Not Quiet, Not Idle – A Voice Against Sexual Abuse of Sikh Boys

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 12.05.13 PMGuestblogged by Daler Singh

Warning: This post contains graphic depictions of sexualized violence.

I was about 7 years old when a respected granthi and my dad’s friend sexually molested me. I would spend much of my afternoons and evenings at the gurdwara. My father is a devout Sikh and made sure he went at least once a day after work to visit, but Sundays were the days I remember my entire day could be spent at our local Gurdwara.  One evening, while divan was occurring, I went to go play hide-and-seek with my friends. During one of these games, I ran past a van that was parked on the premises of the gurdwara. It was brown and I remember there were curtains in the van. The door slid open and a young boy, a little older than me, climbed out. He immediately called over to me and asked me to come look inside the van, so I did.

I had nothing to fear, growing up and having attended a few Khalsa schools, I was repeatedly told that the person that you could always trust was anyone who wore a Turban. As I looked inside the van, there was that familiar face, my dad’s friend, he gestured to me and then asked me to get into the van, without any hesitation, I got inside, he closed and then locked the door behind him. I don’t remember details but I do remember him asking me to lie by the window to look at something; I did. As I leaned in, curious as to what he wanted me to see, I felt something. He was on top of me and was kissing my ear. I could feel his beard against my cheek, as he began licking my ear, which, when I think back to that moment, I cannot help but feel disgusted. I tried to move, this is when he used the full weight of his body to press down on me. He then reached into my pants, I tried to resist, but his one arm alone had held me in position without much effort, with his other, he reached down into my pants and began fondling me. As he took away my innocence, he leaned in close and told me to get into the front seat; I did.

He started up the car and by this point every part of my body and my being was telling me to run but I was frozen in fear. I did not know what to do. As the van exited the gurdwara property, I felt like crying. My dad, the one safe place I had left in this world, was getting further and further away from me and I could do nothing to stop it. I looked over at the animal that was driving the vehicle and mustered up the courage to ask him where were we going? I don’t remember his exact response, however, it did invoke a sense of dread in me that I can still feel today. We pulled up to a Bank of America, where he parked the van. The parking lot was empty, it was late on a Sunday evening and much of my small town was quiet. He then told me to get into the back seat again, as he talked to me and tried to keep himself from losing his cool and losing his control, he unzipped his pants and forced me to look at him. I was repulsed and disgusted, however, I did not know what to do, where to run or how loud to scream because no one would hear me. He then grabbed me by my joorah and tried to get me to give him oral sex, I remember using my smalls hands to push back as hard as possible. I ducked my head and pushed back with everything I had. Still, it meant nothing, he overpowered me and the rest I have been living with in silence for years. My mind has blocked out much of that evening, but what I do remember was him ejaculating onto the carpeting in the van. He then immediately looked up at me, while I sat on the floor of the van, in shock and told me in Punjabi to get back into the front seat; I did. He then tied my joorah for me and asked me if I wanted McDonalds. I wanted everything to go back to normal; I pretended as if it never happened and said yes. When he took me from the Gurdwara, I did not even have my shoes on, as I walked into the McDonalds he put his hand on my shoulder as if to show the customers, that he was my father. He made me finish my meal before we went back to the Gurdwara. He dropped me off by the front entrance and parked the van with the rest on the lot and walked back into the main Darbar hall.

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 12.07.42 PMFrom the age of 7 I have been fighting to survive. As everyone sings their prayers at the gurdwara, blissfully reciting ardaas or listening to kirtan, I find nothing but pain and anger. I am not alone; I know of others, like the young boy who was forced to call me into the van, who I know was assaulted only seconds before I got there. The Gurdwara, a place for learning, safety, and protection was turned into a place of mental anguish, pain and suffering. In the last 30 years of my life, I have not once heard a conversation take place that addressed the sexual violence that is except for the Lalkaar conference covering this very topic, and a short note on a previous The Langar Hall post. This is a very real part of our community and we must address it. Even the youth, along with their elders, have decided to err in the side of caution and instead have chosen to not even entertain the notion that a young Singh or Kaur could be raped, by a Kirpan wearing “Singh.”

This is a problem that occurs all too often, to both my Sisters and Brothers. Constantly, children and women are blamed for what happens to them in our community. I say enough is enough. We need to change.  We can’t stand by quietly and idly.  When will we stopped being afraid and actually stand for truth and justice?  We can’t let power – whether it comes in the form of caste hierarchy, gender privilege, class privilege, or even in this case where an external “Singh” stand protected and inflict harm upon others.

Gurbani unleashes on religious hypocrites.  It was this group that Guru Nanak and the other Gurus damned and criticized.

