I’ve been following with interest the CSA month initiative that some bloggers have got going – partly because I’m a new mum and partly because the grotesqueness of our society is something so ugly you can’t stop looking at it. We can shrug off the horrifying statistic that not a single one of us would have escaped some kind of groping, molestation, or sexual abuse just by virtue of being female and growing up in India, but from the comments on MM’s post alone, it appears that “more serious” abuse and particularly by close family members is rampant.
I’d like to think that I have no personal experience to share on the topic but the fact is that I can’t be sure. I certainly have a mistrust of men that nothing I can remember from my childhood and adolescence can account for. I sometimes wonder if something happened to me when I was little that I have repressed that explains this but I can’t come up with anything concrete. My mother is convinced that the male helper in the bus that would take us to nursery did something, because I would cry every day to get on the bus and another parent warned her to keep an eye on him. But I can’t actually remember anything about him either.
What I can remember is the episode with The Tutor. When my sister was in the 8th standard (so around 13), my parents hired this man to tutor her and a couple of friends in maths. Not sure, when it started but he began greeting them before every lesson with a kiss on the cheek. At first, they thought it was charming. Then they were not so sure. I think he also invited one of the girls to sit on his lap.
I also started tuitions with him, joined by another girl and a boy. I remember the tutor wanted to do the kiss greeting (I am not a fan of this form of greeting even with friends) with me too and I resisted. I don’t know whether it was me or another girl but once we tried to just do a handshake and he practically yanked us in for a kiss. He also had this habit of standing right behind us, while we were doing our sums, too close but not really touching except for the occasional bump. He also tried to massage our shoulders but I think I told his straight out that I didn’t appreciate it.
I’m not sure when and how my parents became aware of all this. I think once I started tuitions, my sis and I discussed it and we told our mum. She was concerned but between all of us there was this confusion – if his intentions were really bad, would he have done it so openly? Because sometimes he would do his ‘kiss greeting’ when my mum was just around the corner. Anyway, my mum decided to talk to him and told him that this was not on. He was very embarrassed and said that he hadn’t intended it in a bad way. We didn’t renew his contract the next year.
I don’t think there was any lasting impact on my sister and me from this episode except it reinforced for me the need to put my foot down. But when I think about it what stands out is how he managed to confuse us about something that was obviously inappropriate simply by being brazen about it. In fact, he still sends my parents a Christmas card every year!