I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

The Story of My Rape

*Anonymous

This is a story that’s hard for me to tell, but one that I believe people need to hear. I want this story heard because there are still many who believe that feminism is not something the Tibetan community needs, that feminism itself is fighting not to elevate the suffering of women and people of other genders, but a campaign to bring down men. I have been told that I do not understand enough about our community, that I view things through the lens of the ‘modern’, ‘western’ education I have received. This is the story of what I have known and experienced and grown up with, all of which has shaped who I am today: a firm believer in the need for feminism for us as a community and in our larger struggle.

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I cannot remember the first time I was touched inappropriately, but I do remember that I was touched, kissed and fondled by at least more than five older men that were close to or known by my large extended family. I think it started around the time I was six. There was one particular individual who continued to molest me and repeatedly tried to rape me from the age of ten to twelve years; but there were others too.

Growing up, there was an endless battle within myself where I would try to hold onto my sanity, and the only way to do that was to pretend that these things never happened to me. Many times I felt like I was crazy because I couldn’t tell if the other night he had really climbed into my bed and touched me where I was not supposed to be touched and rubbed his penis against me while I remained frozen in horror and fear, or if I had just imagined it all. I was six, nine, eleven, thirteen, fifteen, seventeen. It didn’t happen very often but often enough that I would be jolted awake from sleep the moment I felt his presence next to my bed at night and stop breathing, my eyes shut so tight my eyeballs would hurt. I would feel his weight sinking into the mattress; I would feel him lift up my blanket and slide in behind me on the bed; I can still feel him slowly start moving against my buttocks and sliding his hands into my underwear. I would cry in the bathroom after it was over. We would wake up the next day and pretend nothing had happened, but I wouldn’t be able to look him in the eye or talk to him for several days.

My mother knew about it. When I told her, she cried and confronted him. He promised he wouldn’t do it again, but he did anyways – for years on end – because he knew he had our silence. We couldn’t risk ripping apart the fabric of our family. We had to live next to each other for the rest of our lives, and if we did happen to cause a break in the family, there was also the risk that outsiders would come to know of this; I know my mother and the rest of the family couldn’t bear to live with such shame.

I started fighting him at a certain point, hitting at him and lashing out when we happened to be alone together. He would laugh at me. He was so much bigger and stronger than me that he laughed as he easily held me down and asked whom was I going to tell, how loud would I scream.

I still hold my tongue about this because I am an adult now and I do not want society pointing fingers at my family. I do not want to be known as the girl who was sexually abused by a member of her own family. Amala told me to tell her if he ever did it to me again and I did tell her the next few times it happened; but he never stopped and I couldn’t bear to see her suffer with this knowledge. So I stopped telling her and I bore it all in silence for years.

I grew up feeling like I was not a child, and I still think that I was never really a child. You’re not supposed to understand sex at ten. You’re supposed to be busy thinking about the next toy you’re going to buy or which beloved cartoon show you’re going to miss because of school. I remember crying at home, staring at the candles flickering in front of the idols, staring at the faces of the buddhas with their calm eyes, asking them repeatedly, endlessly, Why do I have to suffer like this? Why am I being shamed this way? What wrong did I do in my previous lives to be subjected to such suffering at such a young age? And I remember praying that no other girl, no other woman, would ever have to suffer the same fate.

There were other men who kissed me in the dark during large gatherings; family friends or distant cousins who would spend some days at our home and, between play, pick me up and rub me against their penis through their pants. I can still see their faces, still feel their breath on my skin, so often that I’ve felt like scratching my skin off with my nails, the feeling of disgust at my own dirty self was so overpowering. Even writing this now, my skin itches in the familiar way again; I still feel disgusting for the child that knew too much at too young an age.

Yet, it became a way of life for me, something that happened to me time and again that I simply stopped fighting. I’ve met these men again and again and I have had to look at them and talk to them and pretend that their hands never groped at my breasts, their tongues never invaded my mouth, their hard penises had never pushed against me. Maybe that’s why, at sixteen, when I was raped, I didn’t bat an eye. I didn’t want to have sex with that man, but he coaxed and coerced and forced his way into me anyway. I’ve run into him a few times since. Each time, I wonder if he ever feels even the tiniest bit of shame for what he did to me.

