Incidents. Experiences. Nightmares.
People you meet, experiences you have, they shape your life and make you the person you are today. They either bring out the best in you, or at times, the worst in you.
It’s fortunate or unfortunate, no one knows, but they have a major impact on your life.
Now imagine, a girl in sixth grade, who has just started to see the world through her own lens. She does not have enough experiences, and is looking forward to some, is cheerful and happy in her own little world.
Then she has an experience that will give her nightmares for years to come. Does she deserve that? No. Did she ask for it to happen? No. But it happened. Unfortunately.
A nice summer day. She gets up in the morning, gets ready for school as usual, but something does not feel right. She feels lethargic, but school is fun, and she wants to go. By the third lecture, she feels like going back home.
But the teacher sends her to the school dispensary instead, to get checked by the in-house doctor. Now, for a 10-year-old child, a doctor is just another father figure who is there to help them out. You don’t even think twice before seeing a doctor at that age. The only thought that bothers you is the one that involves syringes.
So, Mrs. Chaturvedi asks the girl’s friend to accompany her to the dispensary and tells her that if she has a fever then she will have to go back home, which does not seem to be a bad idea at that point of time.
She does not remember the name of the doctor anymore, but she does remember a man in his 30s, partially bald with a thick moustache and a stethoscope around his neck, sitting on the chair, waiting like a predator.
She does not know of the demons this world has hidden in the darkest of parts.
She enters the room and asks him to check her fever, give her a medicine and a note to go back home. He looks at her, and then at her friend.
In retrospect, maybe he was just gauging which prey he wanted more, but he quickly decided. He asks her friend to take the empty cola bottle back to the cafeteria so she can stay back for the checkup, alone.
Her heart skips a beat. An innocent heart, it is oblivious to what’s about to happen, but knows somehow that something is wrong.
She looks at her friend and shakes her head, a pleading look in her eyes, asking her not to go. No one can blame the girl who abided to what the doctor said.
Now it’s just the doctor left in the room with her. The doctor takes her hand, asks her how she is feeling, and then asks if she wants to feel better. She nods her head in a yes, hoping he would open the drawer to get the thermometer out, but he gently pulls her closer and makes her sit on his lap. She freezes. Mind blank, body numb. She feels his fingers running on her back, and her legs.
Initially the pinching is gentle, but then the piercing pain of her flesh squishing between his fingers runs throughout her body. She flinches but still could not move. She feels his lips on her cheek and on the side of her lips, she wants to push him, punch him, run away, but does not have the courage, or the energy.
It was a long way from the dispensary to the cafeteria where her friend was. The wait was even longer. Each passing second is like an icicle to the heart and body. And then suddenly the nightmare ends, he pushes her away and writes a note. She turns back and sees her friend walking back towards the dispensary.
The tragedy is that what happened is not as bad as what followed.
She loathed her father’s touch for years to come. Knowing how much he loves her, knowing it was her own guilt-ridden trauma, for years. Believe me, it’s not a good feeling.
It was hard to let it all out. She tried but was never able to discuss what went down that afternoon with anyone. She buried it all down, but she still wakes up at night feeling someone is pinching her. She still hates seeing a doctor.
We think that time heals every wound, and maybe it does, but maybe some wounds are too deep for time to heal.
Some experiences are so well entrenched in the psyche, under so many layers that it’s hard to forget them. It’s hard to let go of that feeling, let go of hating that small part of yourself, which was scared and still is, hard to forgive that coward child who could not stand up for herself.
I guess she has healed enough, and healing anymore is not possible, and she has accepted that. This is who she is, more aware, more cautious, somewhat broken but stronger.
Maybe she’ll avoid seeing a doctor for the rest of her life, maybe the child in her will always have nightmares, maybe it will be hard to trust, but she knows how something, significant or insignificant, can impact your life. She knows that people are a reflection of their past.
I wrote this entire piece in third person because I have always thought of this incident as something that happened to someone I knew, like a movie playing in front of my eyes.
But after reading some of the experiences of my fellow writers in the No one is safe project, I guess it’s time now to let it out in the open, to accept that this was a fragment of my past.
Also, I hope this story will give another child the courage to accept what happened and speak up at the right time, the way I never did.
I hope that any parent reading this story is aware enough to notice a change in their child’s behavior and find a way to communicate.
I hope that this story makes people more sensitive towards the experiences that someone has had and accept them for who they are.
Harsha Mishra is an alum of Youth Journalism International. She participated as a student from 2008 to 2015. After reading YJI’s “No one is safe” project on sexual assault, she was moved to write this essay. She also made the drawing of the girl inset in the text.
Parnian Shahsavary is currently a Reporter and Senior Illustrator with Youth Journalism International. She drew the cover illustration to complement Harsha’s essay.
This article is an epilogue to Youth Journalism International’s No one is safe project about sexual assault around the world. The project was published in five parts of six articles each in late November and Nov. 29, 2021.
Click on the image below to see the entire project: