Last month I was visiting with my Khala’s family who live in Rajastan. They are very nice and my Khala is a good mother and her husband is a good, hard working man. He sometimes hits his children and screams at them, but he loves them. He has not done it in front of me, but I have heard him through the walls. I have heard him yelling harsh things at his children and I heard the slaps. But he also loves them and works hard and provides for his family. When he comes home he is tired and we should stay out of his way. My cousin Noori recently told me that her father has done some terrible things to her. Noori claims he sexually abuses her. Noori said she is going to tell her mother and have her father arrested. Auntiji, Noori is obviously lying. I am so embarrassed to hear her say these things. Her father is not a perfect man. No one is. But if he wanted to hurt her, why would he still feed and clothe her? Her father has a wife. The other children do not say such things. Noori is going to ruin her family’s life and for what? Our whole family will have problems for this. I cannot imagine how my mother will deal with this, with the other ladies whispering. She will never go out again. What will my father have to hear from his co-workers? I am thinking of telling my father so he will tell my uncle what Noori is saying. I am sure Noori will be beaten by her father for this, if not turned out into the street. But if she says these false things, our whole family will be humiliated. What will my father say to his coworkers? How will my mother show her face in public again? How can I stop this all from happening? What is the best way to handle this?
God give me strength while I reply to your letter.
My child, why are you so sure she is lying? Because it makes you so uncomfortable? Why is it that in our culture, the more powerless a person is, the more we silence them, the more we protect the ones who hurt them? You see this all the time. Rape victims are called liars, killed, or thrown out. You ask why he still feeds and clothes her? Perhaps because that is his role as her father and he is also taking on a forbidden role. What do you expect him to do, marry her? Throw her out and stop abusing her? Your doubts do not make any sense. Abused children are told they should appreciate their parents’ sacrifices. When will we become protectors of the most vulnerable? Do all of our religions not obligate us to do better? You worry about the words your father will have to say. Why care more about words than a person? You worry about the parties your mother will be embarrassed at. Embarrassment is only something that happens in a person’s imagination. It does not exist in the world outside of the person’s mind. Sexual abuse actually breaks entire human beings and ruins lives. Perhaps you worry about what someone might (or might not) say to you. Words! Your ego! Words do not take up space or lead to damaged organs and broken minds. Embarrassment is not a real problem. Does embarrassment caused by the words of a careless class fellow ruin your mind, body and soul? No! You go home and eat some daal and get over it. You worry about such trivial things compared to the damage that is being done to this girl, and actual human being, her body, her mind, her life. You worry about the wrong things!
What you should really worry about is Noori’s well-being. You should really worry about what you want your legacy on earth to be. Do you want to enable an abuser and silence a victim, or do you want to be a champion for justice and save a human being? Your job is not to protect the people who hurt her, but to protect Noori. Listen to her. Talk to your parents and tell them that Noori needs a safe place to be. Tell them she needs to be taken from that home immediately. She could be killed for telling the truth, and don’t think for a second that has not crossed her mind. She knows what the stakes are and the abuse she is receiving might be as bad to her. Your discomfort means nothing. Do the right thing. I hope I have made myself clear. Jeethe Raho. ~ Your very upset Desi Aunty