As a child, I was abused multiple times by a close relative for over eight years. He would manipulate me into doing sexual activities that I wasn't supposed to know of and should not have been exposed to as a child.
In each of these encounters across eight years, he would always ask me to remain silent and not leak this 'secret of ours' to anyone. Little did I know that I had to do the exact opposite of that.
It began with him reaching out to my private parts and poking me to touch his and of course, things followed. People ask me now, "Why didn't you say no, did you like it?" Honestly, one never understands how to act in a situation like that because you're clueless and nervous, all at once. Moreover, how do I even begin to comprehend at age six?
Growing up, a young schoolboy who was supposed to explore life ended up losing confidence and the strength to fight back against my unfortunate experiences. While on one hand there was an on-going contemplation of how to cope up with abuse, on the other hand, I also faced extreme bullying and teasing at school.
Simple words like 'Bayla' (faggot), 'Chakka' (transgender), 'Ladki' (girl), the 'Clap' .The fact that I was projected as this kid who wasn't a 'guy guy' and couldn't play sports made me think that I had no power in me. As a result of this, I would always get numb when my abuser would take me to the 'dark places'.
Fast forward, with endless encounters in between, to an evening which was the last time he tried to force me into doing it by saying, "Do it for my happiness. You don't have to do anything, you just lay there and I'll do it all."
I should've bolted back with rage but then I looked at his two-year-old son and 20-year-old wife standing only a few steps away from us and my heart went out to them. I didn't want to ruin their lives. My denial didn't go down well with him and his ego, so he said, "Alright, I'll remember this NO. Wait and watch what I do."
Right after that, my cousin and I were supposed to leave for the market to shop. Unfortunately, my abuser convinced my cousin to tag him along as well and my innocent cousin agreed. My abuser rode the bike that evening to the market with my cousin in the middle and me in the back.
Believe me, that ride was the most dangerous ride I've ever been on and I witnessed death hanging in front of me. It was his way of projecting anger and frustration on to me, rather a signal for me about how crazy he can get if I don't give in to his demands.
But, that night I wasn't scared. I was done. I was not going to let him play with my life got and for the first time in my life, I was happy even though I was crying.
People now ask me, how did this affect my relationship with my parents? Well, my relationship with my parents was never affected because I hid this from them until I turned 20.
Although we had a very open environment and they do have broad mindsets but this isn't a love talk. When I told them finally, my mother cried and apologized for not being there for me when I needed her the most.
We cried together and promised one another that we'd never hide anything from each other. On the other hand, my father didn't have anything to say but extreme aggravation against the abuser.
Even after I decided to speak out and advocate the issue, they've been extremely supportive and now they seek advice for other children who've been through this. So, to the ones asking, we're good.
Such experiences shatter you in and out and there's very little hope left in you to live your life. Fortunately, I was able to get past this phase because I wanted to stand for others like me.
Victims have no one to look up to & seek inspiration from. I still remember the time when I'd look for examples like me to relate to on the internet & see if it were normal. I never got anything; hence, I started to believe that I was the only one with the wrong in me to be going through this.
When you lack confidence, your personality is going to take unwanted downfall. Like any other abuse victim, I blamed myself for a long time but as you grow and learn about it, one realizes that it's not their fault at all.
Luckily ever since I opened up about my past, I've been surrounded with extreme positivity, except a few who asked me, "If you didn't like it, then why did you keep going back to that place?"
Nonetheless, the one thing I was always certain of was that I would never give up on life. I had big dreams that I wanted to achieve and there was no way I could let it go because of what happened.
That being said, I've also tried to bury the past but it wasn't possible for me. So, I decided to wear my survivor badge very proudly and remind myself each day how lucky I am to be alive today. I channel the same confidence I had after that bike ride each day to keep my wheels running. There are only very few examples of men who've come out from their dark spaces of abuse and have shared their stories with the world. I am sure they felt independent and liberated afterwards.
Unfortunately, societal judgment and norm have boxed people into being a certain type. This needs to be shattered as issues are being faced by both genders and the diaspora must be shared for what we call 'Equal'.
As a result of this stigma, education around abuse and the 'Right' or 'Wrong' is not being imparted to children. In the coming years, I hope to not fight the same fight but gain victory in what I am doing.
Unfortunately, we're still fighting for freedom in our capacities and it's heartbreaking to see how far we still have to go. However, our hope for a better tomorrow pushes us to do what we do. The fight we fight today and the steps we take will lead to the generations to come into a better living.
The primary difference back then and now is the voice. Today, the voice is double or more of what it was and also has been amplified across borders. Today's voice for freedom transcends borders and crosses nationalities and breaks through the religions, hence, the effect is multifold and multi-layered. Ease of access to information has made the fight possible and has led us to be even stronger.
As a passionate activist, I'm working to help others begin their journey towards freedom by sharing my story and my emotion.