Why won’t you let Ruwa Rehman Talk, dammit?

Published: September 15, 2015
Email

As soon as it struck midnight on my eighth birthday, daddy came into my room. I was giddy with joy. I would get my present now. That was the first night he raped me. PHOTO: AFP

Shut up… shut up… shut up… just shut the f*** up…

That’s how it starts for many sex abuse survivors in Pakistan when they finally draw the strength to reach out from the void and tell their story.

“Chup hojao. Shhh. Bas ab tum nay mujhay bataya hay magar aur kis hee ko nahi batana.”

(Just keep quiet. You’ve told me, now don’t tell anyone else.)

If this fails, the angle of attack changes on the survivor.

“Apni izzat ka socho. Tum say kon shaadi karey ga?” 

(Think of your reputation. Who will marry you?)

Sometimes, especially when the perpetrator is a close family member, in a sickening twist the survivor is asked to empathise with the attacker.

“Uska socho. Log kya kahengay? Uskee zindagee khatam hojaygee.” 

(What about their reputation? You’ll ruin their life.)

When this fails, sometimes there is a final gambit. A gambit so depraved, it is almost as heinous as the original crime itself.

Usually after a whistle-blower stands up to speak against her former employers, everything from her reputation, her competence, her motivation, her intelligence, to her state of mind is called into question by the people who used to sign her pay checks. It is an attempt to discredit her.

In a family more concerned with their own well-being, this is exactly what happens to a sex abuse survivor who dares to reach out to the outside world.

“Yeh to pagal hay. Iska to dimagh kharab hay. Kuch khawab mein dekha hoga.” 

(She is crazy. Must have seen it all in a dream.)

My personal favourite is,

“She’s making it up because she’s depressed.”

Yes, I wonder why she’s depressed.

Someone I knew spent her life married to a man who was nothing short of a sexual deviant. The word ‘izzat’ (respect) was used like some shield, when in actuality it was a noose around her neck, choking her soul little by little.

I’ve interviewed both local psychiatrists and survivors for articles I’ve written on the subject, and unfortunately, have found a similar pattern in the heartbreaking stories. In many, though not all cases, the survivor is told to silently bear the weight of abuse alone, so that others do not suffer the discomfort of sharing the burden.

It was a similar pattern on ‘Talk, dammit’, a Facebook page which has taken Pakistani social media by storm, and a page which sadly may not exist by the time this article is published. The page, created only to  serve as a platform for survivors of sexual abuse to anonymously share their stories, reads like a long collection of horror stories.

In these crushing first-hand accounts, the victims are usually – though not always – girls, and the tales of abuse begin from the ages of six on to teen years and beyond. The perpetrators are fathers, brothers, cousins, servants, and neighbours, while the most common culprits are tutors and qari sahabs (Quran teachers).

Reading so many disturbing stories, I have to ask the mothers of this nation, what the hell sort of upbringing are you giving to your sons?

How do they have such little respect for another person’s body?

While the blame clearly lies with the culprits of these heinous acts, the parents are to blame as well. Only a few parents gave their children the space and confidence to express themselves, while even fewer reacted by giving their children the healing love and understanding they deserved after learning of the wrongdoings. On the contrary, most parents quite selfishly tried to sweep the stories under the rug using the broom of toxic shame.

It is selfish because these miserable excuses for parents would rather ignore the matter than make the emotional effort to help their families process the tragedy in a healthy manner.

This callousness resulted in a snowball effect. One girl gave herself to the first boyfriend who showed her sympathy, yet was also very abusive. Numerous survivors gained weight, probably in a subconscious attempt to divert attention from their bodies. Still, others suffered from depression, anger, and other behavioural issues, some of which led to substance abuse.

This chain of events which ruined their adulthood started from the point of abuse in their childhoods. It is a chain which could have been broken had their parents offered a healing hand when their children turned to them in their hour of need.

Syed Faizan Raza Rizvi, the young man running the page, shared a most harrowing story recently, from a survivor who revealed her identity as Ruwa Rehman.

