Saturday, 24 March 2007

Any idea how intolerably bitter it is?

I think Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse in India by Pinki Virani is a path-breaking book on CSA. The strong language she has used has faced criticism. I want to draw attention to the fact that it's not meant to be a great, award-winning literary work, neither is it an informational document meant to supply an unbiased, unemotional theoretical/academic viewpoint of the issue being discussed. What the author primarily aimed at, and brilliantly succeeded at, doing is giving the sexually abused child a powerful voice.

Sexual Abuse in childhood is much more than the violation of a tiny body; it's the betrayal of trust, love, respect and the power the adult enjoys over the child. It's the rape of an entire childhood, in Pinki Virani's own words, and she couldn't have been more apt. Have you any idea how intolerably bitter it is? The child is torn apart by an ocean of conflicting emotions, which find no expression, no vent. How can one imagine that Pinki Virani ( a survivor of CSA herself) would choose to keep her emotions at bay? Why would she choose to minimize the horror which one in every four girls and one in every seven boys in India ( according to a study conducted by WHO) live through? Why would she choose to smother the shocking effects CSA invariably has on adults, sometimes for an entire lifetime? Why would she choose to mellow it down for the society, which is too clogged up with taboos, restrictions, backwardness, prejudice, false images of itself and superficialities to open its eyes to the truth which has been glaring right at its face for ages? What's wrong in giving the true picture? Why are people so afraid to face it?

The issue badly needed to be addressed the way she has done it, and I am grateful to her. People have to understand and take it in the right way. The anguish that underlines the book is not negative, but an effective way to jolt people out of their long and deliberate slumber. I can so completely relate to that anguish. It's time we wake up to the reality.

And here comes the golden question. Why am I making such strong statements? Why have I been single-mindedly pursuing the idea of creating a forum like JAAGRITI? My friends have asked. I have chosen not to give the complete truth to most of them. People have been guessing, speculating, inferring. The reason seems to matter a lot, people always want to find out everybody's shit. Pardon my language, but i find the phrasing very appropriate. It's funny, the way other people's tragedies attract us, well, most of us!

I will give the truth, for I have no reason to keep silent. I have promised myself I won't be silent anymore.

So, today, March 24, 2007, at 10:45 pm, I let the whole world know that, yes, I AM a survivor of hard spectrum sexual abuse for the first fourteen years of my life.

And that's it. I don't want to say anymore here , because it's irrelevant. Does it matter? There are thousand others like me, and they are your loved ones. Try to know their story and give them some support which they badly need. I am through with my past, and I have mainly done it alone; it's over for me. I know how much I had needed support then, but drove away anyone who tried to come close. So look around you, let not another child go through what I had to. That's all I am trying to do. That sentence sums up my answer to all the "whys" I have been asked. "Let not another child go through what I had to".

Let me make it very clear that my personal experience maybe the reason for my passion. But the validation of my pain is NOT the purpose of my efforts. It goes much beyond, it's far greater, and their is no negativity involved. I couldn't have taken up this cause with a more positive spirit. Making a difference is all that I want to do, absolutely impersonally. It came to me in a flash, after I had read Bitter Chocolate. It's this book that initiated me into my process of healing. I just knew, in my heart I just knew that I have to do a lot of things. And I better start it asap. I had never felt so positive, so energetic, so empowered before. That's the origin of Jaagriti.

But I won't be unfair to myself either. I won't belittle any aspect of what I have been through. I will tell it all. But not here, I will say it in the right place, and at the right time :) Although I have left my past behind, the process of healing I am going through right now is more difficult than I had imagined. But I am enjoying it, growing slowly with every passing day. Rather interesting, but you will have to wait for it, friend! Right now I am comfortable with taking refuge in my silence.

So coming back to Bitter Chocolate, Pinki Virani sheds all inhibitions as she takes us through every aspect of the issue in three notebooks - what is CSA( which in itself is an ambiguous and much-debated topic), why and how it happens, all the statistics,its crushing after-effects, two heart wrenching real-life stories, practical solutions including a detailed legal research, role of parents, and a special chapter for survivors who haven't disclosed their trauma to anyone yet.

It's a complete, comprehensive and powerful work on the issue. I congratulate her and thank her with all my heart.

It will hit you hard, but that's what is required now. For it's getting late. Why have we made such a society for ourselves where one gender lives under constant physical/sexual threat? All of us are responsible, let's face it. I will quote Pinki Virani's lines:

"Damn it, so much power abused, so much trust betrayed,
where are the parents of these children? The politics of
domination, the vulnerability of a woman, the girl's very
gender being a liability to herself as a human being: damn,
damn, damn, a young woman can never really say what
she wants to, wear what she wants to, go where she
pleases; she cannot feel complete freedom because she is
always, always in sexual threat. And these little boys who
are being sexually abused by the males in their own homes;
why are protectors turning predators?"

Over the next few days I will quote excerpts from Bitter Chocolate and discuss them. All comments and contributions are eagerly awaited.


  1. hey amrita..
    i appreciate ur zeal and passion.. go for it.. lead the revolution ..'coz you really have something which rest of us lack..
    wishing u luck..

  2. amrita,
    You have been brave to acknowledge the problem...acknowledging the problem is the first step towards solving it.There are many people out there who even refuse to do so.The victims of CSA are not some superhuman beings who can acknowlege the problem even when the people around them are saying "no..there's no such thing as child sexual abuse".I bring this point up because some people just refuse to even consider the possibility.i find the sheer indifference of some people very frightening.Their outlook is like "it happens in very rare cases and only in the lower strata of the society." The innocent ones who have suffered abuse need the support of people around them.More importantly it is important for family and friends to validate their feelings.True healing is possible only then.

    Pinki Virani uses strong language in Bitter chocolate.Her anguish has moved me and touched me in many different ways.I can't remain dormant and sit there doing nothing about the issue.

  3. music is silenced,the dark descending slowly,
    has stripped unending skies of all companions,
    weariness grips your limbs and within the locked horizons,
    dumbly ring the bells of hugely gathering fears.
    still , o bird, o sightless bird
    not yet, not yet time to furl your wings.