I was 10 years old.

I had to buy stationery and the closest & cheapest place was this mini grocery store not far from my place. The store is like a cubicle and packed with whatever you needed. One of the regular staff was standing by the door of the shop. I was having a good day so for once, I smiled at him politely and went in to look for the notebook that I needed which was at the very back of the shop. No one can see you from back there if no one knows you were back there and kids can pocket whatever things from back there if they had itchy hands. He followed me after a while and asked me what I was looking for. I said I was just looking and the next thing I know, he put his hand on my shoulder and I felt it go down my 10 year old chest. I was already wearing a training bra at that age. I was paralysed and refused to look at him. I was scared and confused. I shoved the notebook towards him and told him I want to pay. He kept smiling at me and he kept repeating that he wanted to invite me to eat so we can be friends.

I felt so sick and horrified for months.

I wanted to tell my parents but I was afraid that it was my fault. My mother was strict and I didn’t want her to think I am making up stories. I refused to go to the store and my mother kept blaming me for being lazy. Or I’d go to another store.

It happened a second time – after a year. He touched my arm and I screamed. I screamed at him not to touch me. I don’t know what happened to him after because the other staff went to where we were and found me screaming and throwing things at him. I never went back again.

I was 11 – an older teen, he was 19, wanted to date me when I was in primary school and when he started making suggestive sexual comments, I told him not to call me or I will tell my parents about him. I was 15 – a teacher used to touch himself inappropriately when I was in high school whenever he and I are the only ones walking down the hallway. I didn’t tell anyone because the whole school loved him. I ignored him.  I was 22 – one of my friends’ father started calling me personally after he made some awkward advances towards me which horrified and shocked me, asking me to go their flat to hang out with him, even if my friend was off to college. Often, he’d ask me to pick up packages that were never sent to their flat. I would ask my friend about the packages and it became very awkward. I found out that he tried the same thing with another friend whom I opened up to. I was 25 – I was drugged and raped by an acquaintance. I blamed myself and didn’t realize it was rape until I stopped blaming myself. I told my best friend about it who helped me through it. I was 27 – I had a boss who became a father figure to me and helped me out with problems – and when I rejected his advances, he fired me. This time, my mother knew about it. I was 32 – I had an ex who was emotionally abusive to me and the wake up call was when it started involving my family. My family knows about it – no more bullshit.

I never ask for any of this but it happens. It can happen to anyone

I am eternally grateful that I have a strong support group of friends and family.

I am not a person who likes to discuss personal issues and I am not one to jump into the bandwagon. I have nieces who are growing up so quickly before my eyes and one of my wishes is that they grow up in a safe environment and even if something tries to break through that barrier of safety – I want to be one of the people who will take anything down.

I believe one of the things that would help is if I show them that I am not afraid to speak out about it.

Remember you are not alone.

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