We live in a society where one case of sexual assault on or rape of women is registered every 12-13 minutes, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau.
While there are many laws to protect women and children, the country fails to notice the situation of many men who also fall victim to sexual abuse from a very young age. Equal rights activist Harish Iyer, who was sexually abused at the age of seven by his uncle, has now come forward to share his shocking story.
"My uncle was giving me a bath when I was seven years old, and that's when it first happened," he said in an interview to Humans of Bombay. The man first forced him to perform oral sex and proceeded to have anal sex with him many times.
"At that point, I didn't know what was happening to me, whether it was ok, whether it was normal," Harish said.
After being forced to do this many times, he was even gangraped at the age of 12 by his uncle's friends, but kept quiet about the incident as he felt society has taught men to be strong enough to bear pain. Harish also shared how scared he was then even to use men's washrooms, because he feared he would be raped again.
"It was when I was 17 or 18 that I began to understand that what had been happening to me for so many years was wrong, so one day when he came to jump on me, I kicked him and said no. For the first time in 11 years, I said no to being raped," said Harish.
Harish now works as an activist with an aim to protect children from sexual abuse. "I think the challenge male survivors face is they think no boy or man gets sexually abused. I bust the myth. I speak to them. I listen to them. I help them heal by just listening," Harish told IBTimes India.
"I can never get those 11 years back, but I do have a lifetime ahead of me to protect the rights of children, women or the LGBT community, and that's the path I've proudly chosen," he said.
Harish made headlines in May 2015 after his mother posted a matrimonial advertisement in a newspaper seeking a vegetarian groom for her son. That was said to be the first gay matrimonial in India. Within hours, he had received more than 70 proposals from all over the world.
Read the full post of Harish Iyer in which he says how he was sexually abused by his uncle:
"My uncle was giving me a bath when I was 7 years old, and that's when it first happened. He forced me to give him a blow job and proceeded to have anal sex with me, multiple times. At that point, I didn't know what was happening to me, whether it was ok, whether it was normal. I got so used to it, I would enter his house and lie down on the bed, just wanting it to get over as soon as possible. At 12, I began to get gang-raped by his friends, and I would bleed but keep quite...because what if I wasn't considered 'man enough' to not bear pain? My childhood went by having two worlds where I would not remember the rape until something triggered it off and then I would cry endlessly. I would not enter a male washroom because I was scared that I would be raped again...I grew up having no self esteem.
It was when I was 17 or 18 that I began to understand that what had been happening to me for so many years was wrong--so one day when he came to jump on me, I kicked him and said no. For the first time in 11 years, I said no to being raped. When I told my mother, she was in shock--she asked me why I hadn't told her. I told her I had given her signs, that I had tried but she never picked up on it. She said, 'I never knew such things could happen with boys' and that was the time I realised that boys and men are the forgotten gender. We get abused, but we have no right to voice it because we're supposed to be the protectors. The victims of 'masculinity' are men themselves. I have been bullied for many years for my sexual orientation as well, but when I told my story the same classmates who laughed at me became my biggest strength and helped me to cope with my childhood. A part of me believed that I'm gay because of the abuse I went through and it devastated me, but I know now that that isn't true.
We tried to get some legal help but we realised that there's no law against child sexual abuse for boys in the country. By the time I was 18, no laws applied to my case -- so there was no justice. That's when I decided that I would make the motto of my life to protect other children from sexual abuse.
So I've been through 11 years of hell but I don't think the world is a bad place. I thank my bullies, because they got me here -- where I have the opportunity to touch other's lives. I believe that hate only destroys the hater, not the hated -- so I don't think I hate my uncle. To me, he doesn't exist. Infact If I could, I would send a therapist to help him. I'm not going to spend the rest of my life waiting for him to suffer-- I can never get those 11 years back, but I do have a lifetime ahead of me to protect the rights of children, women or the LGBT community and that's the path I've proudly chosen."