Antara Chowhdury

Thu May 14 2020 04:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

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“When you’re taught virginity is sacred to your worth, it’s difficult to turn to your parents when a stranger takes your body as they wish. When you’re a child with no awareness or knowledge of sex, it’s difficult to understand your feelings when someone impedes on your personal space and body. I turn a quarter century this summer, and it’s only in the last 3 years that I’ve been able to sit with my scars, and love myself.

Manush ki bolbe? These words tumbled in my brain for 22 years as I dealt with the traumas of my past. I’ve been sexually assaulted by an imam, by a family friend, by family, and ultimately by a stranger. I relived my experiences, wondering what I could’ve done differently. I hated myself. I felt no sense of self worth except for when I had the love and acceptance of a man. I remained in an abusive relationship, as he was the only person I ever told about my experiences, and he feigned love and protection.

There’s so much beauty in the desi world. Our value of family and community is truly unmatched, and while amazing, it perpetuates issues yet to be fixed. Discussions regarding sexual health and well being are silenced. Girls don’t know about periods until they get it, and even then it’s barely explained. Parents don’t talk of the ‘bird and bees’, but you’re expected to know and do better. We need a community where girls can speak, reach out, and share their stories. We need to create traditions that allow women to feel and express their grief without being silenced or judged.

I struggled with self-hate and disgust for 22 years until I found support in stories shared by other women. They helped me understand my scars and experiences will always be a part of my story, but they don’t define me.

To all the women brave enough to share your stories, thank you. To those still sitting with it in their heads, your worth isn’t decreased by what he took from you. You aren’t defined by the actions someone took against you. You are loved, and you are worthy, and you will be okay. You are deserving of so much more than you think and feel in this moment.”