|Artwork by Misha Ali (@nicenichecartoons)|
Some thoughts of a girl who was sexually harassed by her brother
Writing the title made me anxious to point out how my brother didn’t actually rape me, but *just* showed me pornographic pictures against my will, inappropriately touched my breasts, pressed his penis against me and showed me his penis *once*. This urgency comes with the desire to ensure that everyone reading this approaches my case with nuance, and that depends on this invisible difference between him and a rapist. This urgency comes with the valid reassurance that he wasn’t THAT bad. This urgency is carried on the dusty memories of us fighting over Pokemon cards, him crying over my parents not letting me study in LUMS, of his crooked smile as his 10 year old self imitated Rhithick Roshan in his pose.
Why am I writing this?
I don’t want to write this for it to solely be an outlet for my trauma, because it’s very easy for the individuals reading this to be triggered and enter their own rabbit-holes. I don’t want the desire to convey dramatic shock of the pain and visavis validation of its intensity to overlook the sentiments of those who might read it. However, the simultaneous reality is that my emotions are important, and since the personal will always be political, they are situated in the larger feminist debates. So I hope that within this short eclectic work, I’m able to add this temporary lens to some of the relevant feminist debates in the status quo
What went wrong with my brother?
A lot of things, and I don’t have the complete answer. He was raped when he was below 10 years old, and convinced himself that he liked the feeling. He was shamed by my parents when he became hyper sexual and started over-consuming porn at a young age. He kept on watching more severe porn, that between family members and where individuals enjoyed rape, and so on. But not everyone who is abused becomes an abuser. So I won’t ever know why he became the person he did. I can just mourn the shift, whenever it happened. I can try creating a space for loss and anger to co-exist, so that i don’t feel like I’m betraying my feminist principles by getting too caught up in the love and pity that exists towards him.
Much more research needs to be done, espeically in the Pakistani context, on why individuals become harassers. The polarity, increasingly cemented by the knee jerk condemnation of the call out culture, ignores the complex emotional nuances of incestual abuse. These are people you grow up, and in most instances, love and have cared for. Much more effort needs to be put into understanding where they went wrong, so that our interventions can become more informed.
What are some of the realisations/experiences that helped me somewhat heal?
This is a very subjective account, and is not meant to be read as a self-help book. As a friend pointed out, we don’t focus as much on healing from trauma as the feelings that embroil us within its eventually familiar black hole. So this is nothing more and nothing less than a reflection of the desperate determination to create a personal narrative that makes it easier to live
. The realisation that the shame, guilt, self-hate, frustration, pity, loneliness are protecting me, rather than only being faulty coping mechanisms:
I hate it when my body shuts down, when my mind stops working, and I keep on surfing through mangas for days. I hate how it doesn’t matter how many deadlines I miss. I hate how I lie through my teeth to cover up my failures. I hate the insecurities screaming down my throat- “ they sound somewhat like “is my identity linked too much to external validation, to trauma? I feel too small to message in a particular group. I feel too small to exist. I don’t want to take a risk and try something new out. I DONT WANT TO BE A BURDEN” and so on. Sometimes, a part of my brain knows that the insecurities don’t make sense but I still can’t control them. Understanding does not beget solutions.
However, I was made to realise by my capable therapist that my body and mind shut down to safeguard me against being overwhelmed with any change (big or small) that upsets me. I kind of knew this, but I digged deeper and realised what they’re protecting me from: they’re protecting me from those initial days when I would be so exhausted that I would be out of my mind, when I used to self harm, when I used to feel a tiny person screaming inside my mind, when I would hope to vomit out the disgust brought back by the flashbacks. That’s a lot of responsibility on a coping mechanism, and above all that I hate that poor little thing. This particular patterned realisation towards my insecurities and parts of me that I hated helped me soften myself up to them. I still dislike them but I know it’s not their fault. I know that they are stuck because they are trying to protect me but also, sadly, over time, they reduce my capacity to resist because of the collateral damage inflicted by them. This realisation doesn’t erase that my self esteem is shattered whenever I feel useless due to a heightened captivity to my pain. It however makes me realise that the problem isn’t with the part in itself, but with the part being out of control. It makes me realise that it being out of control isn’t my fault. Other parts within me need to interact with it to help it navigate. It makes me not demonise those parts within me. It makes me hear the “I’m tired” underlying the relentless self-sabotage orchestrated by them.
No part of your life remains untouched from the trauma hijacking your self-conceptions. It is impossible to try to go through it alone, and while support systems in the from of friends help and can be intimate, i needed a collective ideology and community whose active priority was resisting against the oppression interwoven into me being assaulted. Feminims always mattered to me, but as a survivor, it became my Holy Grail. I was also molested by my Qari Sahib as a child, so it’s not like this was my first brush with the violation and confusion of being assaulted, but it’s so much harder to bottle down this one.
Especially since I still love my brother, I have struggled with being able to hold true to my feminsit principles. The disassication and detachment that has become a reflexive extension of myself makes me feel like nothing matters at least thrice a day, and that compounds the self doubt of pretending to care about the feminist ethos. I don’t always have the energy to fight against the casual, but perhaps well intentioned, sexist remarks made by my father re my trauma. I dont always fight.
It was important for me to reailse that my experience of the trauma cannot be apolitical and that being perfectly vocal is a myth. So, a neccessary and grounding outlet for me needed to be efforts to resist (at my own pace) the patriarchal poltiics fucking up the world that should have been safe for me.
Anger scratched into my veins,
Love chaining my legs,
Betrayal sobbing inside my rib cage,
Numbness piecing me together,
I crawl into my bed.
Caving into my corner,
I seek the solace of the mobile screen,
A voice whispers:
“You have no choice but to fight”
“You have no choice but to fight”
“You have no choice but to fight”
“You have no choice but to fight”.