“I was molested multiple times. By my own cousin when I was only 8. When I finally reported it to my family, all my aunts came to his defence saying, ‘we did not bring up our boy like that. You must have misunderstood his playfulness.’ I’m not sure how someone would playfully grope you or ‘accidentally’ touch your genitals for an awfully long time.”

“He obviously grew up to become the guy who was yelled at for no reason, and I became the attention-seeking girl who wasn’t brought up well by her parents because she boldly spoke of things of sexual nature. He still is very much a part of the family gatherings and they wonder why I don’t meet them anymore.”

“I was 17 when I said yes to a 24-year-old. He was a jerk who told me often that I was an ‘average looking woman’ and he chose me among all the better-looking women who had asked him out because ‘hot women are usually slutty and don’t listen to their boyfriends’. So he wanted an average looking girl who’d know her limits and would remain ‘sanskari’.”

“It was partly my fault. I like partying, I liked wearing dresses, I liked going on trips and breaking the rules. But I would try to suppress these desires because I also endorsed these sanskari stereotypes then. It got worse when he’d tell me not to talk to my male classmates or dress up in a skirt ‘provoking other men’. He’d tell me I had a psychological illness where I was desperate to show skin and that ‘some women have these issues’.”

“He’d forced himself upon me. Yes, we were kissing. But that’s all I had consented for. And he forced himself upon me. He asked me if I was a virgin because he did not like ‘second-hand women’. He physically abused me in broad daylight one day. He didn’t want me meeting an old school guy-friend. He called me to a place nearby and thrashed me while people watched. His dad feared I’d report him so he called and told me, ‘It is your fault. Any man doesn’t like his girlfriend not obeying him’.

“I knew of his family’ practices. He had once justified beating women by saying, ‘If a woman doesn’t listen to her husband, it is okay to hit her. Even my father hits my mother when she does mistakes. In fact, a man is mean only when he’s truly in love.’ He was extremely influenced by cinema. He thought behaving like a goon, made him ‘heroic’. He’d say it aloud, ‘Yes I’m a bad guy, yes I’m psycho, Yes I will hurt you, but that’s because I love you.’”

“This one time on my 18th birthday, my friends and he surprised me. It was at that studio bar in Orion mall. They were all drinking and my best friend obviously asked me to drink. I hadn’t drunk before. He too passed a glass with a smile. And he suddenly turned to me, his smile flattened into a line and he said under his breath, ‘if you touch it, you’re dead’. And then he pretended to be a jovial guy when he turned towards the others. That was my first encounter with the psycho in him.”

“I thought of leaving him several times as I was losing my sanity. But he’d convinced me that now that he’d touched me, I wasn’t ‘pure’ and that nobody would marry me. I was naive. I was scared that I’d end up alone. I eventually broke up with him and now I’m in love with a gentleman who makes my world a happy place.”

“I had a childhood filled with sexual abuse and trauma, JUST LIKE MOST OTHER WOMEN. I was flat-chested and skinny like every other 8 years old. I stayed at home to be safe. My cousin would come home and slide his hand under my skirt. So if someone asks you to cover and lock yourself in to stay safe, rub my story on their face.”

“It is common, but it does not make it alright. Today I’m a writer. I write about abuse, shaming, gender inequality and several other issues. I stand up for men, women and people who recognize themselves with the gender of their liking. I am their voice.”

“I always told my mother I did not like my name. But now I’ve come to realise that I have been named to know my purpose in life. My name is Rakshitha Govindaraju, and I want to protect people. I want to be the person I missed having when I faced abuse. By being their voice, by standing by them and making sure no others go through this, I want to take care of them. I will continue to protect as many people as I can with my pen and paper.”