I was raped again at eighteen. I never saw that man again, but I had heard that he was telling people I willingly had sex with him and that he made me into a ‘loose woman’. I chose to ignore the rumors rather than revealing that I had been raped. Who would believe me? Who wants to answer all the questions about how he did it, why he did it, how did I feel as the ‘victim’, why did I put myself in that situation, why wasn’t I more careful? Who wants to look at people and see in their eyes pity and disgust, mixed with relief that it hadn’t been them?

I eventually saw a therapist. She was surprised at how well I had managed to ‘heal’ from all this, as she put it. But the truth is, I don’t think I will ever ‘heal’. These things that I grew up with, these evil men and the demons they gave birth to in my head, have changed me in ways that I am still discovering. For the longest time, I was unable to have normal, platonic friendships with men. My brain has become so accustomed to associating men with my vagina, I had to work so hard to get rid of my own prejudices. I gravitate towards older men and do not really know how to behave around men my own age, who I end up thinking of as immature little kids.

As for dating, in my desperation to validate my desirability beyond my body and my worth as a person who could be loved, I have jumped from one relationship to the next, more often than not offering my body to show that I’m offering my heart. This, of course, has led to an endless cycle of heartbreak and the struggle to find love again. A friend once told me not to have sex right away with the next guy I like. I’ve tried listening to her advice, but it’s like my body doesn’t know any other way. People can’t understand why I’m so obsessed with finding love, and honestly, I don’t either; but I suspect it has at least a little to do with the fact that my body has been abused by so many that I feel almost a disconnect with it; at the same time, I try to use it to bribe someone to fall in love with me.

Obviously, I haven’t been able to make a single person stay. I thought that with one guy he would be the one I’d spend the rest of my days with, but there was one fundamental flaw in our relationship; even though he knew about all this (my history is not a secret for many people close to me), he never realized how big a part of me it is. He could not understand the irrational fear in me, the constant drama I put up pretending to be tough and confident, the desperate need to be loved and cared for consistently. It is hard for anyone to understand that and harder still to deal with, but this is something I have very little control over. Self-love and self-care are all very nice and easy to preach, but how do you expect a woman who has gone through all that I have to not need others to love her? How do you ‘heal’ someone who has lived with depression since adolescence and was driven to a suicidal phase twice already in her life?

This is my story, my struggle, the life that I have to make peace with – but I am not the only one. All those men who didn’t hesitate to exploit one child can exploit other children, too. If each man who did those things to me as a child did that to even two other girls, that is 21 girls alone. And how many other men like these must be out there? All of my abusers were Tibetan. These men live among us and they think it’s okay to do this to a child and destroy people’s lives. How many other girls have been, are still being, and will be molested – in our homes, in our schools, in our ‘safe spaces’? How many other women were and will be raped? Will all of them have to go through life carrying this shame in silence? Will all of us have to feel dirty and ashamed of ourselves for something that was never our fault for the rest of our lives? Why are we not talking about this openly and trying to prevent it from happening to others in our community? Why aren’t we working to make sure our girls are safe and our boys don’t turn into these men? Can you really be absolutely confident that your son, your brother, your uncle, your husband have or will never do this to someone?

This is my story, and I have to hide my face while telling it. I cannot assure you that these men will be caught before they do this to someone else. Do not tell me to be brave and bring them to justice. You do not understand the amount of pain a mother feels just knowing that her little girl is suffering; you do not know the shame we already feel in our hearts having gone through this ordeal; we do not want to be judged by those who are not capable of empathy.

This is my story, but it is the story of every girl like me who cannot speak up about her pain and abuse. No matter how difficult it is to imagine that other young girls have faced similar abuse, believe me when I tell you that if our community was more willing to speak openly about and address this issue, you’d find a whole army of wounded Tibetans.

Feminism is helping in very small steps to remove the shame and stigma around this subject and to ensure that our children are safer and more aware. Do not tell us that striving for women’s rights and gender equality is not an immediate concern because the larger Tibetan struggle is more important. We survivors are wounded and tired of fighting for you to simply realize that we are bleeding and hurting.

Whether you’re a woman or man reading this, you may not have experienced any of it yourself; but please do not disregard the power of feminism to change the circumstances for women like me. Is it really fair of you to say that you don’t want to fight for justice because you have never experienced injustice? You may feel that you do not need feminism, but many of us do.

*The author is listed as Anonymous because they requested that we not disclose their identity upon publication. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or sexual abuse, please see the following resources.

Comments 16

  1. I am happy that you were able to write
    ‘The story of my rape’.
    I am unhappy that you had to.

    I am also able to say that love is stronger than animalistic intrusion against your individual natural serenity.

