After she was raped she felt frightened of her friends. Should her friends know? Will they understand?

The classroom was buzzing with students talking and gossiping. Four young girls gathered around a desk were singing a popular song from a recent movie, “Munni badnaam hoi darling terai leye”. In the corner stood a young girl, looking frightened and very depressed. She was standing all alone and was terrified of every word of the song the girls were singing. Her name was Munni.

Munni was once a very different girl from who she was now. She used to be very cheerful and social; she used to take part in co-curricular activities and was also a member of different school committees. Academically she was a good student, who was doing brilliantly in mathematics. She loved the subject and had a deep regard for the teacher, Miss Saba who taught it. However now her class fellows and teachers observed that Munni becoming less attentive in class, staying very quiet and being on her own. Munni’s parents were unaware of this. They thought that she stayed in her room all the time because she is more focused on her studies now.

Munni, standing alone in a corner, heard the girls gossiping and immediately assumed that they were talking about her. Full of fear and shame she ran away from the classroom. Munni went to the washroom and started crying. With each sob her inner feelings came to the surface. She felt that she was all alone in this world of misery. She wondered why she was going through this? Did it have something to do with her destiny? Life is very cruel, she thought. She didn’t want to be like this, she didn’t want a life like this. She felt she could never come out of this situation.

The door of washroom opened and the mathematics teacher, whom Munni always looked up to, walked in. When Miss Sabas saw Munni sobbing uncontrollably, she asked Munni what was wrong. Munni stayed quiet but could not stop the tears from flowing continuously. Miss Saba gently clasped her hands and took Munni to her office. She gave Munni water and asked her to talk to her, may be she could help resolve the problem. Unable to hold on to her secret any longer, Munni said, “I was raped Madam, I was raped”.

When Miss Saba heard this, she gave Munni a long hug to comfort her. She then told Munni that she is very sorry about what happened to her. She also told Munni that she is not alone, and she is not the only one who has been put through this horrible ordeal. Miss Saba told Munni her own story: Saba was sexually abused by her relative when she was a child. It was the most difficult time in her life, she felt all alone and also felt disgusted of her own self. She was blackmailed by the same relative when she was 18. She told Munni how difficult it was for her to tell her friends and family about the abuse because she was so afraid that she will be stigmatized. But she took the risk because she thought that being stigmatized may still be better than living in this misery. Saba told Munni how sympathetic and supportive her parents and friends were when they learnt the truth. Her parents lodged an FIR and the perpetrator was arrested. Her parents also cared for her and supported her in every way possible; they took her to a psychologist for counselling.

She told Munni “Your body is precious and you need to take care of it, and equally important is your emotional being. The wounds and scars inside you need healing”. Munni felt relieved hearing her teacher’s story, knowing that she wasn’t alone, and knowing that there were people who understood what she was going through and most importantly knowing that there are people who believed her story. She stood up and asked her teacher, “Will you help me?” Miss Saba asked her what did she want to do. Munni said, “ I am going to do something that will help not only me but my friends too.” She took Miss Saba’s hand and asked her to go to the Principal’s office with her. Munni asked the Principal for permission to establish a society where students can have group counselling sessions in which students can share about any abuse or trauma they are going through, learn how to tackle those situations and heal with the support of one another. The Principal was very impressed with the idea and very moved by Munni’s courage. The Principal asked Miss Saba to facilitate the initiative who readily agreed.

Munni then went back to her classroom and decided to first share the story of her abuse with her class fellows. Upon hearing her story all Munni’s friends gathered around her giving her hugs and crying with her. Some students even broke down and shared their own harrowing stories of the abuse they were subjected to. This made Munni realize how important it was for her to talk about her abuse and how important group counselling sessions are. For the first time in a long time Munni’s face broke into a smile.

By: Muhammad Yaqoob

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