I nailed my husband
For every rapist convicted, many go scot-free. While the victim's trauma is beyond words, the family of the rapist too suffers the consequences. Two mothers one who braved everything to bring her husband to book and another who subjected herself and her children to further torture to avoid the public humiliation recount their personal tragedies. Their lives were set in different times, but the pain and struggle are still relevant ... as today's woman is beginning to seek help and support without blaming herself. As told to ANNAM SURESH.
BOTH my husband and I were employed. Our older daughter, Kriti, was in boarding and in a few years, the younger one, Smriti too would join her. An executive with erratic working hours, Ashish managed to find time to play with children in the neighbourhood. Soon, he became 'uncle' to all the children in the locality and parents often left their children in his care when they went out.
Through the building durwan I found Anita, a girl of nine or ten years to look after Smriti and do the housework. Ashish was very kind to her he played with her and taught her to read and write. She called him "Daddy" just like our daughter did.
As Smriti grew older I often took her and Anita to the park I would occasionally join Ashish's group of children in their games. Hide-and-seek was their favourite and Ashish would often be the last to be caught, along with one or more of the children who would be hiding with him. Radhika, Ashish's hiding partner initially, suddenly stopped coming. Twelve-year-old Shiva became his next favourite hiding partner. However, a couple of months later, he too stopped coming. A few more children dropped out. Perhaps the pressure of schoolwork left these children no time to play. One day I took Anita and Smriti to a different park, there I saw Shiva, Radhika and the others playing cricket.
When Smriti joined school, Ashish undertook to do the dropping and picking up himself. He seemed the epitome of a caring husband and father. Off and on I asked Ashish to join us when we went to the park, but he usually had some project to finish or some child to tutor. Once or twice Anita asked to come along but Ashish would insist that she stay back. He didn't want to encourage her to go out too often. I compensated by buying Anita a few trinkets on my way back from work. Despite my best efforts I found Anita moody and listless.
One day, Smriti said "Daddy naughty Anita didi said so." I was a little surprised. Perhaps Smriti had misunderstood. I presumed Anita was angry at being grounded and ignored the remark. After all, Smriti did the same when we scolded her.
But when this became frequent, I asked Anita for an explanation. She hugged me tightly and began sobbing something she had never done before and begged me to treat her like my own daughter. I thought she was missing her family and simply needed to be loved. Soon after, I had to go out of town for two or three days. When I returned, I found Anita moody again and felt that perhaps she had missed me. I had to go out of town again for two days on official work. When I got back, Anita was ill again, so I took the day off. That afternoon, I was woken from my nap by Smriti lying on top of me and reaching for my genitals.
"Where did you see this?" I hissed, pushing her hand away. "When you were on tour, Daddy asked Anita to sleep in our room, she didn't want to come, but Daddy insisted. When I woke up in the night she was crying and Daddy was playing with her. Anita asked me to go out. She tried to get up, but Daddy wouldn't let her."
I went to Anita's room. Her fever was still high, and she was moaning in pain. I wanted to discuss what Smriti had told me. She kept quiet, a look of fear on her face. Perhaps she thought I would punish her. I reassured her that she was not to blame. "Mummy, ever since Smriti started school, Daddy has begun these `games'. He threatened to kill me and my family if I told anyone." Now certain that I wasn't going to punish her, she began to open up. She broke down completely as she narrated the tales of torture. I did not know how to deal with this. I did my best to see that Ashish was never alone with the kids.
I called my mother and told her the whole story. Anita told me that other children had been molested. Which is why many of them had stopped coming to the park or for tuition. Surprisingly, none of the parents or children had made a noise about it. Perhaps, all the children had been threatened into silence. Or perhaps the parents didn't want such publicity. Whatever the reason, Ashish had got away with murder, in fact, worse, for over two years and none of us knew. My mother asked me to think over my next move carefully. I had to weigh all the pros and cons. A whole lot of people and factors were involved. She assured me that whatever I did, she would support me all the way.
All day we sat thrashing the issue. I was still confounded by the battle within me. Ashish went about his work he had no idea I knew.
My mother called Anita. "Think carefully. What do you want us to do?"
Anita looked at me. "Mummy, you said I am no different to you from Kriti and Smriti. Do what you think is right I will do as you say. Only don't ever leave me alone with Daddy don't leave Kriti or Smriti either." Here was a violated child thinking of the safety of my children even when I had failed her.
In two days, Kriti would be home. Would she be anything other than a daughter to her father? I had wondered what Kriti would think. She was the most disgusted. She was ashamed to be his daughter.
My mind was made up. I had always told Anita she was as dear to me as my own children. Now was the time to prove it.
Once I had made up my mind we acted quickly. We took Anita to a doctor, who confirmed she had been brutally raped over a period of several months. This was in the days before women's rights groups were so numerous. For us it was a lone battle.
We wanted to confront Ashish before going to the cops. At first, he accused Anita of lying. But in the face of Smriti's account and our combined questioning, he finally admitted, justifying his act by saying "all men do it with servants. What are you going to do? Going to the cops will hurt you more than it will hurt me," he said. .
But we were prepared for battle. "My uncle is a senior police officer, so no one will arrest me," he pointed out. My mother, Anita and I went to meet the same uncle. My brother, his wife and Kriti stayed back to keep an eye on Ashish. We narrated the whole story to my uncle-in-law. "He has raped a child. That is punishable by law. He should go to prison, are you ready for that?" he asked. "Yes," I said, "but can you do it quietly. I would not like the three girls to be stigmatised for Ashish's crime."
"I'll do my best," he said. True to his word, he and a colleague came over in civilian clothes and took Ashish quietly away late at night. I moved over to my parents' place with the three girls. The media showed a brief interest but the war broke out and this was insignificant news.
