will punish you in the afterlife if not on this earth because I will never, ever forgive you for what you did to me.” Sarmad’s face went pale and he looked at me with horror on his face. “Zahrah….I..,” he began but I cut him off. “No. This is the end. I don’t want anything to do with you. Goodbye.” I walked out of the dining room and went into my bedroom and locked the door. I lay on my bed and closed my eyes, drifting off to a peaceful slumber which came to me after ten years. I felt lighter somehow; it seemed to have lasted an eternity. Finally, I had the last word.
I was awoken by a knock on the door. I stood up to open it and my parents stood there, on their faces were a million questions begging to be answered. My mother’s eyes were swollen and my father looked as if he had aged 10 years his age overnight. My mother asked me, “Why didn’t you tell us? 10 years and you kept this from us.” “I just didn’t know how to. I felt embarrassed by it. I didn’t think you guys would believe me…”
My father put an arm around me and told me, “I showed them out the second you walked out from the dining room. It takes courage to do what you did. They had the audacity to call you a liar when their son, a pathetic excuse for a human being, raped you. I feel disgusted to have called him a son. I felt like strangling him. I don’t want anything to do with them now. I don’t want to see their faces again. You don’t have to tell me about it, I already know how my daughter couldn’t have lied about such a thing. I want you to know that I’m proud of you, beta.”
Tears welled up in my eyes and he put my head on his chest, I was crying for the first time since it happened openly and freely without that heavy burden of a secret. I held onto my father as my mother spoke, “Don’t you for a second consider yourself worthless or stained. You’re the bravest person I know right now. I’m the one who should feel ashamed. If only I had known, I would have never invited those people to my house especially with a marriage proposal! We are proud parents of a beautiful daughter. Don’t let this define you ever. I really do hope Sarmad suffers in hell for this, for what he did. I hope he suffers both in this life and the hereafter. Rape is unforgivable and inhumane.” My mother choked back tears and pulled me towards her and hugged me.
I am extremely thankful to Allah for such understanding parents who believed me and didn’t think of me as someone who was a burden to them or as someone who lost their honour. As for Sarmad and his family, they were looked down upon by everyone who got to know about this. Due to distress and unable to cope with what had happened, Sarmad suffered emotionally and psychologically just as I had. He lost his job and became addicted to drugs; his life went into a downward spiral after that. I thanked Allah every day for people seeing me as much more than a rape survivor. Our society sees rape as something which ultimately loses the honor of one’s family but it’s not that at all. It should be seen as something which is inhumane and shouldn’t be committed by anyone. Rather than accusing the victim of lying, question the abuser. No man should ever get a free pass just because he’s a male and can do whatever he wants which includes rape. Rape is a sin and a crime- all in all, it is something that is supposed to be punished severely for.”
–This story is submitted from Karachi, Pakistan. The identity of the contributor is kept anonymous upon request.