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August 8, 2020

Welcome to dystopia


August 8, 2020

Dystopia is an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives. First things first, as I write and you read, countless minors are being sexually abused in our beloved nation. Some will die and some will continue to be abused.

Repeated physical act of violence is not a precondition of living repeated mental abuse; some find refuge in a defence mechanism of disassociation. Like the child with his head in his hands, waiting for hell to be over with, may have disassociated himself from excruciating physical pain and piercing emotional devastation.

Some of the survivors have claimed to have seen themselves from the outside during the act; out of body experience aids as an escape from the ordeal of self, being ruthlessly trampled and dehumanized.

Children do not need physical wounds to be killed; they die out of unbearable emotional trauma. So the cost of being a survivor may come in the form of total physical, sensory, and emotional disassociation along with other things. Even the memories of the incident may remain repressed in the unconscious, blanked out. The confusion of having a crucial event in life that is floating in consciousness in the form of images and flashbacks is strenuous in itself. Research says, ‘The conflict between wanting to remember; being afraid of remembering and having to deal with the inability to remember is at the base of sexual abuse experience’.

This does not mean peace for the survivor. Repressed torment manifests itself in hundreds of ways, simultaneously. Along with suffering from shame, guilt, self-blame, body image issues, lack of self-worth, lack of self-esteem, depressions, post-trauma stress disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse, other addictions, OCD, dissociative patterns which vary from everyday gaps from seconds to years, somatic disorders, anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, repression, denial, relationship and sexual problems, multiple-personality disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, survivors have to deal with suicidal ideations and attempts, self-harm episodes, fits, aggressive behaviors and tendencies to victimize themselves again or someone else – just to name a few – hence, living the assault on a daily basis.

A survivor does not feel safe in their own body, and lacks perception regarding distance and time, which is the constant that provides a sense of security and meaning to the human experience. Studies show that time perception affects levels of emotional well-being, personal and professional success, health, happiness, and general wellbeing. These survivors have no anchor to ground them and so they float in time and space. Not only while being awake, but also in sleep. Many clients have summed up their experiences as being a ‘prisoner in time’.

As explained earlier, the identity of a victim of trauma revolves around it; the perception and memories of the life of the victim before the event of trauma get muddled up to the victim knowing nothing else emotionally other than the repressed event of the abuse. This person has no sense of who s(he) was prior to the abuse and is devoid of positive memories. Where it varies from client to client, it may take a client suffering from disassociation let’s just say, a long time, to feel any feeling or sense any sensation or to feel safe in the therapy room with me. Affective and sensory dissociation disintegrates the body, mind and identity of the being.

Abuse of any kind is almost impossible not to internalize or take personally. Similarly, sexual abuse survivors cannot externalize the incident on their own. Gaslighting from the abuser and from society leads the survivor to gaslight herself/himself all their lives. In case the abuser was someone the victim was not allowed to disrespect, the victim turns the hate and anger towards herself/himself. Years of negative self-belief, thought-pattern, and self-talk confirm the worthlessness of the survivor that they deserved the abuse and they do not have anything better about them to offer. The patterns repeat themselves and the survivor’s everyday life gets impacted where they cannot stand up for themselves, inner turmoil which they are desensitized to leads them to unemployment, chronic depression, feelings of disconnection from the world, everything and themselves. Also, during the episode of sexual violence, the abuser does not ‘see’ the victim emotionally or humanize them hence; this gets internalizes in the victim and acts as the base of their self-belief.

With the rampant sexual abuse in Pakistan towards adults, children, and animals, I see this country driven steadfast on the path that leads to Dystopia. Moving as we are, one day we will all be desensitized, disassociated, and extending abuse to ourselves and others. This is not the state the survivor has put themselves through but what the abuser and society have.

Is Dystopia not a world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives? Do humans and societies not do this to fellow humans? And after the incident, do we not keep it alive in the form of viral videos and pictures, comments, thoughts, beliefs, judgments, and ‘culture’? In the survival of the fittest, how much are we individually doing for the wounded we tweeted about and left-behind? Recently, a man who was publically humiliated tried committing suicide several times not just for the abuse but more so due to the public humiliation of having the video gone viral.

There is no prevention of abuse for anyone; we are all vulnerable to it and on every level. There is absolutely zero policing for prevention of crime in our law so let’s agree that we and our children are not protected. The laws are made for the facilitation of the powerful and not for the security of citizens. Heavily understated reports say that more than eight children are sexually abused in Pakistan every day. And these are the reported cases, not of the ones suffering in silence who may be x times in number.

Children make up a significant portion of the population of Pakistan and with the increase in sexual abuse cases, what is the future if not Dystopia; what is the present if not Dystopia? Is the description above of survival from sexual violence the fate of every other child of Pakistan given the lack of mental health help?

And a special mention of the third sex who is born in dystopia and dies in it fated to being sexually abused, snubbed, shunned, rejected, abandoned, dehumanized by individuals, society ,and the state likewise every minute of their lives.

The writer is pursuing a psychotherapy licence, and working in the media.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @farwanaqvi_