 

Screen shot 2014-07-31 at 12.09.23 PM

No community is immune from such people, whether they be Muslims, Hindus, Christians, or Jews.  Unfortunately neither are the Sikhs.  Instead of a community that only preserves identity, let us be one that celebrates our values.  These include speaking Truth to power, even if they look like “Singhs.”  It was very difficult to share my story, but I do so partially for my own catharsis and partially to make sure that others in this situation know they aren’t alone.


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29 Responses to “Not Quiet, Not Idle – A Voice Against Sexual Abuse of Sikh Boys”

  1. Random Singh says:

    This is very sad and inappropriate. I would never guess this went on at our temples, we need to teach our children, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephew, nieces… that they need to voice their opinions and should not be afraid. Also at some age, teaching them some sort of self defense, and to say "NO" regardless who they are dealing with is ok.

    • ninachanpreet says:

      The responsibility is not on the victim. To state that we just need to teach those who potentially become victimized is ignoring the systems of power, authority and abuse that exist in the world. What we need to do is teach the perpetrators along side survivors and vulnerable young people about what this is….Please be mindful when you put the responsibility on the victim you are propagating a form of victim shaming that occurs worldwide but especially in south asian and particularly punjabi culture. The fact that we are so shocked when it happens shows how blind we are to its prevalence (and it is widely prevalent).

  2. Ambri Pukhraj says:

    I am so sorry you've had to live with this for so long. Thank you for having the courage to share your story – an invaluable seva.

  3. saorakzai says:

    <3 My friend, I respect and admire your courage to tell your story. I wish you didn't have to feel the shame or guilt associated with such trauma. I come from a Muslim background where such abuses have also been covered and the victims shamed. Thank you for sharing <3

  4. Kirpa Kaur says:

    Thank you sweet brother for writing. Whether for catharsis or as a voice for others – we are all connected thus celebrate the freedom of shackles breaking, whenever they are broken anywhere.
    Your voice Will hit hearts, memories and the hidden realities of many, both perpetrator and victim…and hopefully inspire possibility of healing in corners that have been dark for far too long.

  5. Empowered Singh says:

    First and foremost – Daler Singh, your courage and resilience are at the core of why you are here to write this.

    Perpetrators are thinly veiled and just like victims of the Catholic Church and Residential School's in Canada (Indigenous Children) – we need to challenge authority, regardless of the institution (school, Places of Worship, Social Clubs, etc).

    Denial that atrocities such as this and other violations (physical.mental, substance abuse etc ) take place in our community positions us as a vulnerable sangat.

    When we face the reality that this could be happening and have open dialogue with those we entrust our children to – then and only then will accountability and awareness surface along with hope.

    To all those who live with the horrific guilt of being abused by relatives or people of stature in our community – reach out.

    Daler Singh – you have many who now walk alongside you.

  6. navya says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It must have been very difficult for you to write, and we are all very proud that you are raising your voice against horrific abuse that is hushed up in our communities. Your contribution to the voice of resistance is immeasurably powerful. Thank you.

  7. Akaal says:

    Extremely brave of you to share your story. I wish you support and a way to forget and live a new life.

    As for the sinners. If you could tell a real Singh..he will gladly catch a charge for the punishment of such a sinner.

    And believe me, his punishment awaits him after he leaves this world like everyone must.

  8. satnaam says:

    We should have real leaders in the community with the right intentions. Monitor the gurduara's properly. WIth high-tech cameras. Teach children and also monitor their behavior as to detect if anything seems odd. Then trace back to cameras and conversation to see if anything out of place can be mapped.

  9. Angry dad says:

    I wish I could wrangle that's assholes neck!!!

  10. Kaur <3 says:

    Thanks a ton for sharing your story! I'm sure it will give many others the strength and courage they need to stand up for themselves. It's a shame that these things happen at our own gurdwaray from the people we expect it to happen least from. It's hard to trust anyone these days, I guess that's why it's called kalyug. <3

  11. Kaur2 says:

    You are a courageous, strong person for speaking out. All the marks of a true Khalsa. The person who did this to you deserves the worst punishment imaginable.

  12. Bachittar Singh says:

    Firstly, I want to thank you for having the courage to share this experience. I, also, know few individuals that were sexually molested by Sikh men, a few were Amritdhari even. I cannot image the trauma, but I want to let you know that you, and those others that have come forward, have done a great Seva for starting this discussion. In Chardee Kalaa, always.

  13. gurpreet singh says:

    I really feel for you brother for having gone through something as horrendous as this!And I absolutely feel sorry for the guy who did this to you because i could clearly see how far he is still from being a human!
    Such people should be identified and kept at zoo with animals!

