Speaking Out about Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse - South Asian - Zardozi Magazine - Shilpa Cacho

Makeup artist Shilpa Cacho breaks the taboo surrounding childhood sexual abuse.

Life is a gift, we often take for granted. God gave me a second chance.

It has been over ten years since my suicide attempt. Years of insecurity, low self-worth, lack of faith and painful experiences all played a role in me making that life altering decision.

It all began when I was a child. I was molested when I was eight years old by who was once my favorite uncle. This shattered my world. But I think what affected me the most was how the situation was handled after. Nobody really wanted to talk about it. Everyone dealt with the pain in silence. I felt alone. I had nobody to talk to, nobody to cry to, at least that’s how it felt at the time. I became withdrawn. I blamed myself for what happened. I felt dirty, insecure and hated myself.

I grew up overweight and with acne. This just added to my insecurities. I remember hating myself, the way I looked and who I was. I hated everything about me. I would pray to be skinny, beautiful and to love myself.

In high school, this reached its peak. I was teased by boys I liked for being overweight. I felt it must be me. I must have done something to deserve this. I was the queen of negative thoughts. I would often sit in class thinking, “Shilpa, you are the fattest person in this room,” and “you are the ugliest person here.” I would cry often. I was miserable.

I was sick of feeling this way. I wanted everyone to love me even though I did not love myself.  All this led me to my life changing decision.

One night, I swallowed a bottle and a half of my parents’ medicine hoping that I would not wake up the next morning. I felt my family and this world would be better off without me. I was just a disappointment. I woke up the next morning and I couldn’t believe it.  What did I do wrong? Why didn’t it work? I went to bed that night thinking the next day everything would be back to normal. But when I woke up, I could not move. I could not speak.  All I could do was cry.  I had wet the bed. I had no control over my body.  My brother came into the room and knew something was wrong. He called for help. I remember my Dad holding my limp body and telling the paramedics, “No she would not have taken those pills.” I remember thinking, “Oh God, what did I do?”

I woke up in the hospital bed, saw my Mom crying, asking me why I did this. I had no words. I just cried and said sorry.  The doctor said it was a miracle that I was alive and that I did not have brain damage.

I felt embarrassed and could not believe I did this. I did not want to be the new topic of whispers in the community.

It took me a while to digest what had happened.  What did it all mean? God had given this girl, who felt insignificant and undeserving of life, a second chance. He showed me that I was meant to be here. My presence on earth has a purpose. Since then, I have been on a mission to figure out why I am here and how can I make a difference.

We all have a role to play in this world, whether it is to be a teacher, parent, friend, lover and a child of God.  You are never alone and you are never unloved. If you are thinking of suicide, talk to someone about it.

I cannot imagine if I had missed out on this life. I am no longer embarrassed. I am a survivor and this is my story.  I can finally say that I love myself.

Shilpa has shared a lot of her personal stories with Zardozi. Read about her thoughts on South Asian sex here.

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