The author of this story is anonymous. The name used in the by line is a pseudonym.
The following story was originally published via ShaahYarna.com and is based on a true sexual abuse experience, with the hopes that openly talking about it will not only help the victim but other victims become more comfortable with talking about their experiences. Sexual abuse and harassment, on any scale, happens all too often, and it’s almost never talked about.
I have never been a spiteful person, nor have I ever been one to hold a grudge. This is the only time I feel like I have to share my story and stand my ground for what I believe in.
I want to tell my story right here and now.
For two-and-a-half years now, I have been accused, ignored, and made fun of for speaking up about an instance of sexual abuse which I was a victim of. I had all the proof on my phone, I could easily have gone to the police, but I never wanted to incriminate a person I once called my best friend.
It all began when I was 15-years-old, and I was being approached for sexual favors from a boy I called my “best friend.” I had pined after him for years, hoping one day my feelings would be reciprocal. He knew that I would do almost anything for him and that is how our messed up saga began.
When I was still 15, we would find ourselves sexting on and off for months. This was a new experience for me and I found it extremely exciting. He told me I couldn’t tell anyone, and I thought that was even more suspenseful. A few months in, after he had begged me to engage in sexual acts with him, I was getting frustrated. At the time, I claimed to be a “good Christian girl” who would never carry out such impure actions.
However, one day, I got into a car accident with my father. I was a few seconds away from being crushed by a car. This was the day my entire mindset changed.
The accident made me have a “you only live once” (aka YOLO) attitude towards everything. So I agreed to carry out the sexual act with him, given that he does not ignore me or move on to the next girl after I do it.
Surprisingly, but not really, as soon as we did it, he moved on to the next girl. She is now his “girlfriend” of four years. Even though he decided to continuously cheat on her with me after they became official.
This is where I know I was wrong in my actions, I should have never played a role in his life after he found a girlfriend. But both of us knew we had an undeniable chemistry so we kept going back to each other for more.
When I was 16, I realized he was drifting away so I kept offering myself up to him and often he would agree and say that he “would if it were easier.” This made me more and more intrigued, unfortunately. By August of my last year of high school, I made a terrible mistake. We agreed to meet in our high school locker area when it was completely dark. This was the second time the cheating became extremely physical instead of over the phone. And this time was different. I agreed to everything in the first place. But as soon as we were progressing, I felt a rush of guilt come over me and I knew I wanted to stop. He said something like, “but you want to give me a blowjob, you kept telling me you did.”
And yes, while I previously did say I was interested, I was no longer interested. So I said “no.” I built up the courage to finally say no to him. He didn’t accept this answer and he pushed me down to his crotch. I got up and said “no” again, this time, he pushed a little harder. I was terrified to say no again, so I just did it. Yes, I enjoyed it, but I could not deal with the overwhelming guilt afterward.
I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone it happened. I spent a month sitting in silence wishing I could tell someone. I suffered from panic attacks most days, feeling extremely isolated. I never wanted to be a “victim.” I was generally an assertive person, but after that incident, I could feel my personality changing, my friends disappearing and my grades dropping. After he finally allowed me to tell my best friend, I felt a sense of relief, but it only came with the grief of people not believing my story because he was “too good a guy.”
This broke my heart because I was being labeled as a liar and I did not want to prove anything with physical evidence either. I had hoped that people would believe me regardless but they didn’t. And still don’t to this day.
I think I have recovered from it. I just want to be able to share my story with a lack of judgment. In case people still find this story a bit unbelievable. Here is a screenshot I have never shared publicly, but probably should have at some point.
This isn’t a fabricated text. He admitted it at least. He never lost anything from the incident. His girlfriend still adores him, he felt no sense of guilt, and he never wanted to speak to me again because I was perceived as the perpetrator from that day onwards.
I occasionally get anxious when I see him at university and have to pretend like nothing ever happened. Hopefully one day, people will stand up for girls who suffer instances like these, instead of bringing them down at their weakest points.
I didn’t realize my story was so common and I hope that we, as women, will finally speak up about our cases of abuse without being accused of lying.
“What you do is not who you are. Our capitalist society spends a lot of time trying to convince us that we are our work, but we don’t have to fall for it.”
