Anu Verma: Victim 2 Victor
No matter what I have been through, I am still here. This is my story of how I healed.
There is light in the darkness. Even if it is only a flickering light, it is always there and grows. The more we tend to it. I know this because no matter what I have been through, I am still here, and I can share my story with you. If you are going through abuse or trauma as I did, this light exists, and it will remain with you until your journey leads you to a place of healing, just as mine did.
I am an Asian woman of Indian ancestry. I was born with black hair and lots of it. I was very fair-skinned for an Indian girl and developed to be a tall woman with a height of five feet eight inches. I took after my mother, who was very pale and so she didn’t have any trouble finding a husband at sixteen as there was a queue of potential partners willing to take her hand in marriage. Myself at sixteen, I didn’t feel so worthy, and I had put on weight because of overeating and secret-eating. It was my way of comfort to cover the pain that I felt inside as I had suffered sexual, physical, and mental abuse as a child and which continued into my teenage years, and as a young adult.
I longed to talk to my mother about my feelings of hurt and betrayal that I was suffering. I wanted to open my heart and soul to her and be comforted by her in return. However, the need to talk through problems was suppressed in our Asian culture. We didn’t discuss feelings. Everything we did was based on status and reputation, which didn't include publicizing our private affairs. As this was firmly adhered to in my culture, I experienced difficulty in letting my family know what I had gone through at a young age, especially since one of my sexual abusers was also a relative. When I finally told my parents what he had been doing to me, I was instructed to act as if nothing had happened. I know now that this was wrong to push these incidents “under the carpet.” Being unable to acknowledge and to talk about the abuse were two of the principal reasons I struggled for so many years to heal myself.
When I was growing up, this situation led me into many relationships with men who were as needy as I, and who abused me. They scorned whatever I did, which increased my feeling of worthlessness, and I lost all sense of belonging. I became confused. I drifted even further toward them, hoping that this would help me. I describe the struggles which I experienced with these men in this book. In reality, it took years of therapy, self-help motivation, and tending the light within to rid me of these negative feelings.
I am writing this book now, with a sense of joy and freedom, that I have been able to overcome the intense feelings which this trauma caused. Until I was strong enough to seek the therapy I needed from a dedicated professional, I was overwhelmed by fear, distrust, rejection, low self-esteem, being powerless, and isolated. These thoughts and emotions ran through my mind almost continuously, from when I was three. The self-awareness programs of Tony Robbins and training to become a Reiki Master and a yoga teacher also helped me to find my true self-worth.
So, I have changed. I am now a strong, determined, and resilient woman. I am no longer a victim but a victor who has accomplished a great deal. Through hard work and determination, I gained a Master of Science degree and traveled worldwide twice. I have also developed a successful career in sales and education as well as becoming an author. My most notable achievement to date is that I am now a mother. My beautiful son, Noah, was born in 2018.
Energy healing is an alternative medicine based on the belief that vital energy flows through the human body. It is a holistic practice that helps us activate our body’s healing power by removing energy blocks. My therapist helped me spiritually and taught me to use healing energy and tapping techniques. She gave me the tools to change my thoughts, realign my emotions, and realize that I didn't need to rely on others to be complete. I switched from trusting the wrong people to appreciate and value myself and my true self-worth. She also showed me I deserved to be happy and loved. I became a Reiki Master, embracing its philosophies, and I learned the healing discipline of yoga.
I attended seminars and classes given by Tony Robbins, also known as Anthony J. Mahavoric, an American author, philanthropist, and life coach. Tony’s ambition and drive helped me gain further insights into what had influenced my decisions. When I attended the seminars, I reset my beliefs about my self-worth and esteem. I could release the negative thoughts which ran through my mind. His seminars, books, and lectures gave me the tools to make the right decisions for me.
I will tell you more about the origins of my trauma in this book. How I responded to the challenges this presented, and how my therapist helped me heal. I will also talk about Tony Robbins and how his energy and knowledge changed my life.
I hope you will read my book with an open mind and be prepared to understand my journey. It may inspire you and show you how to heal so you, too, can overcome the challenges life has thrown at you. You can become a victor as I did.