Ashish was finally sentenced to a long and hard prison life. My brother helped me and the three girls move to a different town. Even Ashish's family his sisters and parents, stood by us, though initially they had believed him. But once my mother, Anita and Kriti told them the whole story; they were with us all the way.
Today all three girls are married, and thankfully, seem to have overcome the trauma. But they still hate Ashish and whenever they refer to him, they call him "that animal".
I went through great financial and emotional hardship, reassuring the children that they were now safe. After a few years, Ashish died in prison, a lonely man. No one visited him in prison. Even though I sometimes suffer the guilt of sending him to the harsh life of a prison, the eternal look of gratitude on Anita's face assures me that I did what was right. Nothing would have been able to rest my conscience, if I had faltered 40 years ago in taking that one difficult but morally right step.
(All names have been changed on request)
Living in hell
I HAD been married for eight years when my husband left my children and me for his colleague Rachel. I came from a modest, old-fashioned background, where no matter what the reason, if a man left his wife, the woman was held responsible.
I got a job as a junior teacher at my daughter's school and admission for my sons in the same school. Not only was the salary welcome, but also children of teachers did not have to pay fees. Tuitions too started trickling in. My financial and emotional positions got better. Since we were not yet divorced, Kumar and Rachel could not marry and she refused to live with him unless he married her. Kumar started bunking office and took to drinking. He soon lost his job and his friends. He sold his car to buy himself drinks.
Though the job had given me financial independence, my life wasn't really very happy. I was not welcome in most homes. The children too were treated like outcasts. Luckily the school management did not hold it against me since I was an excellent teacher. Also, my children were brilliant students and that seemed to somewhat vindicate my position.
But many of my male colleagues would make lewd passes or propositions. Each time I refused, there was one more disgruntled colleague spreading rumours about me. Some would reach my children's ears and upset them.
Life was hard for any single woman, twice as terrible for one abandoned by her husband. Anybody could take liberties with me and get away with it even my own family felt if I couldn't keep my husband happy, I deserved what I got. I couldn't afford to quit my job. Moreover, wherever I went, I would face the same kind of harassment.
Since I took tuitions after school, my children got home ahead of me. One fine day I found Kumar sitting outside my door when I returned from school. I asked him to go away, but he began to sob loudly. Just to avoid creating a scene, I let him in. Once in, he apologised, said he was jobless, hungry and ill and asked to be allowed to stay. I gave him Rs. 20 and asked him to go away. But I often found him outside my door. He promised to change. He also spoke more gently and didn't create a scene. When I discussed this with a close friend, she suggested I give him a second chance. Kumar soon moved in with us. Initially things seemed okay, though he was jobless. We even had sex once or twice. Having him around made things easier for the kids and me. The barbed comments reduced, the offensive calls stopped and we were less ostracized. The children seemed calmer and less aggressive.
In my struggle to cope with my work and rebuild the semblance of a normal domestic life, I had failed to notice that my children were quieter, not calmer.
One day I had a headache and decided to skip tuitions. When I reached home, I found my sons sitting outside the front door. They tried to stop me from going in
I thought Kumar was sleeping and perhaps the boys had been noisy. So I asked them to be quiet as I pushed open the door. I was struck numb by what I saw. This hulk of a man was raping my wisp of a girl, his hand over her mouth to stop her from screaming. Every time she resisted, he slapped her hard, continuing to rape her.
I hit him with the umbrella I had in my hand. My sons stood speechless. Afraid the noise would draw attention and ashamed of her own state, my daughter quickly shut the door and straightened her clothes. Kumar was remorseless. Instead, he started beating my sons and me for interrupting his "fun". He threatened to kill my sons I was afraid he would, he was hurling blows and kicks at all of us, while my terrified daughter cowered in the corner, shivering and wailing.
It was one of my sons who told me that this had been going on for months. At first, my sons had protested, but he had thrashed them into silence. Not wanting to see me unhappy, my three children had put up with the beast.
I threatened to call the police. He sniggered. "I am unemployed. No one here knows me. What can the cops take away from me? But look at your life. I can make it terrible. I will ruin your and your daughter's name beyond redemption. You will lose your job. I will make whores out of you." My daughter begged me to keep quiet. "My sons suggested I marry someone else perhaps a much older person.
But would that ensure my daughter's safety? When her own father could rape her, who else could I trust?
I felt helpless and ashamed that I could not protect my children from his clutches. I did not know whom to turn to. The ignominy of being abandoned by my husband a second time was something I would not have been able to face. The children would have to go back to suffering the consequences of having a "mother of loose morals whose man had left her not once, but twice". Kumar also threatened that if I left him he would get my daughter raped by other men too, and sell her to a brothel. I knew he was capable of it. I avoided leaving her alone with Kumar as far as possible. But there were times when he came home drunk beat us all up and raped my daughter or me. I could not chuck up my job to look after them so I suffered in silence while my children writhed in agony.
Discreetly, I fixed up my daughter's marriage. The man was a widower of modest means, but seemed decent. It was the only solution I could think of and afford. His parents were old and wanted the wedding in their village. Two days before the wedding, the children and I went to the village.
I told my husband we were going to my parents' house. When we came back without my daughter, he asked me to bring her back, but when I told him to go fetch her himself, he was scared that the child might blurt out why she did not want to accompany him. In a few months, I delivered my fourth child a girl. I was terrified to bring her home. I told the ayah to give her away in adoption and told my husband the child was stillborn.
Kumar had an accident a few years ago and is paralysed. He now lives on the street as a beggar a well-deserved hell. My sons are married and take care of me. I retired a few years ago. All I do is look after my sons and their families and pray all day that God will forgive me for being a helpless spectator to the nightmare of my children's horror-ridden childhood. I also hope they make better parents than the ones they had.
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