It’s true what the statistics say: It’s someone you know. Most sexual abuse offenders pick those they are familiar with. Thirty percent are family relatives. I stayed up nights running my fingers over these stats like they were rosary beads.
Fathers. Uncles. Brothers. For me, it was mummy’s first cousin.
I wonder who else I might have become if this hadn’t happened to me. Maybe it wouldn’t have been someone who has her friends’ sympathy. They are awed I survived this tragedy, that I’m so normal, you never would have guessed.
I am sick of surviving this, of surviving him, ghost haunting a ghost. I want nothing more than to be able to recount my history without skipping over this or risk stunning people into silence, to recall a childhood that does not require recovery from, customized gray sky for my child shoulders, Atlas too soon. I want to come to God in peace, not a raging storm of tears who cannot understand why He would betray her, how He could betray her, what I did to deserve this cross, whose sins I suffer for.
My god said he loved me. So did my abuser.
I want to pray without resentment so palpable, I taste in my mouth when I put my head to the ground in a sajdah. When I bow before Him, I don’t want it to be weighed down by all the emotional baggage that needs unpacking every time I talk to him, that relentless echo of a ‘why’ in my head that follows me everywhere in my eight-year-old voice, trapped there by him. I want His people to stop asking me why I’m not Muslim enough, why I run my mouth off about Him, because I can’t tell them. I would be seen as lesser, as touched, filthy for having suffered, for having lost.
My own mother doesn’t want to hear it. She tells me a survivor entices the rapist. She tells me abuse is a rite of passage for Pakistani women and that I should stop making a fuss. I’m not special for having this happen to me. I want the privilege of this ignorance, this insensitivity. Tell me, mother: what is it like to condemn those who are stronger than you, whose suffering you can’t scratch the surface of?
I want to listen to people who say everything happens for a reason, and agree. I don’t want to see them for what they are: complicit. With these innocuous words, they aid criminals with their silence and their oppression. They perpetuate the misery of millions, encourage them to hate and blame themselves. I want to listen to them, and not fear for their daughters, their wives, their mothers, their sisters.
I don’t want to be the girl who has a god who hurt her, who watched it happen and won’t answer her now. I want to be the girl who joins in with her community when they celebrate her god, who is all-knowing, just, kind, who does not feel robbed of a deity and an entire self.
I don’t want to be an inspirational story or a statistic. I am only asking you to listen, to me and all those who need my voice to speak for them, sorry as it may be. In all of them, there is Musa, burnt tongues and tied hands, the true chosen ones, and I am only Harun, brought forward on their insistence, to translate their grief for you. We are all caged birds and I sing the loudest for those of us who can’t. Your bars couldn’t keep him out when it mattered so hear our songs now.
Why could you not keep us safe? Our parents let us float down the stream but there is no heroism in this story, only negligence, only cruelty. They forgot us there or they left us. We don’t know which one is worse.
It wasn’t Asia who found us, but the Pharaoh himself and we bear the marks still, and you dare to blame us for this when you can’t hold your boys accountable. You dare to punish us for having endured his brutality, his insidious caresses.
So keep your reverence of us and give us relief. Keep your sympathy and your awe of us, and just understand. We are not here to help you feel better about yourselves; we are here to be heard. For the love of your humanity, let us speak.