I Honestly Don’t Know How I Survived My Childhood

I lived to tell the tale — and now I have to make sure people are aware, so it never happens to another child.

Abused young woman trying to hide and defend herself Doidam 10 | Shutterstock

Trigger Warning: child sexual abuse. If you were a victim too, I’m so sorry.

The therapist told me that I have been put into fight or flight for so long that it had resulted in my anxiety, claustrophobia, and panic attacks.

I never gave much thought to the abuse — deep inquiring thought about what I’ve been through.

I’ve always wanted to erase the details. I always hoped that if I forgot, maybe it didn’t happen.


There’s a part of my brain that is numb. There’s a protective barrier erected that has allowed me to carry on with life.

I used to bang my head against the wall. In the privacy of my room. I didn’t understand why. Partly rage I didn’t know how to dissipate, but why directed at myself? A way to wipe the brain clean?


I was frustrated that I was hurting myself. I was aware it wasn’t right. And that just made me even more distressed. I wanted to scream, but someone would hear and wonder why.

I hated my own body. It was betraying me by developing. Maybe it was my fault. I hated puberty and just wanted my chest to remain flat.

RELATED: If You Were A Victim Of Child Sexual Abuse, You Need To Read This

The violation. Every week for 6 years. He entered my home, my sanctuary, when I was 11 years old and I was only fully rid of him at 17.

Everything is merged. But for sure it happened repeatedly between the ages 12 and 15. The worst of it.

I don’t know exactly when, but at 16 I screamed "STOP!" I raised a pencil to stab his hand, but he quickly moved his hand with a disgusting angry look on his face. His face was my definition of ugly.


He responded, "I promise I will never disturb you again."

Disturb. What a euphemistic word. What a cover-up. What an understatement. You violated me.

Every week to feel fear and intense anxiety and have to keep it a secret. Also because you’re wishing it away.

At first, you don’t even understand what is happening. You were completely innocent. Your world was Enid Blyton's books about fairies and pixies.

There was no such thing as sex education or anything close. You had no word for it yet. All you know is you hate it.

Then you wonder if you’re evil. So evil things happen to you. You deserve it cause you’re scum.

How could someone with a daughter your age do it? A daughter with such a beautiful name whom he spoke to cruelly over the phone.


Do you do the same to her? Too horrific to even conceive of and I pray please no.

Why did my sweet female tutor before him have to quit to become a nurse? She truly loved and nurtured us like an aunty. Pure kindness which makes sense that she chose to become a nurse.

RELATED: An Open Letter To Adult Survivors Of Child Sexual Abuse

Then you wonder if it’s an accident and he didn’t mean to.

But an accident that happened 200 times at least — too many to keep a tally.

Then you know that he meant it. It was too clear to deny.

You were getting more knowledge in school. The police came to give a talk about rape and using an alert whistle. And then you thought. This is not rape, so you have no case. You had no concrete evidence.


People will think you’re making a big deal out of nothing. It’s not rape. There is no blood. There is no violence. No bruises or cuts.

Invisible. You feel invisible. You want to disappear.

You feel rage. A deep rage. A deep sorrow. A deep shame and disgust.

The wrong people get the brunt of it. They wonder why you’re so sensitive. So hypersensitive. They probably think it’s teenage angst. They completely don’t understand.

You feel completely and utterly misunderstood. Unheard. The isolation is self-imposed. You would spare your loved ones. Why should their world be tarnished? By the public shame of a court appearance.

You said you hated him. You started wearing pajamas under your skirt. Surely someone would notice. Isn’t this too odd not to be noticed?


All the distress signals didn’t work. That too makes you mad.

There was only one who noticed and fear flashed across his face momentarily. Just for a second. He even laughed cruelly, mocking, tugging at it. But I think he knew this child of twelve was becoming more aware.

Or was he only attracted to younger children? He taught in a school where the kids were 16 to 18. He must have been thrilled to finally get unfettered access to a minor, but younger.

Sometimes when you were alone at home you were afraid the silver car would park outside and he would be able to do worse. You lived on the edge.

The days when he called to cancel, I can’t even begin to describe the feeling of immense relief. Spared one day of torture.


RELATED: It Started When I Was 3 Years Old — What It's Like To Endure A Lifetime Of Sexual Abuse And Domestic Violence

But you never tell. If you did and no one had your back? It was unthinkable. You didn’t want to risk it all. Worse than the abuse. It would destroy you completely.

Now I live to tell the tale. I have to make sure people are aware, so it never happens to another child.

Please god, don’t let it happen to another child. And where were you when I prayed for protection? I actually got on my knees and prayed with my hands clasped hoping it would work if I did it right this time. I thought you would be enough.

Be on the alert when your child says they dislike someone.


In my case. Repeatedly. There is a reason. It’s not because they want to get out of studying or homework.

The monster was paid as a tutor. So my parents were doubly betrayed.

It warps my mind that he benefitted from my father’s hard-earned money. Truly hard-earned as my father grew up poor.

My father thought the monster was helping me. How would he have known? In a way, I couldn’t bear my father’s distress upon discovering this.

Instead, his beloved firstborn was being permanently altered for the worse with tons of repercussions for her future. Decimated.

My fingers are as cold as ice as I type this.

My heart goes out to all who have gone through a violation like this. I feel the rage for you. I will have your back. Be assured of this.


There are ways to help child abuse victims.

Want to get involved to bring an end to child sexual abuse? There are a few things you can do. There are organizations like Prevent Child Abuse America that are good places to start and that are always looking for people to donate their time and money to their efforts. The organization also suggests writing to local elected officials to support policies that bring an end to sexual abuse, and of course, the simplest thing to do is to keep eyes and ears open and to report abuse when you see it — and to always take children seriously when they say they're being abused. 

RELATED: 6 Signs Your Past Childhood Trauma Is Making You Physically Sick

Shanti Chelliah is a writer and cancer survivor who frequently writes about navigating grief.