“I was in class 5 when my older brother started molesting me”

“I was in class 5 when my older brother started molesting me– he’d pull my pants down and rub his penis against my body. Then he’d threaten, ‘If you tell Maa, I’ll hit you.’ It went on for 5 months until I realised that my brother was touching me inappropriately. But even then, I couldn't tell my parents– Papa was an alcoholic and my parents would constantly fight; I didn’t want them to worry.

When I turned 12, my brother met with an accident and slipped into a coma. I just hoped that whenever he recovered, he wouldn’t be the same monster again, but even after 2 years of therapy and hospitalisation, he was unaltered. He’d look at me and pass lewd comments– ‘Pooja, you’re so sexy’, ‘I like your shorts’, ‘I love the way you walk’.

Once, when I was bathing, he tried peeping into the bathroom– Maa caught him and scolded him. That’s when she started entertaining the possibility that he might not be of a sound mind. It was confirmed by the doctors.

But my breaking point came a few months after that. My parents were away when an elder relative under the pretext of asking me for help, forcefully pressed my breasts and ran his hands down my back. I was shocked; he was as old as my grandfather.

When I tried to push him away, he said, ‘This is very common– all women have to face it.’ Fearing that I might tell my parents, he bribed me with 1000 Rs. I threw the money on his face and told my parents everything.

Then on, I decided not to stay silent. The next time my brother harassed me, I slapped him and told my parents. Papa was furious – He felt guilty for not being able to protect me and started drinking more. Every day, there were fights at home; when angry, my brother even hit my parents.

Papa fell severely ill– we admitted him to a private hospital, but we ran out of money and had to move him to a government hospital. I took up a part-time job and studied in the hospital at night. But a few months later, Papa’s succumbed. At his funeral, my brother was not in a condition to perform Papa’s last rites, so Maa fought with the priest and our relatives and insisted that I light Papa’s pyre. After, I took charge– I admitted my brother in Home Care. Maa and I picked up the pieces and started building a new life.

It’s been 2 years since– I have a well-paying job and support Maa and my brother financially. I don’t think I’ll be able to forgive my brother, but I’ve learnt to move on. My relatives often say– ‘You’re the man of the family.’ But that saddens me deeply. I am the woman of the family and that’s what I want to be known as.”

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