Ruwa Rehman,

“I was five and my brother 10. Being the ‘man of the house’, he had always gotten away with things. My well-educated parents loved him more than anything. Since both our parents were doctors – well known doctors – our status was considered to be higher. Bhai had broken an expensive vase. Mamma saw him break it but it was my fault. Daddy saw I was getting beaten up for something not my fault so he took me to his room and cuddled with me. That’s when it started. And it was our secret.

In return, I received what I thought was love. Plus daddy was just kissing me and touching me. And he loved me this way for three years. As soon as it struck midnight on my eighth birthday, daddy came into my room. I was giddy with joy. I would get my present now. That was the first night he raped me. Anally. I had to stay a virgin. But he took so much more. For years and years, he came into my room. I was battered and bruised. I knew it was wrong but I was too scared to say anything. I was sure my mother knew but she never heard my screams. She never came to rescue me from him. And his threats were never empty. He had always followed through. But I finally spoke up when I was 17. My entire family got involved and they tried to help me. My aunts and uncles intervened. But I had to stay inside the same house while they made decisions about my life. Conclusion? He shall never touch me again but I still should live with him because otherwise people would talk. And ‘my’ reputation was going to be at stake. In fact, my well-known family would have their status ruined. So it was decided that I’m going to live in my ‘home’. All this time, my mother threw it on my face that I had now tainted their reputation. And that I had been the whore tricking him into my room at night.

Eventually, my family backed out, my parents tricked me into going to a therapist who put me on 18 medications and all I did was sleep and eat. But I had my friends and their support. And then suddenly and beautifully I fell in love when I was 19. That person had been raped some time ago and we both just understood each other so well that somewhere down the road of amazing friendship, we both were in love. I finally had a little hope. A little light that had lit up. Then daddy found out that I was dating someone and threatened to rape that person – the person who made me believe in love and understood what I had been through. In despair, without giving any reason, I sent a heartless text, ‘I think we should break up’. Heartbroken and devastated, our friendship was ruined. The only person I had risked to love never understood why and I didn’t have the courage to explain – safety was so much more important. And whatever friendship we had was now all gone.

Six months later, daddy came into my room again. He mocked me. He told me how my family did not care about me. How no one had ever really loved me. How my ‘lover’ did not protect me. I was made to be used. My body was made to be used. And only he had the right to do so. I belonged to him. And then he raped me. He was more abusive than ever. All his rage and frustration had come out as a brutal force and had at times ended up with me having to get stitches around my genitals. I was so humiliated. And slowly I lost what little I had of me. I couldn’t even ask my family for help again. They didn’t care. All hell broke loose when I was 22 and had just found out I was pregnant. A baby was growing inside of me. At least I had thought it was a baby. A foetus, maybe? Was it mine? Am I supposed to keep it? Should I keep it? Will this baby be the first person who would love me? However, my (new and genuinely nice) therapist explained to me that I couldn’t keep the baby. I needed to get an abortion. And so I did. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I couldn’t risk it again. I ran away from Karachi all the way to America. With no money and no life. And I started over. That was two years ago. The agency that helped me made sure I survived. They took care of me like I was their family.

And I did survive. I’m here writing my story. Completely detached from what had happened. I only feel the pain when I sleep and still have those nightmares. I have suppressed memories which bring back new memories I had forgotten. I am broken and miserable and lonely. And I have scars that can never heal. I have pain I can never forget. I have lost everything I had ever loved. I have stopped believing in love. I am still depressed and suffering from a severe form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People tell me I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay? I don’t believe that. I had heard that for years. ‘I’ll be okay’ are hollow words for me. But I’m still here. I haven’t heard my abusive mother’s words in two years. My father hasn’t been able to rape me in two years. I am here. I am alive.”

Unfortunately, all hell broke loose for Syed Faizan Raza Rizvi after sharing the tale. The next day, he took down Ruwa Rehman’s story with the following message,

PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

The reaction was mixed. While most of the ‘Talk, dammit’ followers were unhappy with the censorship, some took to the length of abusing the admin of the page, Faizan. The irony was that those claiming to stand up for victims of abuse were now abusing Faizan himself. Here, Ruwa’s champions failed to realise that they only knew of her plight because of the man they were attacking.

Meanwhile, a page launched in support of Ruwa, called ‘Ruwa Rehman, We Believe You’.

Before expanding on Ruwa’s case, I would like to say a few more things about Faizan – it is very clear that this young man has done a lot of good for the nation with ‘Talk, dammit’. Furthermore, his friends speak of his charitable and generous nature for other causes as well. If anything, he is guilty of naivety. It also seems that he was issued numerous legal threats by Ruwa’s family. Posts on various Facebook pages suggest that Ruwa’s father, whom she said brutally raped her for the better part of life, is highly connected, and holds a prominent position at a hospital – which happens to be currently under investigation.

What is bothersome, however, is how Faizan was quick to side with Ruwa’s family, going so far as to discredit her story. Had he remained neutral at the very least, it would have been understandable. But to quickly shift the blame on the victim was disappointing, especially considering those who Faizan had fought for previously had faced the same issues. When push came to shove, he was sadly laying blame on the survivor just like everyone else.

There are several reasons I believe Ruwa Rehman.

1. As explained above, to paint her as mentally ill seems like a tactic to discredit her. Moreover, what sort of a psychiatrist would tell Faizan that Ruwa is a delusional schizophrenic? Would that not break every rule of patient/client confidentiality?

2. Delusional Schizophrenia is a serious disease, a form of psychosis where a patient can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. If Ruwa is truly delusional schizophrenic, then how has she composed such a lucid letter to Faizan. How is she so coherent on her Facebook updates? How was she pursuing a medical degree in Pakistan and is apparently continuing to do so in the United States? Most crucially, why are Ruwa’s friends confirming her story?

3. Her two Facebook pages also fit in with the timeline of her story. The first page seems to have stopped updating in March 2013, a time when she claims to have been relocated to the United States by an agency. Her second Facebook page seems to have been started a few months after her last update on her first page.

It is possible she lost access to her first Facebook page after fleeing to America, and her password was changed from her computer at home in Pakistan.

Here is a message Ruwa posted on Facebook from her second account,

PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

From this second account, Ruwa also hit the ‘like’ button on the countless messages of support on the Ruwa Rehman, We Believe You’ page.

4. The final reason is probably the creepiest. Here is a threat sent to Faizan from Ruwa’s first Facebook account. Remember, this account wasn’t updated since 2013.

PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

Clearly, Ruwa is using a different account now. The question is, who used her old account to issue this threat? It is now increasingly obvious that there are elements who don’t want Ruwa to talk.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    I say – Stay ‘connected’ to people . Looking for a silver lining – I am happy Her story came at least this far . Thousands simply swallow the negative / suppressed / humiliating feelings and get on ..Recommend

  • Asif K. Sharif

    Sir, i salute you. you will always have aloved family and will forever be content. inshallah!Recommend

  • Loquacious

    My heard goes out to this brave woman. And we shouldn’t hate the young man who spread so much awareness on the matter. Brilliant title- very honest, very composed, very eye-opening an article.Recommend

  • Areeba

    There seem to be an awful lot of misconceptions going around on the internet about Schizophrenia since Ruwa’s story has come to light. People suffering from delusional schizophrenia have often fairly normal thinking, speech and emotions and it would often be hard for a person speaking to them to even be able to identify they’re schizophrenics. Hence a schizophrenic would be perfectly capable of writing a lucid letter and be coherent on Facebook. Also, schizophrenics are NOT lying when they tell their stories of persecution because they firmly believe in that alternate reality and would be often able to give you logical sounding arguments/proof to back their delusions.
    Let me, however, be absolutely clear here: I am in no way implying Ruwa Rehman is suffering from delusional schizophrenia. I have merely stated general facts about Schizophrenics to clear up some misunderstandings I have come across.
    What is odd here though is that if Ruwa did indeed suffer from delusional schizophrenia, as her family has confirmed, she would not have written that second post to Faizan, because as a delusional schizophrenic she wouldn’t have been able to recognize that story as false. So the family’s story in this case doesn’t add up, irrespective of whichever Facebook account of Ruwa’s is the real one.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I read this through carefully…..and to be honest, I did not know what to think. I’d err on the side of being cautious.Recommend

