Salma’s story: Molested by her guardian
I first came across her on a Facebook forum in August 2010. The two of us were quite vocal on a forum made for the Sialkot brothers who had been publicly lynched during Ramazan that year. We often bumped into each other online and shared common passions and eventually decided to become “Facebook friends”.
Hailing from an educated, upper middle class family, she seemed to be an ordinary 20-year-old girl. However, I soon began to realise that all was not truly well on my new friend’s side. The seemingly normal girl appeared to be a little – well, different.
It looked to me as though she was stuck in a fairytale world as she would frequently put up pictures and videos of Disney princesses with their princes – often yearning for her own perfect prince to arrive. For a 20-year-old, this may not be completely unusual, but the “obsession” with a perfect fairytale was a bit strange. Something was a little off.
Then, one day I saw her comments appear on an unusual page – one that was for girls molested by their close family members.
Surprised, I initiated a conversation with her, and it was then that she revealed to me that her own father had molested her several times when she was a teenager.
The strange obsession with living in a fairytale land, the perfect prince and the images of princesses now became clear. My friend was forcing herself to believe that a man would eventually come and save her from the tortuous mental cage she was living in.
I asked this friend, whom I will call Salma*, if I could interview her regarding this incident and its effects, in order to share her story with the many people who are unaware of this issue. She agreed, and both of us hope that knowing about her ordeal may help and save other girls from suffering like her.
How old were you the first time your father molested you? Did it happen often?
I was 14 years old when it happened for the first time. He had taken me for a long drive and molested me on the way back. I clearly remember the first as well as the last incident, but I can’t exactly recall the total number of times it happened.
What made the abuse stop?
The last time it happened I was 17 years old. He just stopped himself. Perhaps he realised that I was older and could understand things now.
Did you reach out for help or inform a family member?
I tried talking to my mother about it a few times, but she never believed me. She is ill, so I decided not to bother her.
What are the characteristics of your abuser?
He acts very sweet, charming and innocent. He even cried in front of my mother when she talked to him about this. Because of this, she started feeling guilty about ever doubting him and disregarded the whole thing as my “delusions”. He still behaves like he is the best father in the world.
Do you feel guilty or blame yourself?
Yes, I feel guilty and shameful all the time; the reason being that when it happened for the first time I couldn’t judge between right and wrong. Many people would think that by the age of 14 an individual is mature enough to understand such things, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t comprehend what my father was trying to do with me and that it was wrong. I was very young.
How is your relationship with your father now?
It has been four years since my father stopped abusing me. I still live with him. However, I do not talk to him. In fact, I have a very aggressive attitude towards him. I try my best to avoid him because whenever he comes in front of me very boldly and calmly, the only question that come to my mind is: Doesn’t he feel guilty for what he did to me?
What are some of the effects of this abuse on your personality?
I suffer from low self-esteem. I grieve and mourn all the time. I often experience overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame and self-blame. I prefer to remain in isolation and I also believe I suffer from schizophrenia. I talk to myself for hours everyday. Yet, deep down, I do realise that it was absolutely no fault of mine.
Do you think you would have been a different person today had you not been abused by your father?
Absolutely. I would have been a wonderful daughter and a doting sister. I’ve lost all close relations after this incident.
Do you trust people?
Unfortunately no, I find it very hard to trust people now. Despite being abused, I still went ahead and trusted some people. I was involved in different relationships with boys but none could gain my trust. Once a boy even said that I deserved to be abused by my father! So after being constantly disappointed, I have given up. I don’t even know if I can ever trust a man again.
How many people have you shared your experience with?
The only way I really discuss my experience is on the internet, so I have discussed it with several people anonymously. Most of them do not believe me and think that I am making it up. In real life, I have shared this incident with about six to seven people whom I know personally.
What is the reaction of people when you share your story with them?
They think I am joking. I don’t blame them – it must be quite hard to believe something like this.
If you could go back, would you have done something differently while you were being abused?
I believe I was too immature to comprehend what was happening to me. The past cannot be undone, but if anything, I want to regain my personality – the traits I lost as a result of this.
Has your faith weakened as a result of this incident?
I am a Muslim and I try to practice my faith as much as possible. I do not question God about this. I believe every life has a test. This is my test and I am going to get through it.
Do you feel your abuser has psychological issues?
I am 100% sure that he suffers from a mental illness, though I am not aware if he has been diagnosed. A normal person could never do such a thing to his daughter.
Do you think such behaviour is inherited by the offspring of the abuser?
I am pretty sure it is. My elder brother is already depicting similar behaviour. I have often caught him trying to spy on me when I am alone.
Have you taken any measures to overcome the side effects of abuse?
Writing and sharing my feelings helps. I’m also looking forward to consultation with a psychiatrist when I am able to find a good one.
What would you say to other victims of abuse?
I would like to tell victims of abuse that although it may be difficult, please do not blame yourselves for the abuse. It is not your fault. Do not give up hope. A part of your life has been scarred for sure, but not your entire life. Learn from the experience, exercise compassion for others and do the right thing.
Make some goals and try your best to achieve them.
Author’s note: The interview has been taken with full consent from the interviewee for it to be published.
*Name has been changed to protect victim’s identity
Read more by Ayesha here.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.