Updated: Nov 22, 2020
By Kinnera Reddy @kinnerareddy98
Content warning: sexual assault, abuse, suicidal ideation
Before I talk about my most personal and grueling experience with rape and emotional abuse, I want to preface why I am coming out about this now. I’ve been debating doing this, especially on social media, because it feels like I’m leaving myself emotionally naked. But seeing other survivors come forward was essential to gain the courage to confront my own experience. I write this now in hopes that you feel less alone and inspired to take control of your narrative.
For the longest time, I had thought that somehow most of what had happened to me was my own fault. I blamed myself for going back to him on multiple occasions before making a clean break. But, as I now know, this is incredibly common;on average it takes 7 times for a survivor to leave their abuser (standoffov.org). Instead of blaming my abuser, I spent years blaming myself for reacting poorly to the abusive behavior. Part of why I silenced myself, was also feeling as if no one would believe me if I said anything; he was charismatic and had many friends, but that’s the point. An abuser does not abuse everyone.
Another reason that this felt important to share my story now is that I am ready and these are on my terms. I have finally understood and accepted what has happened. In addition to this, the prevalence of rape and sexual abuse is so high and needs to be talked about, particularly among teens. Young women ages 16-24 “experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average” (DOJ, 2006). And additionally, us bisexual womxn are much more at risk; “60% of bisexual women experience domestic violence”(Huecker et al. 2019).And these are only the people who are reporting it; there are probably many MORE, especially those who aren’t accounted for in research like, gender non-conforming, non-binary and trans folx.
I had just turned 16 when I first met him. He seemed like he was someone who was struggling to figure out his own path in life, trying to get in control of his own mental health. I liked him. I thought he understood my struggles in a way others couldn’t.
From the start, he was constantly gaslighting me.
You never hang out with me. I’m always approaching you and your friends.
_____ is such a caring friend. You don’t support me like she does; you’re so cold. Your arms are so hairy. I have seen boys with less hair on their arms than there are on yours. They also shave their arms. Why don’t you? Body hair is disgusting.
Why are you even upset about that, you’re the one who–
Why don’t you–
Why aren’t you–
I didn’t think any of this was wrong; I thought this is how all relationships with men are meant to be.
After six months of dating, I lost my virginity. After the very first time, he got angry with me about something and then immediately texted an entire group chat of boys that we had sex, to spite me. From that point forward, the emotional abuse only escalated, encroaching all my other relationships.
Starting with my friends.
You can’t talk to them. You are too kind and all of them are taking advantage of you. I need you to spend time with me. You’re so bad at choosing your own friends; you have no judge of character.
I lost all of them. He even made me delete the major messaging app that most people used at my high school and forced me to give him all my social media passwords.
I don’t know who you are talking to. I don’t trust you. They’re all jacking off to your photos on ig, they told me.
Before meeting my abuser, I was quite social, running cross country and playing soccer.
Those sports are distractions
Squats are slutty; what is wrong with you?
This is taking away from my time with you; why can I never reach you when I want to?
By this point, I had no one and couldn’t participate in the things that made me happy.
After a pregnancy scare, I started birth control, which led to a bout of depression. I cried on the drive home from school every single day. I was no longer interested in much of anything, spending most of my time sleeping on the couch and avoiding people.
Why are you so sad all the time; what’s wrong with you?
You’re never wet; Does that mean you’re not sexually attracted to me anymore?
At this time, there were allegations that he cheated on me. And when she spoke up, he denied it. I never really knew what the truth was, but it was confirmed years later.
She’s lying. Nothing happened. You know how she is... I was just leading her on as a game. You know I only love you; I’d never do that to you
The time that I remember being raped was on the day of our second anniversary. I had planned a date for us at a sushi spot to celebrate the day. I had gotten dressed up and was excited and proud that we had made it this far.
As soon as he got into the car, we had a fight, saying all the same things he’d said before.
“If I can see that mole on your breast, the shirt is too low cut”
“God, you dress like such a slut... It’s your fault that they stare at you like that”
“Why are you so flirty with guys? You make them like you; it’s your fault” “That’s not how it works; you either like men or you’re a lesbian”
“Your body looks so different now. You have gained a lot of weight... Having a hard time being attracted to you..”
“If you leave me, I don’t know what I will do...”
“I’m going to take an entire bottle of pills. I will see you on the other side...”
We left the sushi place. After more arguing, I told him to pull over the car so we could talk. I had said I did not want to have sex, repeatedly saying “No” and “I am not in the mood”. He kept trying to kiss me and I kept trying to push him off.
“Go to the back. You have to go to the back.”
It was not loving or kind. Different than before. There was no concern for what I wanted, or if I wanted it. He forced himself onto me. I just waited so that it would be over and the arguing wouldn’t continue.
It didn’t feel like sex. It felt like he was masturbating, and I was just an observer, watching from out of my own body. He finished on my stomach, lifting himself off of me like I was a dirty sock that needed to be thrown in the wash. It had never hurt like that before. For a few days after, the wounds would burn each time I peed.
Not every sexual encounter we had after this was non-consensual, but this specific pattern occurred at least 4-5 other times. We would fight. Then he used sex as a bandaid; somehow, he thought it fixed our problems. I never wanted it. But it felt easier to just let him have his way than to have him yell at me again.
Other than rape, he would have other avenues to abuse me or just make me uncomfortable in my own home. When I broke up with him for the first time during college, he sat in front of my house parked in a car for an entire day. When I was scheduled to leave the next day for a flight back to school, he was still parked in front of my house, refusing to leave until he could talk to me.
