My legs were bent, the fingers of the predator were twisted aligning within the curves of legs, the air was heavy and my memory is numb and foggy now. I was 11.
It was the day of my sister's wedding ceremony. The rituals were on and I was standing beside him. Everyone was busy with the bride and the groom, and taking advantage of the moment, he grabbed me inappropriately.
I was shocked at first but then I yelled at him. Furious, he grabbed my waist and hit me numerous times. I felt a burning sensation while he hit me on the chest. That's when I realized what has been happening to me since I was 11. I couldn't breathe; I couldn't fathom the pang of shame, pain, humiliation and feeling of worthlessness that flooded my head. I was 20.
There are numerous instances that I can recall. One hot afternoon, he sexually assaulted me at another family gathering. He came to my house one night and taking the advantage of the time, he assaulted me again. After my sixth standard examination was over, he sexually abused while I had a fever.
These are some of the instances I can recall and I still can't stop blaming myself for taking so long to realize that I have been wronged and violated.
The person in question is my maternal cousin brother. It took me nine years to finally understand what was happening with me.
However, this didn't stop here. I was constantly subjected to verbal abuse when no one was watching. I was told that I was nasty and unworthy. As he continued his act of perversion he would mock me saying I went to an all girls school and loving a girl is never 'natural' and this is how one should become a grown-up.
My former therapist once asked me: "Are you sure your memory is not betraying you?" And I knew how thousands of people like me felt every day -- shunned and shushed. As more people hurled words of disbelief at me, the more sure I became.
I was publicly molested and violated during my sister's marriage ceremony and yet, not a single family member uttered a word of protest. As I stood there, numb and terrified, one my friends came and took me away.
I don't blame anyone but I was told that I had to remain silent to protect the reputation of my family. I was stopped from going to the police station for the sake of my this reputation again.
He kept coming back to my house as if nothing had happened and to my disbelief everyone in the house behaved normally with him. He had a winning smirk on his face. I couldn't scream, I couldn't cry and I just felt numb.
I thought, why me? This has been happening to me all these years and never had I realized the sheer amount of trauma I have been creating for myself.
I am a 25-year-old media professional and I have been dealing with clinical depression and severe anxiety since I was 14. By the age of 20, I had developed psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, my mental health was a mess and this trauma, memories of painful afternoons would cloud my head.
As a child, I didn't believe in monsters under my bed but my adult self couldn't stop thinking about the real monsters that surrounded me. I often contemplated killing myself so that I would not be reminded of my younger self in pain and tears.
My predator's unacceptable physical conduct persisted for years and when I finally came into terms with the reality, I isolated myself. I started blaming myself and asked myself over and over again --why I didn't protect myself?
I was being crushed with anger, disgust, and sorrow coupled with my vulnerability. I felt so dirty sometimes I couldn't even look at myself. My self-esteem was shattered and I felt like I could never trust anyone anymore.
Incidentally, his mother passed away due to a chronic heart condition and he always received sympathy from my relatives. In one night, the people I had known from childhood became a bunch of strangers.
My helplessness haunted me for enough time but then one day I finally gathered the strength to ask my parents to take a stand. I clearly told my family members that if that predator ever steps foot in the house again, I will simply leave the house.
My parents understood and I am thankful for them. My sister cut off all contact with him and all the bystanders and I am thankful that I have such a supportive sister. In fact, after all these years, I know people I can actually rely upon.
After confiding in my family members, I tried to approach the police. But I was not surprised when my complaints fell on deaf ears.
My sister was going through a divorce in 2016. My family members and I were subjected to regular threats and verbal abuse by my sister's former brother-in-law. I told the female inspector about this and the assault I have been subjected to all these years in the hands of my cousin.
The inspector told me: "This is not your university campus where women like you can do whatever you wish to". She referred to my university in Kolkata as it has often made headlines due to controversies.
This was said to me in the presence of a lawyer and yet again, nobody uttered a word.
You are braver than you think and you seek help at the earliest. Ask for help from a friend or someone close to you. Don't suppress it like I did for all these years.
Get mental health support. Reach out to the helpline and hotlines in your city. Write it down. Heal. Healing is ugly and difficult. Healing will break you into pieces but remember you are not defined by your trauma. You are more than that.
The pain, the intensity of shame was so deep and so real that I had no choice but to realize in the end, no one saves us and we are the hero of our own story. The only thing which bothers me right now is that my predator is still roaming free.
My story might not be new but I wish my younger self knew that it was okay to cry for help. What he did to me is not my 'mistake' and no matter who you are and what our situation is, being violated is never justified. I really hope that men and women who go through similar trauma as mine, find their voice at the right time.
We all have a story to tell and if somebody is lurking at you in the dark, scream, shout and tell everyone his name. Just like my therapist, there will be people who won't believe you. But there are some people who will. We are in this together.