  14. Silent Kaur says:

    Daler Singh:

    I send you love and strength, and commend you on your bravery for sharing your story. Our New Jersey Gurudwara was home to a granthi who sexually abused many children to various degrees. Thankfully, he was removed as soon as the abuse was discovered. However, there was no mention of him, or the abuse, ever again. None of those affected by him (myself included) were ever counseled, spoken to, given help, etc. Gurudwara was a scary place for me for a long time. It was thought that once the granthi was removed, all problems were solved. Not so. I don't know how others were affected, because we never spoke about it again. The after-hours kirtan classes didn't end, and we didn't stop going to Gurudwara. Why would we?

    If I was in class with a parent, I was generally ok. One time, though, my mother left me in the outer shoe area, and told me to wait for her while she went inside and spoke with one of the raagis. I stood alone as random raagis or granthis would cross back and forth. Not even looking at me, but I still started having a panic attack and crying. Minutes felt like hours. When my mother finally came back and saw me crying, she didn't understand why I was upset. I tried to vaguely explain, but the only response I got was to calm down and to get over it.

    What I went through was nowhere near what others have suffered, especially you, but that our people should pretend that this abuse doesn't exist only further damages our children. Thank you for sharing yourself with us and sparking a valuable discussion.

  15. Dhaliwal says:

    This the ultimate seva you could have done for the world, brother. Our love and support will always be with you.

  16. Ash says:

    Thank you for sharing your story… It shows others that they are not alone when they have this experience. We need to start sharing our stories within our community because we too have issues of abuse. Telling each story brings consciousness which leads to awakening and then change

  17. Ruby says:

    My heart is heavy for you and yet I'm not surprised this goes on. As a 33 year old woman I have heard countless accounts of this within our community.
    If it weren't for my career choice then I think I would not discuss this so openly amongst my family and friends. I try to educate them and always remind them that someone will always be there to listen to them.
    You, my friend have empowered others to open up and that is a true gift.

  18. Manjit says:

    I'm sorry for your experience my brother! We came to Canada in the mid 70's and that was our (my sister and my) first experience of this same nightmare in the gurudawara… My parents were working while they trusted these animals!

  19. Jasvir Singh says:

    Thank you for sharing your account bhaji. Sexual abuse is a taboo subject that needs to be aired and discussed. Hopefully your courage to tell the world will make it easier for others to do the same and prevent such dreadful acts in the future. Perhaps it is time for gurdwaras to start teaching about 'stranger danger' to young children.

  20. Rajinder Singh Virk says:

    This is nothing new,go to any nihang deras,deras of other Sikh sects including damdami taksal it is common.The new thing is somebody talked about it in this blog.Even now most of the posts are about anger,indignation or something else.Being ex cop I tried to raise this issue on this blog and other Sikh? Sites but was shouted down.Even now I am saying if this atrocitity occurs ,please go to the authorities,take legal action don't be shut down in the name of community,relatives,shame and other justifications.A crime is a crime,it should not be tuned out in name of religion.Maybe the new administrator of this site won't tune me out.

  21. dayalasingh says:

    Thank you Daler Singh. This takes immense courage, heart and honesty. I too have learned the painful reality that those we turn to for nurturing and safe support can be the very ones who break down the fiber of our innocent beings. That one first moment that changes the entire course of one's life…it is devastating beyond words. Please know that light and healing are within you and around you. Love and the warmest of embraces..

  22. Bob Singh says:

    This is sick and sad, our parents were very trusting and naive and sadly this happened to you but it could have been me or anyone, because years ago kids were left to play etc and the Gurdwara was considered a safe place (which it should be).

    Unfortunately this is not the case, i myself am a keshdari singh, but have always told my kids not to trust anyone even people wearing turbans.

    Saddened by this story, i hope this evil scumbag has been brought to justice and Guru sahib ji administers the highest punishment to this individual.

    I read peoples comments and agree you are very brave and considerate person who has shared his sad story, so this does not happen to others may Guru ji take away your pain and give you happiness and chardi kala ji.

  23. roop dhillon says:

    we like to ignore the bad things are so called respected people do and make out that only happens in other communities..the truth is we have all the same human evils happening and never highlight it..when the play Behsti was released a few years ago in the UK we as a community refused to accept rape in gurdwara as reality and maligned the play right and made Sikhs look like intolerant idiots amongst broader society

  24. Bikar says:

    Screening,education,family background,martial status, i think that will help.

  25. Puneet says:

    You are brave to share this story and it's very shameful that such instances happened at the places where it is believed that our mind and soul is at peace.

  26. Tajinder says:

    It is not the question if he is brave or not . The person who did this action should be fully punished
    Otherwise it is same senario as to what happened to Sikhs in 1984 . The whole world dead silent
    and now sikh sangats and Gurwara managementskeeping mum that it is not their business to punish the guilty. Thanks

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