    I love you for wanting to help others and yourself by sharing through writing of your extremely unpleasant personal experiences.

    Feminism is important and positive and I adore it. It is important for all of us to have happiness, and healing through feminism is part of that process for you.

    Feminism is more. It is a means of expressing genuine equality between both sides of human physicality and psyche during this time where there is still an imbalance throughout our world. The imbalance is wrong and you are helping to tip the scales and highlight that there is a different way for those of us who are unfortunately not seeing it clearly enough at the moment.

    I send you great thanks and think of great blessings coming to you for being a brave and courageuse woman.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I think your bravery in telling your story and the insights you’ve shared will mean a lot to others dealing with similar struggles. From the greatest victims often emerge the greatest people — I think this is just one of your steps in this direction.

  3. Am sorry on whatever happened to you..well seriously speaking I too use to take tibetan feminism not seriously..bt now I will oo what I can do individually and then slowly see what I cnn do it in macro level… bit you guys too stay strong and confront it…

  4. Thank you for sharing a very personal experience that most tend to slience or forget it all together. Unfortunately, Tibetans are also humans and like many humans, we all have flaws. What i find is very distrubing is, most Tibetans if not all, tend to believe that Tibetans would never do such horrible things. They tend to place themselves in a higher class where they view themselves as saints and other races to be lower than them. I believe this story speaks volumes and it depicts the stigma of rape/abuse that is dealt by using silence to avoid victim’s family shaming.

  5. Raising my children in the west has made me more aware of childhood sexual abuse and I always wondered on Tibetan community, not with any believe that it does not happen in Tibetan community but rather the lack of information and stories from victim. I applaud you in your courage and in my heart, I pray that you will heal.

  6. You show that you are much braver than your abusers by speaking of what happened. I hope you find true healing. From my experience, healing is a lifetime journey and whilst on that journey, happiness grows, slowly but surely.
    Your story is the story of girls and women the world over (and some boys and men too). We stand together and heal together. And shame does not belong to us at all, or to you, but to the abusers and rapists. Take good care of yourself.

  7. I m women who always fight against for small small things if I think it was not right. Now I m a mother of 2 and half years daughter n if for God forbid something happen like this to my daughters then I swear to god I m not going to leave that bastard n I really mean it. To fight against that kind of bastard u don’t need to make an issue in your society, just need to complaint to the police. To prove him wrong u don’t need any proof n witness. They will blindly believe on you so plz do some courage n slap on this face n put him in a jail.
    Anyway, take care n God bless u alwaz.

  8. I was overcome with emotion and anger after reading your story. It left me very disturbed. I may sound naïve but frankly I always thought that in our Tibetan society things like this nature never took place because I just assumed that we were healthier as a family comparatively than some other society in general. But little do I know that all human beings are same regardless of what culture you come from. Some people are just better at hiding it than others. I have heard many such horror stories working with clients who have mental health and addiction issues. It horrified me the first time I heard it and still horrifies me when I hear it. And most of the perpetrators are family members or a person the family knows which makes it more difficult. Your therapist is right in that you are coping really well. It takes a lot of courage to share your story. I just would like to say one thing and that is that complete healing is possible. Please do not identify yourself with the abuse. It’s something that happened to you. You’re not that or you did not become that. Remember that’s not your identity.
    It’s my hope and wish that the perpetrators be brought to book and since many times it’s the case that these people may be unwell deep down they should get therapy/treatment. Because like you said there could be other young girls at risk of being harmed. People who abuse such a young child are usually serial offenders and takes lot of work to rehabilitate.

  9. Pity be on you( Anonymous)But since you had the courage to bring this incident out in public why not go one step further by bringing those said persons to justice, then and only then such thing s might stop happening in our community, otherwise your horrifying story will only remain here…..

  10. This has disturbed me so much that I had to write again. As I look at my daughter, I know that if there is every a valid reason for violence, this is it. I won’t hesitate to kill a person who harms my children in such a way. With that said, it angers me more than anything that your own mother put up with this shit. As I read more and more about it, I hear mostly the same thing, my mother knew about it. What sane mother would allow that to happen to a daughter? No relation for me is more sacred than to my children and I would guard that against anyone, even my husband or my parents. I truly believe that we as mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers should stand against this crime. And it is never too late to punish the perpetrators, so that other young children are saved from these heinous men. No society, or culture, or religion seems to be immune to the sick minds of mostly men who harm children. We should all be vigilant and train our children to know what is a wrong touch and to not trust anyone. I really hope that as you have taken the courage to share your stories, you will help others by bringing the criminals to justice.