  • Rizwan Liaqat

    That message in the end is so obviously fake and pretending to be her.Recommend

  • aaliya bondrey

    Thank you Noman for bringing the facts to light. Your arguments hold merit, and will hopefully help people see the truth for what it is. Even if that doesn’t happen, you have at the very least given Ruwa the support that she bad needs to carry on her fight. Keep writing. May God bless you and help this girl find peace and strength.Recommend

  • Ruwa Rehman

    For all the people on this page, for all the people messaging me and for all the prayers and support, I cannot thank you enough.
    I am on an open front at this point and I am here. So questions and concerns are more than welcome.
    For the people asking me what I want from this: I want justice. But more than that, more than anything else I want to make sure I can help- I ask people to come forward, and I want to somehow help people. It may be a very unrealistic goal. But that is the main outcome.
    I was not expecting my story to bring so much attention and now that it has, it is time to bring a change, and I am more than positive we can do that. I need all of your support. I need all of you to not let this fire die down in a month. Let’s do this together.

    More importantly, I want to clear the name for Faizan. All he was trying to do was run a great cause to raise awareness. Threats and crude comments for him are unnecessary. Although, he shouldn’t have posted the second post where he falsely accused me of having a mental illness and apologized to my father and family. That was not required. However we should all remember he is after all in his early twenties and he was trying to do what he thought was best. And I assure u all that he indeed was threatened by my family. His response however wrong it was, was not intentional and was not meant to cause harm. I have forgiven him and I hope you all have it in you to forgive him too.
    Let’s do this together. Let’s get justice, for me, for all other survivors. Let’s make a difference. Let’s talk.Recommend

  • Critical Thinker…!!

    Sorry Areeba your smart explanation doesn’t help the victim. Just bring the girl to a doctor in USA and get it checked…rather than making a juicy story out of it….Recommend

  • Sidra amjed

    Hi Ruwa,
    I cannot imagine what you had to go through in your childhood.
    And I do believe you.
    Stay strong girl. You’ll make it through InshAllah.Recommend

  • Sheraz

    Posting on FB and sending story to a page will get you justice. Right! GG…

    You are of age now. You have got an organization/group on your back.
    Lodge an FIR against your father in Pakistan. Get medical certificates or whatever to support your claims. Drag him to court.

    I wonder why you won’t do the thing that needs to be done. And instead posting things here and there.

    People have a very short memory. Believe me, 2 days from now, people wont even remember your name.Recommend

  • Kahkashan Kanwal

    could you please confirm if your second account is not used by you? Ikr, but just tell itRecommend

  • A

    There is a schizophrenic Nobel peace prize winner and that too for his contributions in math and economics. He’s very well know and has a film made on him. Died this year in a car crash. Look him up and read his account.

    Having said that, there is no reason for me not to believe Ruwa. I know this girl have met her a few times as I am her brother’s friend. And from what I remember I saw a very normal and friendly relationship between the two.

