Q: My religious teacher, who used to come home to teach me the scriptures, touched me inappropriately repeatedly on a number of occasions. I could not believe it in the beginning and was in a state of shock that he would do such a thing. I did not tell my parents about it, because they were going through a difficult time with my autistic brother and I didn’t want to burden them. A year ago he was moved to another city by the community leader and I was relieved. However, of late, I am experiencing a lot of anger towards him, myself and my parents. I am also finding it difficult to be physically close to my fiancé and it is creating issues between us. What should I do?
A: What your religious teacher did was a reprehensible criminal offence that has clearly left you with emotional scars, a sense of shame and anger towards him. You are a survivor and it takes courage to come forth and tell your story or accept that you need help.I respect the fact that you are looking to find a way forward and I hope my answer is the first of many steps that you take towards empowering yourself and taking back control of your life.
Every strong emotion has a place in our mind. Never deny yourself the right to feel these emotions. It’s important to process all emotions so that once they have been processed, you are finally in the right frame of mind to course correct – as you find a way forward from this. I think it would be a good idea to be open up to your husband and your parents about how difficult a time you went through when you were being touched inappropriately by the religious teacher.
This isn’t going to be easy, but it is important for the people who care for you to be apprised on your inner emotional turmoil so they can support you as loved ones usually do. Tell them the truth. Even though your religious teacher doesn’t live in the same city, his ghastly deeds have left a mark on you and you are going to have to work through these issues under the empathic and sensitive care of a personal counsellor.
To displace one’s anger from the teacher to your parents may seem like a natural consequence as a part of you thought that your parents would always protect you from the savage world when you were young and vulnerable.
However, parenting’s a hard job and in light of the fact that you haven’t been fully transparent with your parents about what happened, because you thought you would be burdening them, it’s perhaps a tad unfair for you to hold on to this anger against them.
A sense of betrayal has led you some dark places in your mind and as difficult it was for them to gauge ‘what was happening behind closed doors’ between the religious teacher and you, you need to open up about the emotions you went through and the feelings that are currently disturbing you. If you require the support of a counsellor, you should immediately seek it. If you would like to speak to your parents in the presence of a counsellor, then that is fine as well.
Your inability to be physically close to your fiancé is very likely to make your fiancé feel uncomfortable and eventually sexually frustrated. If in time, your fiancé chooses to blame you or withdraw from you as a result of his strong feelings, it may complicate the relationship and contaminate your experience with each other.
Resentment and grievances can easily ruin what could very well have been a wonderful journey of mutual-nurturance, so you need to plan your necessary next steps with a view to moving far beyond what has obviously been a trying time for you.
(Aman R Bhonsle is a qualified Psychosocial Analyst and a Professional Youth Mentor with specialisation in Transactional Analysis and REBT. He is available for consultation at the Heart To Heart Counselling Centre.)