The story of 10 year old Tayyaba may have made headlines but if truth be told, this is the story of every child in Pakistan. Almost every child in this country has faced mental, physical or sexual abuse at one or more stages of their lives. Child sexual abuse is a well-discussed evil in all present day societies but the physical and mental abuse which almost every child in Pakistan faces is not discussed at all. In fact, parents seem to be rather proud of how many times they have smacked an unruly toddler into “good behavior”.
I as a child have been a victim of this abuse in its worst form – the domestic physical abuse at the hands of my own mother.
I was the only girl in our family with no other girl of my age in my close relatives. As a result I used to spend my time playing with boys, my cousins or neighbors or just boys in the neighborhood. My mother hated these habits and she used to beat me with sticks, utensils or whatever else she found handy. Yes, I was only 7 or 8 years old.
Since early childhood, I have seen my mother fighting and cursing my father for his long absences from home and for spending more time at work than she believed was appropriate. His return home after two or three month long absences were the only time when I was happy.
I complained to him about my mother not treating me well and my father often chided her with harsh language and sometimes even with violence. It was short-lived though. When he returned after a couple of days, my mother would intensify her abuse. My mother started hating my father and everything associated with him, and being the closest to him, she began to resent me the most.
When I was 10 years old I fell off a wall and almost fractured my leg. When I went crying to my mother, she didn’t bother to see how serious the wound was, only responding with “I don’t care”. I spent the whole night with my leg bleeding. My brothers made fun of me when they saw me in the morning, mistaking my blood for menstrual blood.
When I went to a neighbour’s house to play with my friends they noticed my leg and wrapped a bandage around it and told my mother. She only realised its severity and took me to the hospital when they came to our home to see me.
Deprived of female companionship, I used to spend my time climbing trees, playing cricket and flying kites with the boys around me. My mother never cared whether or not I had eaten anything. Instead she used to beat me every day when I returned home, often hungry. There were many nights when I went to bed hungry.
On my way to and from school, my brothers used to beat me as this was what they had learnt from our mother who paid no heed to my complaints.
At the age of 14, I had become a victim of an inferiority complex. I started smoking cigarettes first with my friends and later began stealing from my elder brother’s packs. When my relatives found out, they told my mother about my “immodesty” and my “immoral relations” with “bad boys”. My mum sent me to my maternal grandmother’s home.
My grandmother was the only person who loved me, and I started living with her. But my uncle, my mother’s cousin, also lived in the same home, and tried to abuse me many times. He used to inappropriately touch my breasts and genitals. I told my mother and she did nothing. One night while my grandmother was not home I had to sleep in his room. He molested me and sexually abused me many times. When grandmother returned I told her everything.
She went straight to her sister, my uncle’s mother, who blamed it all on my character. It was all my fault, and not my pedophile uncle’s.
From school to college to university I had no friends as I never came out of my horrible childhood shock.
I was then married to a rich businessman who was the son of my father’s friend. That abusive marriage was more a business deal and did not even last a year. My husband divorced me when he came to know that I could not have children, which turned out to be because of the excessive torture and abuse I had faced in my childhood.
My father passed away the same year mu divorce was finalized.
Now all four of my brothers are well settled in their own lives and my mother who was proud of them has completely lost them. They talk to her on phone once or twice a year considering it a great favor.
I along with my mother live in a rental house. She’s old now and she needs me and I am always there for her. I would have committed suicide out of my social anxiety and severe depression but I am alive only for her. I told her that I will be there for you till your last breath, till my last breath. That’s what daughters are.
I do not want to marry again. I do not want to face any relative or any person from my past. But today seeing poor Tayyaba in the news made my heart bleed. I want to adopt her and if that is not possible, any other girl to give her all that I could not get. I wish no other Hamna or Tayyaba has to face anything I went through.