Couple of years ago, I was travelling by one of the double-sleeper bed, night buses with 4 of my friends(2 guys and 2 girls). (Very close at that time.) It was during the end-of-semester thesis review..my final year of graduation. One of the guys had a crush on one of the girls and he requested her to spend some time with him on the upper compartment to talk about his feelings, while his friend (whom I shared an elder sister and younger brother bond with, right from the first year of college, as he was younger than most of us in the batch and everybody knew about this) and I stayed on the lower birth watching FRIENDS as they spoke because the other girl said she wanted to sleep on the birth next to ours. While everyone else was asleep and we were still watching the sitcom, I felt I was unknowingly dosing off to sleep and that's when it happened.
I felt his hand stroking my head and while it did make me feel a little uncomfortable, I thought he was just tucking me to sleep like a brother would do for his sister or probably trying to move my head slowly so he could close the laptop and go sleep in another compartment without waking me up.
But then it got worse. I felt his hands move towards my face and then my lips and I froze. I just..froze.
The emotions I felt at that point were unimaginable. As I had not only been betrayed for years but I was also being molested. And by the time I understood what was happening, his hands were on his way to pull up my tshirt from below and that's when I SNAPPED. I jumped off. Yelled at him. Informed my friends I wanted to sleep next to one of the girls and requested my other friend (guy) to sleep next to this guy. I informed my bestfriends about all this but I couldn't get myself to tell the details because I felt mutilated, used, betrayed and disgusted by all of it.
I spoke to one of the girls as we got off to use the restroom, when the bus halted at a station. She even said she was ready to slap him for me. But I didn't know what to do at that time so I waited.
Like a moron, I waited for our thesis reviews to get over and watched that guy filled with guilt, unable to even face me, but pretending like nothing happened and he did nothing wrong. And when I couldn't handle it anymore, I slapped him. I SLAPPED him at the farewell party that happened a couple of weeks later, in front of all the juniors. The only issue here was…I was mildly drunk and ANGRY. And that's when things got worse. I don't know about other countries, but atleast in India, when a woman comes out in public about being abused, SHE is the one that is blamed. Not the man. Atleast more often than not, that's how it is. And that's exactly what happened to me as well.
NOBODY supported me except for one or two people who still never fought for me against him. Infact, he started lying to everyone that he didn't know WHY I slapped him and his friend (girl) sent me a text message saying I had no right to slap her friend. Without knowing what he had done to me. Heck, my own bestfriend who was also there on that very same bus that night, said, I was probably imagining all this in my sleep and that he isn't a bad guy. She STILL talks to him like he is a nice guy. Everyone from my college talks to him. Including my ex, (they're almost best buddies now) who was abusive to me in the relationship..but I'll come to that later. It still gives me anxiety. Yes I've been mutilated a lot…for years. Both physically and emotionally. And it's been 8 years now since I broke up (he did when he realised I was going to end it) with that guy who gaslighted me and abused me repeatedly for months & 5 years since I got molested by the boy I considered my younger brother.
And still, nobody supports me…half of them don't even know what happened..and they didn't bother asking either. Nobody knew what I went through in that relationship with my ex either and they all take his side even today because they donot know what all he has done. I was alone and I felt hopeless. And I STILL feel the same. Ever since that incident, I've been traumatized for years now and even today, when a friend or someone close to me tries to touch me or hug me or lays their hand on me by mistake at a sleepover, even if it's a girl, I find it extremely uncomfortable. I find it hard to get intimate with people. I feel these weird shivers on my body and I now suffer from high levels of anxiety and PTSD from all of the events that occurred throughout my life since I was a child, that this incident triggered and opened all the repressed memories and wounds of my childhood.
Like that time when I was 6 and a man flashed his penis at me from his car and I didn't even realise it until now…the time when i was probably 8 and a man at a Temple queue pressed my boob multiple times while I was standing with a basket of fruits and flowers and I couldn't say a word nor move. Like the time when i was coming home from school and a man tried to press his dick against my back in the "moving" public bus, the time when I was 8 or 9 years old and was forcefully kissed on the mouth by a stranger who kept stalking kids in the building and I was the one who got caught…the time when it happened again..during a summer vacation to India…when my friend's father who is no more right now as he died of liver damage from alcoholism. He forcibly took me to a room when noone was around and touched me inappropriately and kissed me and refused to let me go and open the door until I agreed to let him do it. The time when I was 26 and went for a blouse purchase and one of the store staff caressed my boob in the name of taking my measurements, while my mother stood there unaware of it.
All of this still haunts me. And I get dreams of getting raped by men everyday. I have panic attacks when I watch movies or shows or read articles regarding abuse and domestic violence against women. I am very afraid of the dark. I'm afraid of being touched. I'm afraid of being left alone in a closed space. I'm afraid of stepping out of my own house unless it's to meet people I know. And today I had the courage to type all of this in detail and I still don't feel okay.
Is this how it feels for women who get abused? Does it take years to recover? Or do we not recover at all? Is there any solution to this? I have zero selfworth and confidence left inside and it has affected my professional life as well. I've become an introvert and I fear meeting new people which is essential for a designer to build their network. I avoid social gatherings. Even though I die to go for parties and events. I am unable to recover from this. I've tried therapy but I donot have the resources to continue with it because it's expensive. After the pandemic got worse, it's been a turmoil in India..a downward spiral.
And I just don't know what I can do to save myself from this. So that someday, I can save somebody else and help them recover. I wanna stand up for women and children who are victims of abuse–both emotional and physical. But I need to be stable first, in order to try and save others. What should I do to overcome this? Does it ever go, this trauma? Will I ever sleep in peace?
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