He called my mother asking and interrogating her saying things like,
“She looks different, Why did she post that photo on Instagram with her shoulders showing? Is she okay without me?”.
I never reported him to any authority figures. It took me two years to realize it was rape. And it took two more to talk about it publicly. When it was happening, I was afraid for my safety mentally, emotionally, and physically considering the amount of abuse I endured. I don’t know if he has grown, or how he acts in his relationships now, but I do know that the abuse I endured colors my experience even today.
It’s easy to just blame him. But I came from a home and community that put the needs of abusers above the needs of womxn, especially survivors. Starting at the age of 12, I was hurt by my father. I was told that gaslighting, outbursts of screaming rage over my clumsiness, and negative remarks towards my body and my intelligence were normal. I never reported him to anyone. At the age of 17, I was sexually harassed at school by a fellow student who would follow me around and rub his genitals against me during my PE class. When I reported him to my teacher and administrators, I was told that I was ruining his future by asking him to be punished. He was removed from the class, but not reprimanded in any other way. Till I left high school, I would endure sexual slurs objectifying my body in classrooms because I did not feel comfortable reporting them to administration anymore. When I was 18, a boy groped me in front of all of my peers at a party. None of them reprimanded him. I was told that it was normal, that this is just something that happens. I never reported him to anyone. This was the culture of the school and the community around me, so structurally ingrained that I thought that I had no options to report or create change.
It is no coincidence that my abuser was also Desi. For the South Asian women who experience domestic abuse, 96% experience physical violence, 64% experience sexual violence, and 50% experience stalking from their partner (Domestic Violence in South Asian Communities, 2017). Within the South Asian community, cycles of toxicity and abuse are so prevalent.
Why does your mom always make chai and cook the family dinners after a long day of work without any help from your father? When my abuser needed help in school, I would first write my own paper and stay up to write half of his, never expecting anything in return.
Why does your dad never apologize for saying something out of anger or spite, instead using excuses to justify his behavior? When my abuser berated me with insults through constant gaslighting, I thought it was the normal way for men to show their love.
Why did your mom reinforce this by telling you to excuse his behavior? When my friends noticed and questioned his actions, I would defend him, using the same excuses I heard growing up.
Why do your parents tell you “What would they think?” or “I didn’t raise you to act like this” when you do something they do not approve of? When I was abused, the shame for being weak silenced me, holding me back from speaking my truth.
What you see is what becomes your normal.
My abuser was also raised in a household where these same things would occur. The abuse I experienced does not exist in isolation from misogyny in the South Asian community. Part of why I wrote this piece is because 21% of Asian womxn experience domestic violence, but this is considered to be an underestimate, because Asian Americans are much less likely to report their abuse out of shame (Domestic... 2017). When I told my mother I was writing this, the first thing she asked about was how I should appease my father when he finds out about it. Not every womxn in our community is assaulted, but the culture does not prioritize the needs of survivors when it does happen.
One in three women in the US endure “physical, emotional, or domestic abuse from a dating partner” (Davis 2008). My story isn’t unique. I am your sister. I am your neighbor. I’m the girl who sits across from you in math class. I’m the coworker that you talk to everyday. The survivors of assault and abuse are all around you, whether you choose to see it or not. Moving forward, I hope that those from my community will start to create an environment that is welcoming to womxn, men, gender non-conforming, and non-binary folx who endure sexual or emotional abuse.
When it comes down to it, I am lucky. I had a support system from my mom, brother, and friends who helped me when I finally decided to leave my abuser. I may be a queer South Asian womxn, but I come from a background of privilege. When I needed therapy, my family was able to pay. When I needed time to process the breakup during college, my family paid for my tuition and living expenses. If I needed a safe space to stay, I could always go back to my family home. I credit my progress today largely in part to my socioeconomic status and access to resources.
Whatever has happened to me pales in comparison to the experiences of others.
Oluwatoyin Salau, a beautiful soul who fought for Black trans lives and to expose her abuser, was murdered for her voice. She is one of many. It’s my job and our job (any of the NBPoC and white readers) to hold Black womxn’s, and especially Black trans womxn’s, abusers accountable and advocate for their rights, as much as we advocate for our own. If you pick and choose which survivors of sexual violence matter, you are perpetuating racism and classism.
To Anyone who is Struggling with Emotional or Sexual abuse:
You are not alone. Tell your friends and family (if you are comfortable). They will, likely, be more supportive than you think. Don’t let your shame, guilt you into silence. The journey of healing and moving forward is not immediate or linear, navigate it however you wish.
I still experience PTSD and anxiety from everything that has happened. But I am still whole, I am still worthy, and I deserve to be here just as much as anyone else, as do you. If you feel comfortable doing so and you mention any names of people who have been harmful or abusive to me, I will unfollow them and end any potential relationship with them. I am with you, unconditionally.
Davis, Antoinette, MPH. 2008. Interpersonal and Physical Dating Violence among Teens. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus. Available at http://www.nccd-crc.org/nccd/pubs/2008_focus_teen_dating_violence.pdf.
Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice and Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the United States, 1993-2004. Dec. 2006.
Domestic Violence in South Asian Communities, 2017. (2020, February 27). Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://www.api-gbv.org/resources/dvfactsheet-southasian/
Huecker MR, Smock W. Domestic Violence. [Updated 2019 Oct 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499891/
Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.standffov.org/statistics
Resources for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault: Domestic Violence Hotline
Sexual Assault Hotline
Domestic Violence Website for California Residentshttps://www.cpedv.org/