When I first met Joy Batra, she wasn’t an author. She was a multi-hyphenated individual who floored me with her charm and her aura. Joy not only had gone to business school and law school at one of the most prestigious universities in America, but she also valued her hobbies and her passions that were completely extraneous to her working persona. Her nontraditional career path was one that, at first glance, confused me. “I’m a dancer and freelancer,” she had said, and I batted my eyes as if she was talking in a foreign language. What’s a freelancer? Why and how did she come to identify herself as a dancer, when her degrees all point to business and law?
Joy Batra’s therapeutic and timely book “Freelance Mindset” provides relevant stories, guidelines, and motivation to take ownership of your career and financial well-being. Particularly, the book is centered around the pros and cons of life as a freelancer and practical advice for how to get started as one. At its core, the “Freelance Mindset” encourages diving deep into the relationship between career and identity, and how the balance of both relate back to your life view.
In the words of Batra:
“Freelancing is a way to scratch a creative itch that is completely unrelated to their day jobs…Freelancing harnesses that independent streak and turns it into a long- term advantage.”
Batra’s older sister’s advice is written with forthright humbleness and glaring humility. Batra leads us through the fear of facing our existential fears about careers, productivity, and creativity. She leans into the psychological aspects of how we develop our careers, and reminds us to approach work not just with serious compassion but also with childhood play:
“You are naturally curious and passionate. As a child, before you needed to think deeply about money, you probably played games, had imaginary friends, and competed in sports. Those instincts might get buried as we grow up, but they don’t disappear altogether.”
Batra also provides us with a diverse cast of inspirational freelancers who provide their honest perspectives across a wide range of domains from being a professional clown to actors to writers. Especially noticeable is the attention paid to South Asian women through notable interviews with Vyjayanthi Vadrevu, Saumya Dave, and more. On social media, it’s easy to find these women and immediately applaud their success, but behind the scenes, it takes a lot of grit, persistence, and determination to reach the successful level of freelancing that you see. Batra encourages a spiritual way of thinking that is marked by rational needs (ex. Maslow’s hierarchy): not to seek immediate gratification and corporate climbing, but rather to view life as a “jungle gym” as coined by Patricia Sellers. Taking risks is part of life, and just like entrepreneurship, freelancing is just as ambitious and off-the-beaten path, despite stigmatization.
“One of the strange paradoxes of the working world is that entrepreneurship is fetishized and freelancing is stigmatized.”
I recommend the “Freelance Mindset” to anyone who is starting out their career in these economically uncertain times, as well as seasoned workers who are looking for inspiration or a shift in their career life. Whether or not you are considering becoming a freelancer in a certain domain, this book is the practical wake-up call that workers and employees need in order to reorient their purpose and poise themselves for a mindset of success. I view this book as a “lifer,” one to read every few years to ground myself and think critically about the choices I make and where I devote my time.
I leave you with this quote:
“We can adopt the new belief that no single job will meet all our financial, social, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs…We have one self, and we must figure out how to integrate it into the various situations we find ourselves in.“
You can purchase a copy of the Freelance Mindset here. Follow Joy Batra on Twitter and Instagram for more content!
For BGM Literary, editor Nimarta Narang is honored to work with writer Sri Nimmagadda. In this short story, we follow a man in a gray suit who makes a stop at a church to bide his time before a job interview. Sri Nimmagadda is the Chief Program Officer at MannMukti, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the stigma around mental health in the South Asian community through storytelling and advocacy. He lives in Los Angeles with his dog, Rani, and is passionate about authentically growing inclusion and diversity through storytelling in the entertainment industry. Editor Nimarta was extremely grateful to have Sri join the legacy of wonderful and moving authors for the literary vertical in honor of Mental Health and Awareness month.
A man in a gray suit stands in front of a church and looks up and through the entryway with the resignation of a desiccated man taking a bitter medicine he’s absorbed for years but simply accepts as a fact of his life, however unpleasant. So, the man in the gray suit — a get-up slim but not so lean as to emit a cockish, metrosexual air, scraggly lint escaping the seams across the surface in a manner that supposes either venerability or somewhat tired desperation — thinks about what it means to take a bitter medicine, the trade-off between the instantaneous sour, bitter, wretched, and cloying and the promise of perhaps a better tomorrow, or a better tonight, or a better five-minutes-from-now. After some consideration, this man in a gray suit — an outfit that some would’ve supposed he’d purchased from Goodwill, the night before, for a painfully wrought $95.67 with tax after getting into an argument with his wife about who was going to take the kids to school in the morning and fucking Brenda skipping out on babysitting again — steps inside the church.
