“It was a quiet afternoon and I was studying history. History was a sleeping pill to others, but to me it was as fascinating as a mystery. To my surprise, one of my uncles returned home early. He was always interested in my whereabouts, friends, clothes and studies. I admired him as he guided me more than my father.”
“Like a good host, I made uncle comfortable at home. While discussing a few things, he asked me to come and sit close to him. I didn’t find it odd and sat near him. While continuing the conversation, all of a sudden he started fondling my private parts. I was taken aback by such an act. It made me uncomfortable and numb. I couldn’t react timely. Fortunately my mother entered the hall. I took advantage of her entry and ran to my room as fast as I could.”
“It took me some time to register what just happened to me back in the hall. It was an episode which turned my fun-filled life topsy turvy. I asked myself with disgust, ‘why me?’ ”
“I couldn’t share the episode with my mother since I felt guilty and hesitant about it. It was a secret I would take to my grave.”
“And it didn’t stop! Another day he groped me from behind and with a wicked smile asked me how it felt? When I didn’t answer, he threatened me. I was both terrified and furious at the same time. I wanted to slap him tightly, but couldn’t even move away from him.”
“My non-assertiveness reinforced him to continue such activities. Gradually, I avoided the social settings where my uncle's presence was expected. I felt disgusted and tormented whenever I saw him. To my Parents I was merely disrespectful by not being part of the social evening(s). They asked me the reason for such strange behavior. I was skeptical about their reaction to such a revelation, hence I preferred not to disclose it to them. I felt helpless and suffered silently for years.”
“For quite a long time, all those episodes were green in my mind like a kaleidoscopic movie. I wanted to talk about this with my mother but couldn’t. Later in life I couldn’t sustain relationships with the opposite gender for long. I felt uncomfortable even when my male friends touched me in a friendly gesture. I couldn’t figure out the reason for my failed relationships. I had low self-esteem and was annoyed with myself.”
“One day my patience ran out. I couldn’t cope with the emotional turmoil and consulted a psychologist. I was quite apprehensive initially but subsequently I told her everything that happened with me. Regular sessions with the therapist boosted up my morale. I was no longer afraid of my uncle and later told my mother about the sexual abuse. She got furious and extremely apologetic for not being aware of my plight until now.”
“It’s been 7 years now. In retrospect, I realize that the reason for my prolonged suffering was lack of assertiveness, the fear of “being judged” by my own parents, hesitation and the guilt attached to its disclosure. Had I been assertive I wouldn’t have suffered for so long.” -----announced Shalini.
Presently, Shalini works for a leading NGO and no longer feels afraid to opine her views or thoughts freely in different social situations. Assertiveness gave her a positive self-image and confidence to live life to its fullest. She no more suffers silently!
Assertiveness is a response that seeks to maintain an appropriate balance between passivity and aggression. Being assertive means being able to stand up for own or another person’s rights in a calm and positive way, neither being ‘aggressive’ nor passively accepting ‘wrong.’ It doesn’t come to everyone naturally. It is a social skill which can be learnt at any time in life.
Assertiveness tends to be self-rewarding i.e. it feels good to have others begin to respond more attentively and to find situations going one’s way more often. It gives an individual confidence and strength to express opinions and feelings openly. It is standing up and not let anyone take advantage of oneself.
Assertiveness training is a form of behavioral therapy designed to help people stand up for themselves—to empower themselves. The training programme includes:
- Identification of the situation which demands assertiveness.
- Consideration of best alternative responses.
- Rehearsal of the selected response.
- Shaping of the behavior.
Assertiveness is all about expression, self-enhancement and achievement of life goals. It’s better to “stand up for yourself” than “being a scapegoat” in life.