Elissa (name changed), a teenage housemaid, was raped by her employer when his wife went out of town for a 10-day workshop. The wife did report the crime to police upon her return home but after pressure from friends and relatives, the matter was hushed up. Elissa was sent back to her parents. Four years on, she still gets nightmares:
In 2014, I first stepped out of my native village to travel all the way to Kochi City. An acquaintance had found me work as a domestic help in the city; the money would help my household. I was awe-struck by the big city, the clean apartment, where I would be working, and my English-speaking employers.
It took me a few days to adjust to the work. I saw ‘Saab’ and ‘Madam’ weren’t in a happy marriage. They had violent arguments and would bang the door on each other. There was a part-time maid in the house who would handle duties like giving food or packing lunch for the doctor husband. The part-time maid left in a few months and I took over all the chores.
ALSO IN #SheToo SERIES: Silent Victims Of Harassment
I sensed that Saab often brushed past me or felt me up whenever I laid the dinner table for him. I liked Madam more and we often talked in idle time. Yet, I could not gather the courage to share my doubts about Saab with her. Once the wife mentioned to me that her husband took drugs and this was one of the reasons of their rocky marriage. She wouldn’t have thought of her husband stooping to the level of harassing a maid. I kept quiet as I didn’t want to add to her woes.
One evening, Madam announced that she would be leaving for a 10-day workshop to Andhra Pradesh. On an impulse, probably, she said she wouldn’t want to leave me at the house and take me along with her. The husband insisted that the maid was needed at home to take care of cleaning and cooking. Once again, they had heated arguments and ultimately the wife relented to leave me home.
On the very day madam left, Saab called me in his room and said that he had a backache. He took out an ointment tube and asked me to rub all over his lower back. While I was rubbing his back, he suddenly turned over, forcibly took my hand and placed it on his genitals. I was stunned and tried to run away from the room in disgust. But he had expected this reaction and pulled me down on the bed violently and forced himself on me.
I cried in pain the whole night and kept making plans to run away from the house. But I didn’t know the surrounding area; I had hardly stepped out of their house since my arrival there. Over the next ten days, I was raped several times even as I cried and pleaded him to leave me alone.
When the wife came back from her training, she found me in a state of shock. I had not eaten or slept properly for the past ten days. She hugged me, held my head in her arms and asked what had happened. I broke down and started howling for the next several minutes. “Please save me, Didi,” I kept repeating. Later, I narrated the whole incident to her.
As I felt safe in her company, I thought about my parents. The humiliation our family would experience when they came to know of my situation. What will happen to the monthly income the couple was sending them home? Will my acquaintance also come to know about it now?
Madam looked shocked and heartbroken. She still couldn’t come to terms that her husband was a child rapist. She told me she would register a complaint with the police and took me to the station. I underwent a medical examination which confirmed rape. However, in the meantime, her in-laws and other relatives reached the police station. I don’t know what happened exactly, but no police action happened afterwards.
Madam told me that she had given up under duress but would file for a divorce. She also assured me of all medical, financial and emotional support needed to come out of the trauma. At that time, I felt she was talking sense. My mind was occupied with thoughts about my family, my village and the rape stigma.
The doctor wife arranged my journey back home. She told my family that she held herself guilty but we had to move on. I gathered that her divorce case stretched on till August 2018 as there was no mention of the husband being a child rapist among the grounds for separation. With help from several quarters, I am now employed as a housemaid in a Gulf country and the earning is good. Yet, there are nights when I wake in cold sweats and stay awake thereafter.