    Put I think this is how the world works. We’re emotional beings and not rational. There is absolutely no way to prove what’s right and what’s wrong. And this internet trial can and will not do any good.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Agree…..Noman is doing good work.Recommend

  • Awaad Khan

    Ruwa, please don’t take me wrong…..but you need therapy. I know because I would process such cases and I eventually needed it. Not that I knew about it. I admire your strength and pray for your safety. But humans as strong as they are …. are also pretty weak. Lastly, one outcome of such abuse is the losing of faith. Don’t lose it. Hang on to it.Recommend

  • maggie

    PLEASE TALK SOME SENSE! WHY would she go back to pakistan. she ALREADY fled to SAVE HER LIFE! This child is a SURVIVOR! SHE posted to GIVE HOPE. HOW could she go back? SO that her abuser or peadophile father could have HIS COLLEGUES falsely MEDICATE her and LABEL her with FALSE DIAGNOSIS! LET HER VOICE BE HEARD. LETS NOT REVICTIMISE THE VICTIM! STAY STRONG RUWA YOU ARE A SURVIVORRecommend

  • maggie

    ME TOO!!Recommend

  • maggie

    did you read the story????????????????????????????if she did indeed suffer delusional schizophrenia. please explain HOW this CHILD had TO GET STITCHES AROUND HER GENITALS ??? she SOUGHT HELP once and was given this FALSE LABEL by HER FATHERS medical friends. she was FALSELY medicated. this girl FLED for HER LIFE. of course her family can access het old account. they have all her personal belongings, they have her computer. lets nor forget that money and influence can buy a lot of things. STAY STRONG RUWA, YOU ARE A SURVIVORRecommend

  • maggie

    MINE TOO!!Recommend

  • Princy Ikra

    Ruwa u r d courageous girl i support u my pretty sister dont loose hope every thing will be okk Lot of prayers ,love and best wishes for u my little sisRecommend

  • Anurag Kapoor

    Excellent work by the writer Noman Ansari here. I think you should write this story in a mainstream newspaper. Family’s story does not add up.Recommend

  • Sheraz

    She’s asking for justice. And I am telling the right way to do it.Recommend

  • Sheraz

    Read, Tell me your Dreams by Sydney Sheldon. There’s so much common.

    That too is about a rapist father, silent mother, she fells in love. And then runs away to America.

    With the whole delusional schizophrenia thing on top of it, make things fishy.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Actually it has already gotten her more justice than ever before.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    That’s not what Areeba was saying.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I understand what you are saying.Recommend

  • Sonia Khawaja

    Very well investigated and written article Noman.Recommend

  • Syeda Ali

    Writing in CAPS shows you’re not even getting what she is saying. She read the story & no one is doubting her but indeed schizophrenia is exactly the way she has explained. I personally know people who suffered from this illness and they are brilliant people and their stories sound more coherent & practical than real events.
    Having said that I really believe Ruwa is telling the truth & I think this after reading last points of this blog. No one can be 100% sure but I trust her & pray for her. All best wishes for her.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    You realize Tell me your Dreams doesn’t have a monopoly on this, right?Recommend

  • maggie

    don’t tell me, your one of her fathers paid minions???Recommend

  • Maria

    Ruwa I feel your pain and whatever broke you was horrible. You survived and you managed to speak up.. Bravo.. Because speaking up helps.. It might not bring justice but will bring peace to your soul and that is precious. those hating her, even if she is delusional, why is she accusing her dad of rape? Says a lot about the sort of dad – daughter relationship they had even if it is all babbling. And honestly people, don’t act as if this comes as a shock. We do know brothers and dads rape girls in our streets too. I see nothing off proportion here. The family made her stay mute for the respective.. They are obviously not happy when she talked. But talk Ruwa.. Talk dammit. Recommend

  • Ruwa Rehman

    Sheraz,
    Do you know everything about Pakistani Law? Do you know that if I took a step in Pakistan, that I won’t be labelled crazy, but probably killed.
    People do have a short memory, I agree. But everyone is doing something in this cause, to get justice, while keeping other circumstances in mind. Which u are very unaware of. Meanwhile, me posting online, is giving hope to survivors. This is not something that happens overnight. It takes time… Sometimes years.
    You, however, don’t understand abuse. So read up about it, in depth, before you give suggestions which u seem are mature. Recommend

  • saad sohaib

    The whole thing smells fishy. There is no chance of anyone getting away with the kind of proofs she’s claiming to have so the only other possibility is that this whole thing is made up for personal revenge or any other messed up reason.Recommend