‘I never got a chance to forgive my abuser who died unexpectedly’

Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh
Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh

I was 16 when he molested me. My abuser was my uncle’s son, two years younger than me. It left me shell-shocked and broken. My self-confidence took a beating, especially since my family didn’t support me (to safeguard their ‘reputation’, I continued tying rakhi on his wrist for the next couple of years). Deep down, I felt like a stinking piece of cloth, carelessly left to rot in a dark, maggot-infested hole. Barring my real brother, a year younger than me, no one in the family stepped forward to speak about the issue: my mother didn’t tell anyone for years (not even my father). By the time she did, years had passed, I had already distanced myself from my cousin and everyone kept quiet.

I have no idea how the episode changed me, but it did. My relationships in later years would get complicated; my mood swings erratic; my state of mind, hyperactive. I still ask myself why I so badly wanted people to know: was I trying to gain sympathy? Had my rage not ebbed towards my family, my cousin? I don’t have answers.

What I do understand is that when he died a few weeks ago, my heart ached and felt incredibly heavy. Even now my mind is a whirlpool of confusion, my stomach, a bundle of tortured knots. The only way I can set myself free is to cry out loud, scream from the bottom of my heart. I feel hysterical with images of the sexual assault flashing in front of my eyes, frame by frame, as it happened, after all these years.

They say that when an abuser is dying, he repents what he did. A close friend, who was abused by his uncle as a child, told me that in his old age his uncle begged forgiveness. “The frail man looked so pathetic, so weak, I forgave him from my heart,” my friend had said.

I never got a chance to forgive my 33-year-old abuser who died, unexpectedly, with his body being discovered only five days later in his West Delhi flat. Living all alone in a filthy flat — dunes of dust, bed bugs, a musty smell permeating the paint-peeled walls, bundles of dirty clothes, piles of unwashed utensils — he was, as one of the policemen investigating the scene said, “a third-degree depression case”. Coming from a broken family, there was a growing rift (due to property-related issues, aggressive behaviour and disagreements) between him, his father and his sister. His mother, who still doesn’t know about her son’s death, has been mentally unstable for several years. His sister lives in Gurgaon, but barely kept in touch with him. In the past few years, neighbours had distanced themselves, given his acute drinking habit and aggressive nature. No wonder then, that while complaining of a “strange” smell they kept spraying air fresheners in their homes, and a human body decomposed slowly inside an apartment in a well-populated Delhi colony.

His body had become bloated and for a man who was so handsome in his living days, his death was very ugly. He was covered in a plastic sheet and we didn’t see his face before he was cremated (the doctor conducting the postmortem warned us not to, as did my brother, the only one in the family to have seen the body when it was discovered). Foul play had been ruled out and it was established after the post-mortem that he died due to a highly damaged liver and gall bladder stones. He fainted due to acute pain, fell head-down, got internal head injuries, smashed his nose and couldn’t breathe.

I think what killed him was a lethal mix of depression, substance abuse, the urge to succeed professionally, erratic lifestyle issues, and acute loneliness. Many in the family feel that he deserved better — a steady relationship, love, marriage, kids and a healthy long life. I feel he deserved a better death, with far more grace and dignity.


  1. Why do you feel obligated to forgive him? He made his choices, why are you blaming yourself for them? I can tell by the things you say in this article that you blame yourself for his depression and sad state in life, and his untimely death. As though your forgiveness is what he needed to get out of the hole he dug for himself.
    It is part of the cycle of abuse in which a victim, in spite of her own pain and trauma, feels sorry for the abuser, rather than herself. Focus on making the most of your own life. Focus on finding healing and release from a childhood in which not only were you abused, but your pain and experiences were not acknowledged or validated by those you love and who should’ve been there for you.
    If you learn well from books, I highly recommend the book “Healing from Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide to Understanding Your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your Life” by Jasmin Lee Cori. Being a different culture, maybe you won’t relate to some of it, but much of it applies to all women, everywhere, who have experienced pain and trauma and are ready to seek healing and peace in their lives. As scary and terrifying as it is, the only way through the pain, is to face it directly, allow yourself to acknowledge it, and go through it. Learn to do this in little bits, with small pieces at a time that you can handle. Bit by bit, you will release the pain, and find your own strength and identity.
    I wish you all the best. I know it feels like a very lonely sad place right now, but I know you can come out the other side and find happiness and peace, as well as a better understanding of yourself and those around you.

  2. Hats off to you lady! Writing this would have been a difficult emotional journey. I am a journalist myself and I know someone, who was molested by her father. I literally ‘saw’ the pain, guilt, fear and anger. And yes, it took her a long, really long, time to purge this out. But she did. You shall too. Wish you all the strength.

  3. As someone who has counseled many people over the years who have struggled with issues in their lives following abusive childhood or due to abuse even later in life, may I humbly suggest that you please find a psychologist to speak to?

    I am not suggesting at all that you have any mental disease – it is just that when we go through trauma, unless we process that trauma correctly, it can continue to haunt us for the rest of our lives – the trauma will affect our psyche and leave telltale signs in pretty much everything we do, our interactions with people, our sense of wellbeing,.. everything.

    But if you do get to process this in a healthy manner, you can walk away from this as a healthy individual and prevent this incident from affecting your life in the future. Yes, that is possible.


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