Chapter I: Abuse, Fear, and Guilt
I came into this world on June 25th, 1980, in Coventry and was brought up in the United Kingdom. My parents were born in the Punjab area of India. They moved to the UK when they were teenagers intending to make a better life for their family and themselves. They lived at a close relative’s house with him and his wife and their two children. They were sleeping on a mattress on the floor in the spare room with nothing to their name. When they finally saved up enough money to move out, it was into a two-bedroom terraced house in the inner city of Coventry. My mother was eighteen years old when I was born. I also have an older brother, eighteen months older than me. Looking back, I can see how tough life must have been for our mother with two small children at such a young age. She didn't have the skills to deal with the society in which she found herself and its influences. As a child, she had been subjected to Indian culture, where women have specific roles. They are expected to look and behave in particular ways, while men are in control of the family and society. It was different in the United Kingdom.
Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister in the 1980s. The laws and socially acceptable behavior for women had changed, giving them a more prominent role in the home and workplace. Immigration was also under review. She promised to drastically reduce the number of Commonwealth immigrants who, like the members of my family, were arriving in the United Kingdom. She held the belief that foreign influence was harmful to the British way of life, and so many immigrants suffered from racial abuse and discrimination. Even though we lived in a multicultural area, my family was often referred to as Asian, or Indian, rarely British. It was common for families of the same ethnic culture to build communities where they lived, as it gave a sense of security and familiarity.
Many had embraced Margaret Thatcher’s policies, which led to poor working conditions for immigrants, and with the locals looking down on us. On shopping trips in the city center, back in the 1970s, my mother and father were called ‘Pakis’ and were told to go back to their own country and not welcome in the UK. This abuse was mainly from the neo-Nazis, who were also termed the skinheads. My parents had come from Punjab, North India though, we are all still seen as Pakistanis. The abuse only bought my parents closer together, and they have maintained a powerful bond throughout their life. I can’t help but think it was the struggles they had overcome together, which grew their resilience and strength and a solid foundation to raise their family.
I also experienced what I call indirect discrimination, even though it was never directly to my face. An incident which I will never forget, occurred while in primary school. I had received some sterling silver jewelry for my birthday and wore the beautiful necklace, earrings, and bracelet to school the next day. I was told by the headteacher to remove my jewelry because we could not wear any, so I placed the jewelry into my bag on a peg outside of my class. When it was home-time, I saw that my beautiful pendant, earrings, and bracelet were gone. It devastated me. I had an idea of who had stolen it – a boy named Greg in my class was known for stealing from everybody. After the initial shock, I cried because I was so hurt that I hadn’t even worn my jewelry for more than a day. I went to my teacher, who took me to the head-teacher, and I explained what had happened and that I knew who had stolen my birthday gift. The children had already left for the day, and the teachers wanted to go home, so there was nothing they could do. Now I felt like a burden, a pest, and a reason her dinner would be late.
My feelings of loss didn’t seem to matter to anyone, maybe because I wasn’t English. Perhaps because I wasn’t worthy of their time? Whatever it was, that feeling of worthlessness stayed with me for many years. Greg had gotten away with it. I still feel that more could have been done about this in terms of an investigation, though there was nothing. I felt defeated, and like I didn’t matter.
I have some good childhood memories, such as my doll, whom I called Kay. I loved her dearly, and the days when we played outside. Kay was a gift to me from my parents when I was born. She still had my hospital birth bracelet on her wrist. She was a beautiful white doll and was maybe brought into my life to signify the beauty of being white. I would play with Kay in my bedroom, and she had her little cot, and I treated her like a baby. I would feed her milk from her bottle, hug her, and care for her; it was such a beautiful connection that I felt with Kay and one that I would cherish forever. These memorable childhood moments sadly didn't last.
As a child, you have the right to be cared for, protected, and loved. When I was only three or four years of age, I no longer felt safe, and my innocence had been taken away from me. Gary, a tenant who rented a room at our house, sexually abused me. Gary used to open my bedroom door during the night. He would creep inside, hold my head, and force me to touch and lick his genitals. I learned from him as a tiny child how to perform oral sex and how to masturbate someone.
Gary also used to creep into my bedroom when my family’s friends were there. This did not stop him from entering my room. Gary coerced me into performing indecent acts on him, so I felt guilty and confused afterward. I understood that what I had been made to do was wrong, and I was frightened. He was an adult, so I had to obey. He told me it was our little secret, so I shouldn't tell anyone, or there would be terrible consequences for my family and me.
My parents should have been able to trust him as an adult and a friend of the family. This experience also taught me how to be deceitful. I would pretend to be asleep, hoping that he would decide not to awaken me. I didn't scream or cry out for help. I did as I was told, and I didn’t tell anyone about it at the time. In reality, no child should have to remember the sight and smell of a naked man who forced her to pleasure him.