This man in a gray suit — armed with a briefcase, and the last and latest copy of his résumé that he’d worked on until 1:30 a.m. the night before after Max and Annabelle had long gone to sleep and his angry, exhausted wife laid restless, in their shared bed, thinking about whether she’d consult the number of the divorce lawyer she’d been recommended by one of her girlfriends in the morning before deciding she’d give her husband another shot just as she had the night before and the night before that and the night before that — paces towards the front of pews almost cautiously, as if someone were watching him, afraid to be caught in the act of being vulnerable and giving himself up to some higher power. Maybe if you go to church and the pastor or some other demure, God-fearing soul sees you, they’ll call you out — who are you? why are you here? — and you’ll realize that for as much ado as people make about the unconditionality of God’s love, they make claims to His love the way they’d claim a parking spot or a position in a queue at a grocery store. Faith, it appears to the man in the gray suit, is really about paying your dues.
So the man in a gray suit approaches the front-most pew — the communion table before him standing guard ahead of a cross. He lays his briefcase down. He sits at the pew. He closes his eyes. Please, he begs Him in his own mind. I need this.
But then this man in a gray suit considers his pathetic whimper to God, how he can’t even acknowledge God by his name, how he begs Please rather than Please God like a weak, unfaithful man who cannot bring himself to say his wife’s name when begging her for forgiveness after his own infidelity. What a mess, he thought of himself. So, he tries again.
Please, God. I need this.
The man in a gray suit considers this again and admonishes himself for his cowardice — when you pray in your head, words and phrases, and sentences and prayers, and pleas twine and intertwine and mix until the signal becomes the noise and you can’t really figure out whatever you’re trying to say. So, for a half-second, you think the only way to get it out of your head is to blow it up so that it all spills out and maybe then God will understand how you really feel — and so he tries again, and puts his prayers to air. The man in a gray suit is not used to coming to church. This is his first time coming in a couple of years. He’s going to need a couple of tries to get this thing down.
“I’m sorry,” the man in a gray suit exhales, “I’m just not used to praying.” But that’s okay. Prayer is a process, the man in a gray suit would find, and what begins feeling ridiculous, or like grasping for spiritual straws, ends up feeling akin to a dam giving way to water; unrestrained, unexploited. So the man in a gray suit — the man who’s come an hour and a half early to an interview because the early bird gets the worm, only to find himself with an hour and a half to kill and nowhere but a church to grace with his presence — prays, and he prays faithfully, and he prays well. He picks up the Bible on the shelf of the pew in front of him, flips it open to whatever page presented itself and begins to read. He closes his eyes, and at that moment he feels safe, like God’s hands envelop him, and that tomorrow will be a better day, and everything will be okay.
Somewhere along the line, this stupid fucker in a gray suit fell asleep in the middle of Galatians and missed his interview.
“Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a meditation on the new moon and guilt. I wrote it when I was living in Dallas and was driving back from a dusk prayer. The new moon terrified me on that drive. I was diseased by the knowledge that my partner, at the time, had seen the worst parts of me. There’s immense shame in this piece—it seized my self-image. If the moon could become brand new, then I could start over.
I often ponder on the moon’s reflective nature and pairs of eyes. I’m hyper-fixated on how I am seen by others. Unfortunately, the brilliance of seeing your reflection in another person leads to negativity. After all, those who are too keen on their own reflection are the same people who suffer from it. It is possible to use shame to fuel one’s retribution and personal growth, without becoming consumed by it.
We can look to Shah Rukh Khan succumbing to alcoholism in his own sorrow and then later imbibing his sadness in Chandramukhi. “Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a lesson for us: Don’t be Shah Rukh Khan in Devdas, instead embody pre-incarnation Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om!
Sometimes when the moon abandons the sky, I wonder if I drove her away.
If she comes back, will she be the same? How I wish she would come back new, truly new! That way she’d have no memory of the sin I’ve confessed to her. You noxious insect. Sin-loving, ego-imbibing pest. You are no monster, for at least a monster has ideology, it sins with purpose. You sin just to chase ignominy.
But the moon won’t say that, she never does. She’ll just leave the sky and return days later, slowly. And I’ll wonder if she’s new, perhaps she won’t remember my past confessions. What does it matter? Were the moon replaced with one from a different god, I’d drive her away, too.