January 2017 was not only the launch of ANBU’s first video, it was also a public introduction for our book. Like the video, the book aims to break the long-standing silence around childhood sexual abuse (CSA) within the Thamil community. The self-named collection of narratives draws from the accounts of five adult survivors of CSA, all of Thamil descent.
As you can guess, it’s not an easy read. These are raw stories of emotion, pain and secrecy that many of these survivors of childhood sexual abuse chose to share with the world. You may find their stories to be shocking, unbelievable, or maybe deep inside, you identify with their narratives too well. Their feelings of isolation, shame and guilt may resonate with you, in ways you were never able to imagine. Whether their pasts catch you unaware of the reality of CSA in the Thamil community or you are well aware of it, this book is the first of its kind and is greatly needed.
Thamil families aren’t really known for their ability to open up and share feelings, let alone talk about sensitive and uncomfortable topics like CSA. Talking about taboo topics raises some serious concerns in our culture. Family name, community perceptions, and the idea of marriageability and sexual purity of women are paramount. We also see with male survivors of CSA that patriarchy and toxic masculinity often stop the survivor from coming forward and attaining the support they need. Sadly, they often come before the needs of those impacted by CSA…people whose needs and well-being need to be put before all that secondary stuff. It’s important to remember that what happens at the individual level impacts the community. Whether abuse is disclosed or not, CSA impacts everyone, not just the survivor.
Jessica Thyriar, one of ANBU’s core team members, is the creative force behind the book. She has worked tirelessly over the past few months to see this vision come to life. This is what she had to say about her experience putting this project together:
Having stories of Thamil people written for the world to read has always been something that Ihad in the back of mind. Thamil people’s existences after resisting years of genocide, wandering/migrating to unknown lands, and being able to establish themselves without anything are stories I often heard as a child. However, when there is so much historical trauma, how do we as a community begin to respond to trauma our children may experience? How do we as a community begin to acknowledge that something needs to be done about childhood sexual abuse in the Thamil community? The purpose of the book wasn’t to shed light to say this only happens in the Thamil community, but to acknowledge that it DOES happen. We cannot resist or change something until we acknowledge its existence. Sadly, childhood sexual abuse is met with silence one too many times. Often times, I’ve been told that hurt people, hurt people. I want to change that narrative. I want people to read these narratives people have shared with us, and understand that support and response can make a huge difference. These five individuals provided a piece of themselves, in order to make the world a better place, and I hope that these narratives are able to make a difference. I mentioned at the ANBU event that I had numbed myself while working on this book with the individuals that shared their experiences. The night before, when I sat down and read the entirety of the book, I was filled with emotions. We don’t necessarily see the human aspect when we hear of these stories in the media and the news, but with the book I hope to put the focus back on the survivors. These experiences, although only five were shared and were different, are realities of many children and adults in the Thamil community. We need to bring ourselves back to the humanity in all this, and realize these are people that are being harmed. We need to do better collectively as a community to heal and grow.
Now that this book has been purchased by many people and being read, I can say I feel nervous and excited at the same time. There is always the self-doubt that clouds my mind, about how people will perceive this, if there are any mistakes and will it make a difference. However, compiling this book has been life changing for me. It has given me perspectives of individuals I never had before. It has given me the strength to continue to do this work, and to not settle when it comes to providing support and space for survivors of sexual violence. What these five people have done for me is something I will be eternally grateful for. I hope that it can provide people that have experienced childhood sexual abuse the strength they need to get support, and continue to show people that childhood sexual abuse survivors are not alone.
For survivors and the people who support them, dealing with the long-lasting effects of trauma is a daunting, terrifying and consuming task. This book will make you cry but it is necessary to break the silence and share these stories. It could open paths of healing and support. It could be the difference between suffering in silence and alleviating the burden of shame and guilt. It could cause a complete shift in our collective consciousness as a community. It will be unpleasant but only after facing the truths of the struggles we experience can we begin to look to a brighter future. Otherwise, we’d be living a lie.
There is a lot of pain in this book.
You may have been through similar pain
maybe you know someone who has
maybe this is all new to you.
Either way, this is all overwhelming.
Can you do something for me?
Can you check if you’re still breathing?
You’ve probably been holding your breath.
It’s usually the first to go
when we’re shock or scared
Maybe you’ve broken down numerous times already.
Maybe you had to put this book down
to keep yourself from a scary place.
Just remember to breathe.
It’s what we have, even in the most difficult times
When all seems lost
we still have that.
We are still alive.
Sometimes, being alive can feel like punishment
with all the emotions bombarding us.
But there are times when the world’s beauty
can be blinding in the most wonderful way.
There are times when the good can be so hard to miss.
Live for these times.
Keep breathing and be honest with what you’re going through.
It won’t serve us to dress up the truth.
The truth is that we have suffered.
We are still suffering.
The only way to overcome it
is to face it.
To look at it for what it truly is.
Not only will denial be useless to us,
It ensures that our suffering never ends.
Denial and disbelief
can be even uglier than the harm done to us.
There is a way to get past this:
Honesty and acceptance.
Of the past, of the present, of yourself, of the people around you.
There is strength in that.
There’s no need to keep fighting.
Stop your body from lashing out against itself
and see what is still inside of you,
inside all of us.
Even a sliver of hope is enough.
Even that little bit of peace can be so profound.
It can be a total life saver, not matter how small or fleeting it is.
It has the power to drown out the misery.
It can help you come back to humanity,
make you realize that none of us are alone in this.
A smile or kind word from a supportive friend
or even a stranger
can turn the tide.
It can be hard to read this book.
Whether, in the back of your mind, you knew it happened
or you had no idea,
It’s always going to be hard.
For just this moment,
Let go of any need for revenge or justice.
You can always come back
and wear them again.
Let them go,
and let go of your need to understand why.
Let go of your questions and your judgments,
your opinions and your thoughts.
Let these things hover around you like clouds
but don’t let them obstruct your view
of what this book is all about.
Keep your focus on
Surrender to them,
not to those reactive clouds around you.
This is why we chose to share our stories.
This is why you are here with us.
So we can all wake up.
The Abuse Never Becomes Us book is being sold for $20 per copy. All proceeds go towards ANBU to help those impacted by CSA. Please contact us at 289-801-2628 (ANBU) or firstname.lastname@example.org to get your copy!