I have read umpteen stories about sexual abuse; many of them here on WordPress and several others in newspapers and magazines. There have been abundant discussions with and revelations by my friends or colleagues which by and large bring me to a point where I believe that almost everyone has been a victim of sexual abuse at least once in their lifetime. By asserting this statement, I do not suppose that each of us suffered it in the same way and with the same magnitude as a lot of other people; however, you can’t deny the fact that it’s a tormenting act and it leaves a person unstable for years or may be forever. We have all been in it, through it; in one form or another.
A few days ago, I read extensively about three women namely Amanda Berry, now 26, Gina DeJesus, 23 and Michelle Knight, 32 who were held captive for nearly ten years by a man named Ariel Castro in a lively neighbourhood in the city of Ohio. Their families had practically lost every hope of finding them again after years of wide-ranging investigations. They were believed to be dead until May 6, 2013 when Berry came out of a home with her six year old daughter and screeched for help. Charles Ramsey helped her and the two other women and that was precisely the moment they savoured liberty.
What prompted me to write about this incident was an article I read yesterday by Roshi Fernando, a victim of sexual abuse describing how she endured the exploitation and the way life changed for her after that. You can click here to read the referred article. It’s a really nice testimony of a woman who is no more reluctant to admit how she was misused like most of the other people. She opened up after the tales of abuse of the three women in Ohio were exposed.
According to different news sources, the three kidnap victims were repetitively raped by Castro and were originally bound with ropes and chains in his basement. He is accused of repeatedly getting the women pregnant and then coercing them to miscarry. Knight got pregnant five times in the period of her confinement and every time, Ariel starved her for weeks and punched in her stomach continually to kill the child. Amanda gave birth to her daughter on 25th December, 2006 who is a product of the sexual abuse she faced. Ariel Castro celebrated the anniversary of each kidnapping by serving dinner and cake and he assumed that the day marked the captive’s new birth.
Since the past many days, the women have been disclosing their story, their soreness and imprisonment. People are aghast because a period of ten or eleven years is big enough for the crime to have gone unnoticed, especially by the neighbours of Castro. In her article, Roshi Fernando emphasizes that sufferers of abuse are not “victims”, not even “survivors” – they’re brilliant, wonderful human beings, out there in the world, avenging themselves on a daily basis by living well. Her lines touch me. Her valour makes me feel proud of the mere fact that I read and tried to comprehend what she wished to convey. It takes a lot of strength to live with self-esteem and contentment after such instances of abuse. It might take a long time for the three women to be able to ‘live with’ the awareness of their struggle and agony and to trust a promising future. They might even take years to be able to sense this independence. The ill-treatment, these ten years and their wounds will stay with them till they are a part of this world. Yet, I know they will grow through it, because of it.
Castro is facing trial and many newspapers and advocates are debating whether he should face the death penalty. On a personal note, I typically believe that the ‘death penalty’ turns out to be an easy escape for such criminals. One moment of enormous pain leading to the end of life must be certainly lesser than ten years of lock up, sexual and physical abuse and torture. These women must have tolerated millions of such moments which are shoddier than death. They deserve justice, in the right manner. What do you think?
(Before I sign off, let’s welcome the three women back to that thing called ‘life’ ) 🙂