Dear Auntie,
I am a lost soul. I am very depressed and tense. I have had a terrible past. I can’t write the whole story, but can tell you in summary so that you can help ease my pain.

I am a 16-year-old girl. When I was five-years old, my mother left me. She took divorce from my father. My father had three wives and my mother was the third one. My father also died when I was seven. My stepmother is so good, she treated me like her own daughter. However, a cousin of mine abused me. He got married to my sister in the same year and, in fact, he used to abuse me even after the marriage. I told my sister about the abuse before her nikaah, as she was the only one to whom I tell my secrets. She was forcefully married to my cousin. I hate him. I can’t move on with the burden on my head that my sister is not happy there because of me. She hates him too because of me. I am such an angry person and I have trust issues. I am so scared about my future. Please help me.

Dear Abused,
With next to no real support, you, my love, are in a difficult situation. You have been traumatised since an early age and need professional counselling to be able to deal with your issues. I am not sure who is your guardian and taking care of you financially, but I can safely assume that you do not have access to enough funds to pay for professional therapy, which can be expensive. I strongly advise you to search online for organisations that are providing free counselling phone services in Pakistan. There are a few non-profits that are working in the area of sexual abuse and a Google search will guide you to them.  By contacting them you can begin your healing journey.

Ending your life is not an option. All that happened to you is the result of other people’s actions. You did not cause your mother to leave, your father to die or your brother-in-law to abuse you. It has just been a difficult life for you so far, but you can work on making it better by setting the goal to become independent and having more control of your life.

‘I am caught in the trauma of abuse’

From this point forward, think about ways to improve your life. One option that Auntie would encourage you to take would be to work hard on your education and find work that will help make you financially independent. This is still a while off, but you can work towards it consistently.

At the same time, keep working on making yourself stronger. Read up on self-development (there are plenty of free resources online) and incorporate practices, such as working out, to stay healthy. Work on any guilt you may be feeling, and remind yourself frequently that none of what happened is your fault. The people who abandoned and abused you have to answer for their actions. You, on the other hand, need to be kind to yourself. On days when things feel rough, find an empty room and scream into a pillow. Also journal your feelings anytime you feel burdened. When you write about how you are feeling, you let it out and it helps lighten your load.

As for being abused by your brother-in-law, you probably want to sort this out without rubbing anyone the wrong way. Not wanting to ruffle any feathers is quite a common reaction of victims of abuse. Well, I am sorry to inform you that, given the enormity of what is happening to you, sorting this out is not going to be pretty. You will not be able to slip away from your problems.

Ideally, your abuser needs to be called out, simply so that you find some closure to this issue and also so that he thinks a hundred million times before finding some other vulnerable victim. By staying silent you are letting this man run free and teaching him that he can go scot-free after committing a crime. At the same time, exposing your brother-in-law’s actions to the world can have serious repercussions.

Auntie will not reply privately to any query. Please send concise queries

Published in Dawn, EOS, September 13th, 2020