Author: Bairavi Maheswaran
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross once said, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths”. Each day as we go to school, to work, to volunteering or even to the supermarket, we see people smiling but behind that smile, pain can be hidden from early abuse. Child sexual abuse has been an issue that is prevalent in news stories and other social media bases, but at home, it is an issue that is locked behind doors.
As first generation Sri Lankan Americans we grew up playing with Barbies and teddy bears, living the lives of having the opportunity that our parents strived for us. They always told us to aspire anything that we put our hearts to and to speak up if we disagree with anything. Yet, when news stories about children being sexually abused came on the TV, our parents quickly changed the channel and did not speak a single word. As we got older and started setting our goals to become physicians and physician assistants, we always wondered why being abused is a cultural stigma. Why do we not speak about this? Why is it so uncomfortable? Why do we not take action? And most importantly, why do we not speak about our abuse? Many stories and interviews we watched, numerous victims were saying how they were abused by a relative who lived with them, but why did they not tell their parents about the abuse. We thought it was due to fear of the abuser or a misconception that this person loves them and the abuse is “family love”. However, it was something else. It was due to their family’s reputation. Being abused in some Sri Lankan families was marked as a dishonor to the parents, and many will say it was due to how they raised their child and that they failed to protect them. We want to change that viewpoint. It is neither the victim’s fault nor their family’s. Pointing fingers and blaming will not stop innocent children from being abused, the only way we can stop this is by helping the victims find their voice and not to be afraid of what others say. In the end your words will change someone else’s life and give someone hope that things will get better in the future.
We want to join ANBU because in our future careers we want to educate individuals of our society to never blame the child for they had no control over the abuse, that if any abuse has occurred to disregard your family’s honor and understand that the child’s health is more important and further to never say that the abuser did nothing wrong. Below we wrote our personal journeys on why ANBU:
“Being born in Toronto and moving to New York at the age of five, I missed living in a huge Sri Lankan Tamil community. Whenever I go back my first go to is buying a saree at Asiyans or getting all the patties from Samosa King. I always kept culture close to my heart and embraced my roots, yet something was missing. I am graduating from St. John’s University as a Biology major and my true aspiration in life is to attend medical school soon. With my passion for medicine, I wanted to do something for my cultural community especially for little kids. My parents have always listened to me and took time to understand my dreams and ideas, yet I did have family members who only thought about ‘family rep’ and make me feel horrible about myself. Wanting to be a physician, I wanted to combine my compassion for children, being Sri Lankan and always listening to what others have to say. Many individuals in our community think if a child does bad in school or acts out in a manner that is not accepted, they point fingers at the parenting style or the child for being a deviant. However, there are so many reasons that might cause the child to have poor grades, be socially isolated or even speak in an aggressive manner. One of those reasons is sexual abuse. The child is afraid to speak up and this can be due to a plethora of things. Yet, if they do not speak up, then they could face many negative long-term physical or mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. I actually found ANBU through Jumani while looking for a makeup artist for my cousin’s birthday and reading/watching the videos and articles, I knew this organization fit me. After learning more about ANBU, I asked Asha and Saumya if they wanted to join me in expanding ANBU. We three actually met at St. John’s because the professors could not pronounce our last names and paired us together. All of us have the mission of transforming the Tamil community by using our career goals and personal experiences to help kids have a voice. Therefore, each child on this planet will bring us hope and success in the future and it is our job to protect children from all harm.”
“Coming from a small community in Queens the one thing that kept me in touch with Sri Lanka was the small Tamil community here. I knew I wanted to do something big in the world especially for the people back home. My future ambition is to become a physician assistant and I wanted to incorporate the values of always listening to my patients and getting to know them. I want to join ANBU to make a difference and let everyone have a voice. Not everyone can be heard and being in the medical field, we should hear everyone. ANBU provides that, to let everyone be known, heard and most importantly understood.”
“A child should be outgoing, full of dreams and supported. We can never change what happens to a child such as being sexually abused, but we can help them heal and move on to a better future. Being a member of ANBU a child can always be recognized and what is great about ANBU is no matter the age you are when you tell your story, they will help you. Building a brighter future is the key to moving on and one thing is to never let go of your hope.”
If you want to be a part of this movement in NY please contact me, Bairavi Maheswaran, at firstname.lastname@example.org