Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The girl is dead. Ignorance is still alive

(A version of this was published earlier in India America Today)

The girl is dead.(The girl who was gang-raped in Delhi died today in Singapore) But ignorances thrive.

The sadness is not just for the passing away of a brave girl who fought so hard. The sadness is also for our society who will quickly forget the lessons. The sadness is also for the fact that people just dont get the multiple axes on which such crimes happens: It does not happen just in buses and by strangers ... but quite often by known people right inside familiar settings... even their own homes. What is even more sad is the wake of sadness and destruction left behind in the lives of those who are alive, that comes behind many such incidents. When sexual abuse happens to someone in childhood, some of them grow up and become rapists and perverts themselves. Horridly enough, in some other cases the impact can be much longer lasting and harder to trace: They can create an atmosphere for such demons to come into society.

The deepest sadness is that as a society, we simply CANNOT discuss such topics and how they could affect others. And any discussion will often be met with extremely hostile backlash or, even more dangerous, extremely superficial stereotyping

There are over 52% in India who have been sexually molested as a child. That means one in 2 we meet on a daily basis have been affected. That obviously does not mean there is a wake of sadness behind each of them. But some of those who do end up growing into extremely troubled adulthood with a wake of broken relationships OR they themselves turn into rapists and abusers OR BOTH! (I would not be surprised if one of the molesters on that fateful bus was himself a victim of childhood abuse) 

But many do turn out to be perfectly normal -- those are the lucky ones.

Which is why the topic is completely taboo and confusing... people get bewildered how can one even discuss such a "dirty" topic as sexual abuse that happened in childhood. Especially when there are outwards signs of normalcy.

But why just blame ordinary people? Even doctors get aghast and confused that childhood abuse could be the reason for a broken family of the adult who was once abused.

Doctors search for immediate causes and not faraway aetiologies (aetiology == the subject that deals with causes) from the past. What is bewildering is that such doctors have actually seen adults limping because that adult had got the polio virus in the childhood. But when it concerns the warped behaviour of adults who were once molested as a child, it is a complete no-no. Many doctors simply will not even entertain such discussions. 

What we have to realise is that that the habitual quarrelsome person we meet in our neighbourhood may have been either a victim of such child abuse or married to one. That furtive, loner, scared lady who hardly talks to anyone maybe one such person who was abused as a child. 

Sadly, even that cheerful, ebullient person who is the cynosure of all eyes is privately a very damaged person -- who has driven his or her spouse up the wall because privately that person simply cannot be intimate -- the childhood abuse from that person's past continually haunts that person and has damaged the intimate moments with that person's spouse. 

Note that I am not gender biased: Childhood abuse happens to both males and females. Adults of both sexes can be damaged by this.

Many such adults seem normal on the outside. Often they are actually stunted in their understanding of relationships. There are adults with such a horrid childhood experience, who look at adult relationships as a 13 year old teen would: Someone who quickly fall in 'love' with her school teacher. They are the ones who get impressed by a stupid, lovey-dovey Facebook update or some SMS message (sent often by devious people who know how to exploit such troubled people) 

They have no understanding of what is true love, and what kind of depths of effort people really take to conserve relationships. And when the spouse also has some problem of his/her own (neurosis, some issue during adult life such as a business loss) then it is like a nuclear explosion in that family; a double-whammy.

When some person grows up and becomes a rapist, at least the world knows that there has been a serious problem. But I am talking about the hidden millions who experienced horrendous childhood events, and end up breaking up families in very insidious ways -- that is the cesspool from which future rapists evolve. So at one end of a time-scale (during childhood) a person experiences childhood abuse. At another end in the same generation, or possibly next generation -- a rapist comes into action. To establish connections are extremely difficult. In fact, it is horrendously difficult because there are many times the child himself or herself may not have realized that sexual abuse is being performed (See the videos by Arpan in the reference below that highlights this). Many victims of this social ill are completely in denial or insist that their trauma was long over.

