Únase a nosotros para apoyar directamente a los sobrevivientes de violencia sexual haciendo un regalo hoy. Nuestra Ola depende de sus generosas contribuciones para nuestro éxito continuo. Todo ayuda ❤️

Risha Fathima — April 9, 2024

Finding My Voice: An Intersectionality-Based Journey of Healing

Risha Fathima

Hey, you! How do you define freedom? For me, it’s about creating myself amidst the cacophony of external influences. It’s about shaping my identity, consciously and unconsciously, in a world that often tries to define me. Considering how that would enable you to serve your chosen self to the ones around you, I believe it is a very political act.

Oh, also, now that you’re on Our Wave, I’m assuming that you’ve encountered some form of sexual abuse at some point in your life. If not, that’s okay, and in fact, good for you, but here, I am going to prioritize the survivors because, well, we’re owning the space here.

Hey comrade, living the life, huh? I am, too. Healing, Intersectionality, Voice – did all these big words drive you here? Alright, let’s get it clear: there are no quick fixes here. Healing is ceaseless, and let’s keep it that way – slow and raw. 

Alright, so my earliest memory of sexual assault dates back to when I was just three years old. And the latest was last night when I stumbled upon this guy jerking off in a study space. Did both have the same impact on me? Nah. But was one more severe than the other? Nah again. The first one has left barely any memory; all I can recall are glimpses of being violated. But the 10-second visual from yesterday flashed images from every other similar instance that has occurred in my past 20ish years. And that drives me to my first point – I refuse to quantify trauma or to pit one survivor’s experience against another’s.

I am, for one, many things— I am an Indian, assigned female at birth, queer, of Muslim heritage among other things. I am a feminist student of law (In terms of academia) and life (In terms of existence). I am a survivor – of countless things; sexual assault too. I don’t appreciate placing someone’s experience in some vacuum. Everything that one was before any experience would have a bearing on everything one is after, which is to say that my experiences cannot be neatly compartmentalized; they intersect and intertwine, shaping every aspect of my being. So as you read my words, remember that they come from a place of multiplicity and complexity, and I am much more than a volunteer for Our Wave.

So, where do I begin? Healing is not linear; there’s no clear starting point. Therefore my writing wouldn’t have one either. Instead, let me take you on a journey—a rambling, unfiltered exploration of my healing process. I write to heal—in my journal, on Instagram, and in letters to friends. And now, I write for you, for us, as a form of collective healing.

Alright, so for a long time, I didn’t consider myself traumatized from my share of CSA. I was being before; I was being after. I found it just one among the many things that marked my childhood. Yup, marked is the right word, for I carried on, oblivious to its impact on me – I was too young to realize anything more.

In school, I was a feminist and talked at length about rape and everything that came along. But my experience wasn’t considered demanding narration in the public sphere. And whenever it was narrated, it seemed that my friends were all just overreacting. And I didn’t like it. ‘C’mon, I am right in front of you, being all chill, now what’s YOUR problem?’ – was the question.

It was only a couple of years later, say when I was 16, when I started using feminist, political terminology to narrate my own experiences with the abusers and also with the audience who heard my story. What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape is an incredible book authored by Sohaila Abdulali that gave me a lot of clarity on this front. It helped me own my story. I started reframing my thoughts. Growing out of the conventional perception towards sexual abuse and using terms like violation of bodily autonomy helped me win over the world. I started identifying as fearless. 

And there as I reclaimed my narrative, using feminist language to articulate my experiences and demanding recognition, it was liberating and empowering—my first conscious step towards healing. Since then, my journey has been a series of tangents—some more challenging than others. From grappling with outright denial to reclaiming agency in my sex life, each tangent has brought me closer to being the captain of my healing. And while there may be countless paths ahead, I am committed to taking each step slowly, authentically, and unapologetically. 

As I look back on everything, I can’t help but feel the strength within me—the resilience to face my past and envision a brighter future. But hey, this isn’t just about me, is it? It’s about all of us who’ve gone through similar struggles, fighting to reclaim our voices and lives. Each step of this journey, no matter how small, has been a testament to our determination to heal. And sure, the road ahead might still have some bumps, but we’re walking it with a newfound sense of courage.

Ayuda a cambiar la conversación.

Our Wave depende de tu generosias contribuciones para nuestro éxito continuo. Done hoy y apóyenos mientras trabajamos para apoyar a los sobrevivientes de agresión sexual.

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