To this day, I can still vividly recall what happened, despite the many years of therapy. I can continually associate the pervading smell of his genitals with those of my partners. It isn't difficult to understand why my later relationships failed. Gary's abuse was always at the back of my mind, and I have struggled with intimacy for most of my life and sex became a form of play-acting for me. I even compared it to a game of Twister, although I regarded it as dirty. However hard I tried, I couldn't associate sexual intercourse with love.
I let it happen, without knowing that I had a choice. It made me feel empty on the inside as if I had exposed my inner self to the world, and it was very raw. I realize now that I played right into his shame. The more ashamed I felt, the more power he had over me. I was living in a dark place. I no longer smiled and laughed. Yet, no one seemed to know or understand what was wrong with me or even care. After two years of this, I told another close female relative who I felt I could confide in. You have to understand how hard this was for me in my culture, being in the 80s, shame-fueled, fearful of the consequences, yet I found the strength. I cried when I told her what was happening. I described the things Gary made me do. I said that he would do bad things to my family and me because I had spoken to her, but it had reached the point where I had to tell someone. My heart was breaking.
My female confidant was appalled, shocked, and furious. She had no idea what Gary had been doing, nor did the rest of our family. She cried with me that day and assured me she would speak to my parents. They threw Gary out of our house after what must have been two or three years of abuse, and what a happy day that was for me! I can’t remember getting any extra attention from my mum afterward, but I was so relieved that he had gone. The sun had come out again, and I could enjoy being a young girl again.
I Was Still Only A Child...
Being sexually abused at three years of age was traumatic, and it got worse when it happened again at seven. This time my abuser was a trusted relative from India. He often visited my family, and although I can't recall the exact time it lasted, I believe that the abuse went on for about a year. I can still vividly remember an incident when he quietly opened my bedroom door, and I had fallen asleep. He got into bed with me, put his hands inside my pajamas, and caressed me.
As a child, I used to have to pretend to be pleased to see him. His visits felt like a form of torture. I believed that when he looked at me, I felt like he intended to molest me later. I tried not to stay in the same room as him. I didn't feel able to run away from home, as I knew how much this would alarm my family. That was the light still burning within me, but I couldn't help my emotions switching off after a while. I could not even bring myself to be affectionate to my parents, and especially my brother, who had by now become distant.
I learned to hide how I was feeling. When I was in my room at night, I pretended to be asleep. I froze as I did when I was younger, hoping again that my abuser would go away. I tried to show him I enjoyed his visit when I was with my family, but deep inside, I was crying. It was so sad that at such a young age, I had to learn to lie to protect myself and my family.
“Look who has come to see us, Anu. Isn’t that nice?”
“Yes, Daddy,” although what I really meant to say was, “not really, Daddy.”
“Why don’t you show him your picture from school?”
“Yes, Daddy,” even though what I meant was, “no thanks, Daddy. I don’t want to spend a second longer than I have to in this room.”
“Why are you shy?” my Dad asked.
“Sorry, Daddy,” though what I really wanted to say was, “because I don’t want him to think that I like his attention, Daddy.”
This situation brought more confusion and pain. A child isn’t prepared for repeated sexual stimulation. Even if I didn’t know precisely why it was wrong, I developed emotional problems that have haunted me my entire life. I suffered low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and a distorted view of sex. I became withdrawn and mistrustful of adults.
I pushed myself instead to get good grades and to do well. I was desperate to do something which would make my family proud of me and to love me. However, all this had caused me to make poor judgments throughout my life. I always felt ashamed, guilty, afraid, and angry. I had no idea when I was seven years of age that what I was suffering from had a name or was even something for which I could get help. All I knew was that Gary and my relative had hurt me badly, physically, mentally, emotionally, and that there was no one there to soothe the pain.
Children who are abused and traumatized keep their feelings and thoughts hidden, and I locked mine deep inside myself. Later on, I didn't want to confront the trauma I had suffered, and I had no idea how to start the healing process. I know now that hiding the actions of an abuser gives a child a higher risk of suffering from anxiety symptoms, depression, and the risk of suicide attempts. These psychological problems can disrupt a child’s healthy development and have a lasting impact. Sexually abused children are often dysfunctional and distressed well into adulthood.
Perhaps if there had been someone who understood what was happening to me when I was a child and stopped the abuse, I might have begun to heal and not found it necessary to act out the trauma in my later years. My family didn’t know how to deal with neither my sexual abuse nor the aftermath of it. My young life was shattered, and no one came to pick up the pieces.