In India, because of the proverbial "family" system we have, many such people do not get affected. I believe women are the stronger sex, and that sadly is often used as a ruse: They are expected to forget and forgive and lead a normal life. And men with such childhood experiences have to show their "mardaangi" and have to simply accept life with a smile… Result? Some males go on to rape and molest others. Some males end up loners and weird people. Some such ladies create havoc by not being able to seed the right values and crisis-resolving examples to their children. Some ladies go with very superficial and mean, stereotypical ideas of what is a male (Many of the gender jokes that ladies giggle over are actually propagated by very sad females who were once abused as a child)

Confusingly enough, trouble does not erupt always ... because families built around such people are not just another statistic: Yes, on an average, Indian families are happy. Maybe much more than families in other countries. There is a lot of resilience in our family life. Indian life sees lot of extreme conditions and our way of working is flexible to accommodate many issues and work around them. But every once in a while, that fails. And with the old family structure disappearing (joint-family had its advantages), this has started breaking down. 

Our strength as a family is just a perception; an "average" understanding, but families and individuals cannot be treated as a statistic. An individual cannot take on the property of the collective statistic. 

When you look closely there are lot of destruction around. There are people out there who are suffering enormously because either the mother or the father have been affected by this stupid, horrendous thing that sometimes some idiotic males do to children. 

Sadly, the same person who is a perverted child molester is also a kindly grandfather or even a bread-winning father or a generous uncle, or a successful contributor to society or otherwise a kind man. So it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for families to deal with such people. Many do not want to remove dirty skeletons from the cupboard because it may end up soiling a person who was otherwise regarded as a nice person. (This last point was quite delicately explored in Mira Nair's "Monsoon Wedding" ... she depicts the mixed up character of a child abuser in that wedding)

Many people are in denial. In fact, there are many who were abused as a child, and are now having troubling relationships, who actually will NOT acknowledge that their odd behaviour is because of such childhood experiences.

Unfortunately most such perverts who started it all are all males. Yes, many time it is that damaged male who starts it all (Formal literature does indicate a few females who have also indulged in perversions towards children … but they are very few or possibly have been undiscovered/under-reported)

But to vilify the "male" is simply the wrong way to tackle this problem. 

Nature needs both the male and the female to further life. The mortise and the tenon are both needed to hold a joint properly in place. Let me not beat around the bush: the penis and the vagina are both needed. The raindrops from the sky are the penises which seed the vaginas on the earth for the cycle of life to continue. There is nothing shameful there. It is when we stereotype either of them, and not regard a union as holy, that it ends up being a shameful topic. That is the context into which monsters are born who do horrendous crimes.

What is needed is insight, education, understanding and an in-depth dispassionate look at the subject OPENLY and one MUST BREAK THE CYCLE OF CHILDHOOD ABUSE … else the victim quite often ends up either being the perpetrator himself/herself OR sow the seed around him/her who may then perpetuate such crimes.  The latter situation (where no overt problem surfaces in a family where one spouse had experienced childhood abuse, but comes up in another generation) is extremely, extremely hard to check or prove.

It is extremely silly and sad that people are trying to remove curtains from buses so that such crimes do not happen. It is equally silly when I hear posters that say "Don't tell me what the girl should wear. Tell your sons not to rape" Of course one should educate sons to be respectful of girls. (And girls to be respectful of boys) But that is just not where the problem is. I am sure there must have been child molesters in that crowd of people protesting -- silently giggling to themselves -- knowing that the attention has NOT been drawn towards them.

What is needed is to open up the curtains inside ones own homes. 

Have discussions inside families and outside. Counsel/treat those weirdos, who are otherwise seem normal and and responsible and gentle, who then go around raping children who in turn grow up and rape or be passive to rape or break up a family which sows seeds in the next generation for rapists or other perversions to come alive ...… oh, I have told all that …. I am repeating myself …