I was sexually abused as a child. But I moved on.

Published: November 29, 2016
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He would kiss me multiple times when I was alone, knowing I had done nothing when he made his first move.

As each day passes by, it becomes increasingly difficult to come to terms with my dark past. It amazes me how some individuals blatantly cry out, “my life is a mess” or “I can’t get over a relationship”. Those are not incidents to contemplate over for long. They are not worth your happiness.

I had always been outgoing. When I was younger, I was the chirpy child, the boy who always had a smile plastered across his face – but that changed one day.

I lived in a small neighbourhood in Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU). I was always becoming acquainted with people through my older brothers. I wasn’t afraid of my innocence and now, I realise I should have been; I guess my innocence was never mine to claim. One of my brother’s friends, who was three times my age, would make me do things – he’d cuddle me, forcefully make me touch his reproductive parts – and I’d just sit there quietly, never saying anything at all. That was only the beginning.

Along with my innocence, my smile slowly faded away. My confidence had completely dissolved. I didn’t have the courage to tell my parents anything because I was too afraid. I was too young to know any better.

There was another boy. He was even worse. He would make me sit on his lap and say things to me that I can’t translate or repeat with even a shred of decency. These boys followed me around everywhere I went. Their eyes followed my every move, and somehow, they got away with it all. They were masters of fiction, and I was the victim that kept succumbing to the darkest of truths. They came for me on the pretext of meeting my older brother. Every single time. And I dreaded it.

After years of living in a hell hole, I finally moved from QAU to another neighbourhood in Islamabad. Soon, my family hired a young housekeeper, who also happened to be a Qari Sahab. He preached the Holy Quran to young children. My two older siblings were on good terms with him, but I had my doubts. One day, after completing the lesson, he deliberately kissed me on the lips. I was not strong enough to retaliate, so I held back. And then it happened. Yet again, I was drawn into a world of deceit and shame. He would kiss me multiple times when I was alone, knowing I had done nothing when he made his first move. Even then, I could not protect myself. He once whispered in my ear,

“I hope your parents don’t find out, or else they would lodge a case against me.”

The torment continued for almost two years, I finally decided to open up to my mother and tell her everything that had happened in the last few months with the housekeeper. At that point, she was the only person I could turn to. It was the first time I had ever told her anything this significant, and thankfully, she understood. I was still afraid – afraid to tell her about everything that took place behind the closed doors – but she supported me, and fired the housekeeper the same day.

There were other incidents that took place while I was in that neighbourhood. My mother’s friend and her brother once visited our house for dinner. While my mom was engaged in a conversation with her friend, the brother took me upstairs and gently kissed me on the lips, like he did to his own nephew. After that, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. My silence had been suffocating me for 10 years, and I decided to tell my parents everything that had happened.

I was 19-years-old when I finally had the courage to open up about my past and face it, not just talk about it in episodes. I remember it was a bright Sunday afternoon. I woke up in tears for the first time in 10 years.

“What happened, Sunny?” my mother asked frantically.

I looked up at her and wept.

“I have something to share with you,” I said.

My hands quivered as I sat at the dining table and sobbed. My mother took me to another room and locked the door. I explained everything to her. I had to. One thinks that life gets easier once you let go of things, but it doesn’t. I told her everything, every dark detail that had haunted me for most of my life. And finally, I felt it – that burden rising from my chest as my mother made everything better.

Since that day, the little things don’t bother me anymore. I have been through the worst of times. In this cruel world, anyone can be a victim of abuse – be it sexual, physical, or domestic in nature. Women aren’t the only victims of sexual abuse – if men are capable of abusing girls, women are equally capable of committing the same crime. It’s about time we accept that same-sex child abuse is a major problem in Pakistan. We cannot ignore it anymore.

Sometimes I wonder, after all these years of struggle, whether my abusers even remember what they did to me. Some of them might even be happily married. I still recall what their touch felt like, even to this day; and I know I’ll never be able to forget it. Those men destroyed my childhood but I have left everything to God, and chosen to move on.

Haider Rifaat

Haider Rifaat

The author is a model, actor, talk show host and writer for fashion magazines OK! Pakistan and Good Times. He is a columnist and writer for Express Tribune, Daily Times and Pakistan Observer. He is currently the creator and host of Pakistan's first ever web talk show on YouTube titled 'The Haider Rifaat Show' and is set to make his film debut in '24 Hours'. He tweets @HaiderRifaat (twitter.com/HaiderRifaat).

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

  • Fari Faria

    First of all I admire your courage to tell everyone your story. Its not easy to repeat and reveal dark times.
    What I feel is that the problem arises when we feel afraid- afraid not to share with our parents.
    I guess we have faced things like, when we needed our parents and we could not share.
    Now what we need is to be a parent like we wanted to have.
    Stay blessed.Recommend