By Kaur Spirit
Trigger warning: sexual abuse.
Below is a story about a Kaur who survived abuse at the hands of her father and overcame it in part, through Sikhi.
I am a Kaur, a wife, and a mother. I want other women to find their voices and know that just speaking to a close friend, a doctor, or even a helpline can open so many doors of help. The aim isn’t to always seek justice or prosecute, but to just help yourself, acknowledge the abuse and wrongs and start a path to healing.
Father’s Day – A day to celebrate your father and honor him for the influence he has had in your life: to reaffirm our love and appreciation for an individual who has helped shape and guide us.
So, why is father’s day difficult for me?
My earliest memory of my father is of him on a stretcher being taken into an ambulance, people rushing around, loud voices, a siren, and being left behind in the silence…confused.
He was in intensive care, tubes attached everywhere, with machines whirring gently. I remember the long corridors, the crisp rustling of the uniforms, the doctors in white coats, my mum doing paat and crying silently next to him.
It was “the drink”, he couldn’t stop, my mum said. The drink had taken over his life.
My father was abusive, physically and mentally, against my mother. “It’s not him,” she would say. “It’s the drink”.
One night she screamed out my name to wake me, I could hear her struggling with him, him quietly threatening her, her crying. I was too scared to turn around. Later my mum got in bed with me, she held me and cried. He had raped her.
Why was my father different to the fathers of other children? Why did he never take an interest in me? Why did he never buy me any gifts? Why did he not take me to the park? Why did I not have dolls and doll houses to play with?
“It’s not him, it’s the drink,” I would tell myself.
One night he came into the bedroom, as he often did to check if I was asleep, I closed my eyes pretending to be asleep. He would usually just check and leave but this time, I sensed he was still standing there. He lifted the duvet off me, and then he lifted my top up. I lay there frozen, confused “What was he doing?”
I was ten years old, starting to physically develop, and conscious of my body changing. I could feel his eyes all over my body. My eyes stayed closed and my heart pounded so hard I was sure he could see it. Then he left. I lay there staring at the dark, confused, “What was he doing? He’s my father.”
That was the first of many nights, and the simple “looking” escalated. “It’s the drink,” I would tell myself. “It’s not him. It could be worse. He’s only touching.”
A year later my mum wanted to take armit. She begged my father to stop drinking and take amrit with her. Surprisingly he did, he just stopped drinking. He start to keep his kes too. Things were going to change,” I thought. “He is changing!”
But, a few weeks later he came into my bedroom and I realised nothing had changed. I could no longer blame the drink. I cried all night. My imagined idea of my new amrit-dhari father was shattered by the truth of who he really was.
I thought Sikhi was supposed to make him a better person. He looked the part but nothing had changed on the inside. Without the drink his anger worsened, it was almost like he blamed me for the way he was: that I was making him behave this way, he claimed.
Why didn’t I tell anyone? Why didn’t I tell my mother? I felt couldn’t. I felt I needed to protect her. My father told me I would never see her again if she found out. The abuse lasted a few years then he stopped. As I was getting older, I was able to avoid him. He was losing control over me.
So, Father’s Day would fill me with dread; the idea of wishing him “Happy Father’s Day” and buying him a gift was repulsive. It was expected, and if I didn’t, there would be too many questions. Questions I was not ready to answers.
A few years ago I started to seek answers to the question “Why am I?” There had to be answers. I would scour websites to try and understand the way I felt. If Waheguru did exist why did s/he allow so much pain and hurt? I looked deeper into Sikhi and gurbani. But, I did not find the answers as to “why”, but I did start to feel peace. With gurbani, my soul started to feel contentment. I learned about seva and through seva, I found a purpose for my life. I also met a beautiful friend whom I felt I could open up to and who gave me a voice to speak out and seek help.
I started counselling, and it wasn’t easy. The first session, all I did was cry, I was opening a wound and it was painful. Over the years I thought, “If I just ignore it, it will go away.” But, as the years went by, it was getting harder to ignore the little girl’s voice in my head, asking for help.
Speaking about the abuse made me realise it wasn’t me who was at fault. I was not bad. I learned that people would not shun me if they knew of my secret shame. I was and am a good person. I have a lot to offer the world and that the abuse does not define who I am.
I still have days where the pain and memories hit me with a jolt, but I am able to handle them better. They no longer require me to stay in bed all day, not wanting to communicate with anyone. I realise that it is ok to have some “me” time, it’s ok to show myself some love and comfort, and to value myself. It’s ok to receive praise and appreciation. I am worthy of it.
My husband’s relationship with our daughter, my brothers’ relationship with my nieces, all made me see what a good father truly is.
Through Sikhi, I have learned about the brave women in our history: the women in Mir Mannu’s prison, Mata Bhag Kaur, Bibi Sharan Kaur and many others. I have such a rich history and with the name “Kaur” comes a lot of pride. I am stronger than my pain and I will overcome it. I have learned that my real father is my spiritual fathers, from Guru Nanak Sahib to Guru Gobind Singh Ji. I have the Kaur Spirit in my soul.
Next Father’s day will be different, it will not be about my biological father in this temporal world. It is my spiritual fathers from Guru Nanak Sahib to Guru Gobind Singh Ji who I will celebrate. I will celebrate my husband and my brothers who show me every day what a real father is.
Next Father’s Day I will celebrate them.
For those who need help, I would recommend counseling, not any particular one. A referral through your doctors lead me to my counseling. I would recommend gurbani, sometimes we don’t always know or understand what we are reading or listening to but it healing affects touch the soul.
I went for counseling and was shown ways of dealing with the hurt, and how to deal with the triggers. With sikhi and Gurbani I found peace and contentment. I found there is a purpose to life and that life can be beautiful.
Click here for tips on how to support survivors of sexual abuse. If you need support, click here for resources.