    1. I understand where your feelings coming from. Many people tend to blame the mother for the sexual abuse and the common refrain is – “where was the mother?” “Why didn’t she protect her child?” We have to remember always that the person responsible for the abuse is the abuser. There are many reasons why a mother does not act or unable to act. First of all there is the power imbalance between men and women. Women are conditioned by society to be obedient and take care of family. They may be intimidated and threatened not to tell anybody. Women rely on men for income and security. And mothers are not perfect beings they have their limitations and almost every case is fraught with tragic circumstances. And to make matters worse sometimes other family members for fear of being ostracized by society don’t want to hear about it. Hopefully things are changing and if people who speak up are not blamed, shamed or disbelieved, more will come out and speak . Finally, I want to add that wile majority of those sexually abused are girls, boys are sexually abused too. And while many of the offenders have themselves been abused as children there are many male survivors of sexual abuse who don’t go on to become sexual offenders.

  11. Life can really be a nightmare and cruel, even in supposedly peaceful tibetan buddhist society. Our so called best religion have no effect on these lustful child predators. Their intelligence gets hijacked by greed for lust. Lowly life. these people thrive in silence, just like china’s rule over tibet. Deny them their power, and break the silence. Too much sufferings have been tolerated to maintain the fake image. Dont protect or hold onto something which is not real. Let the reality come out. Most important thing is being true to yourself.
    I still expect such people to be in the minority. Otherwise, i’ll be devastated to see my people do such things. My hope for human compassion will be lost cobsiderably.
    I would sincerely like to meet her or have some contact. She has suffered much, and i want her to come out this nightmare, so she can move on with the past trauma behind her. I want her to stop hiding when she’s not the culprit. I want to see her face the world, and and get the world’s reaction, and to let her know there is still some hope left. Not all will look down upon her, but uncertainties will always be there in any situations. I’m genuinely speaking and not boasting about my abilities. I’ll do my best.

    I know she wants to remain anonymous, but i dont want to see her scarred by past her whole life. I feel for her ‘cos fear no longer scars me. So, i want to help her come out of scar. That is all. I hope somebody understands my point.

    I cant see suffering of others, even if they want to remain anonymous. I want them to come out of their shell. Fears are just a negative thoughts, a thought, which only exist in pyschological mind. Her past is past, and remains a memory, which are a bundle of thoughts. It doesnt exist in present moment.

    i’ve some questions. Why the need to protect identity? Why the need to hide her past? Why feeling that women are inferior, and the blemish wont let her be free again? Why the need to be scared of judgement from society when nobody is sinless? Why feel let down by comments of others? Arent buddhist supposed to be more open minded, than other communities? Its time our buddhist principles are tested.

    Padmasabhava or Guru Rinpoche disciple yeshe tsogyal was also violated, but she didnt let it affect her. later her violators became her followers. Just saying. she is human like us. i’ve read book on both of them.

    i’ll not impose on her. so, i’ll give her space and wait, if she’s interested. i’m not looking down on anybody. just one human connecting with another. we all are one.
    my email is [email protected]. i can also be found on Facebook through my email.

    i also write a blog, https://tibetforever.wordpress.com.

    look for post titled “Life advice for those fixated with image, what others think of them, for those who try to please others and also for selfish, manipulative ones.”

    it might be helpful to address worry about others judgements. it’s similar to what i already above.

  12. I hv been brought up here in India but i hv always admired the law & order system of western countries. Here in ur case, What I strongly feeled about ur sad story is the total lack of concern by ur mother who should/could actually stop this crime right from the day first when u wr physically abused. Actually speaking, parents should b very supportive in such kind of situation no matter what so that ppl who r committing such crimes ll nvr think of doing it. U knw our society, very much conservative even things like these happen more often than not in every society. We should spread more awareness about such crimes in various institutes esp young students in the school who dont hv even slide ideas about the law & order cases. As long as we keep It remains silence, the number of criminals ll rise on daily basis & moving freely on the street like hereos. If u really feel strongly about making ur sad story heard, u should awake our society from the darkness by spreading more awareness about such crimes esp young ppl. May b u wr the victim of such crimes but u can stop such crimes from happening to ur sisters in our society who r being prevented from taking such bold steps either by an authority or good ppl around who always take name of society ahead one’s life. Justice must b done & should b prevailed..keep fighting, the world is wid u

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