Diary of a Mad Tamil Woman


My earliest memory was when I was around five years old. All I remember is him carrying me down the old carpeted stairs, careful not to make a sound during the late hours of the night. He took me to the couch in the living room, lied me on top of him and was chewing on what I can only assume was a piece of bread. Seconds later he was forcing that disgusting, slimy chewed up piece of bread down my throat. I don’t remember anything after that but this is my most vivid memory.

It has become so easy to block out the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. They’re all in bits and pieces. I’m not entirely sure whether this is a blessing or a curse. Confusion, anger, shame and denial was my childhood. My body would go between states of fury and terror every time I saw him or even thought of him.

Incest. It took years or what felt like a lifetime for me to name what was happening to me.

I was 17 when he was beating me like I had never been beaten before. I never spoke when they would beat me. I would sit there silently to avoid getting hit more viciously.

In that moment, I somehow found the courage to tell him to stop. I uttered that he has no right to touch me. I saw shock in my mother’s eyes. I couldn’t tell her – I was too afraid of the many circumstances that could unfold if I did. My brother took me to another room and I told him. I was speechless. There were no words in the Tamil language that I knew of, and I had no awareness of the words in English to describe what had happened to me. There were tears in my brother’s eyes and it was clear that his life was forever changed in that moment.

I was lying on my bed, holding a towel soaked in blood, tending to my bleeding wounds as my mother approached me. She was in disbelief at the possibility that this was true. She laughed. Tears came rushing down my face. I didn’t know what else to say or do. Later that night she confronted him and called me to their bedroom to confirm what I was saying was in fact the truth. He denied everything, obviously. I honestly thought the worst part was over.

Days passed, and she constantly questioned why I had not told her before and what exactly he did to me. She said she could’ve protected me and prevented it from happening. I did not expect this to be her reaction. I wanted anger, disgust, outrage. She didn’t understand me. She didn’t understand that I was a child. This furthered the guilt and shame I had already felt. I wanted to kill myself.

I started counseling a few months later during my undergraduate studies. I knew that I could no longer live with them. I was living a lie, and I felt like I was slowly but surely going insane. A day would not go by during this time when I didn’t try to seek my mother’s approval to move out. But she wouldn’t let me. She said that she would die if I left and that if she can live with him, so can I.

For the next couple of years, everyone pretended like nothing had happened. Nothing changed. He was no longer the monster I exposed. He was our father, her husband, part of our family again. This infuriated me. But I also felt at ease. At times, I enjoyed pretending like nothing happened. After all, all I ever wanted was a unified family.

It was like a knife was in my heart that he kept twisting in deeper and deeper.

I was 19 when I left. My family insisted that I return home. They wanted so badly to preserve that image of a perfect family. You see, it was very unbecoming of me as a 19-year-old Tamil woman to live on my own without the support of my “family”. What would the Tamil community think of such a woman?

My experiences of childhood sexual abuse – of incest – had stolen many aspects of my life but most importantly, my identity as a Tamil woman. After I moved out, I was shunned not only from my immediate family members, but my uncles, aunts, cousins, distant relatives, family friends – my Tamil community. It didn’t matter to my 19-year-old self why you weren’t there for me. The fact of the matter was that you weren’t. I felt hurt and abandoned.

I am not ashamed to say that I despised the Tamil community for the betrayal and lack of support I felt when I walked away from my biological family. I am however ashamed to say that I allowed that to question my identity as a Tamil woman. The hurt I felt made it easy for me to display animosity rather than any compassion. My “surrogate” mother may have named me, my last name may be German but make no mistake, I am a proud Tamil woman and no one can take that away from me.

They say that the first thing you lose when you are a victim of abuse is your voice. I will no longer allow them to silence me or to re-victimize me. I will no longer deny or limit his and their responsibility and “protect my family” from the shame they deserve. This is my truth – my story.

There are many layers of complexity in my story. Although this part of my story has forced me to make decisions that ultimately led me to be where I am today, what I want you to understand is just that – that it was a part of my story. I am not the sum of what I have been through but rather what I have accomplished and yearn to be.

These issues should never be hidden behind closed doors, normalized, trivialized, or kept a secret. No one deserves to suffer in silence. Regardless of the circumstances that lead to childhood sexual abuse, it is never the child’s fault. The blame and responsibility lie entirely with the perpetrator*.

Childhood sexual abuse and incest is a topic that requires much more awareness and education in our community. Did you know that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience an unwanted sexual act before they turn 18 years old? Did you know that these unwanted sexual acts are mostly from people these children know and trust?

It breaks my heart to hear about the many Tamil women and men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse from their parents/step-parents, uncles, aunts, relatives, cousins, teachers, coaches and other authoritative figures who were supposed to protect, guide and support them. It fills me with so much hatred to know that these young souls have been tormented with in such horrific ways.

At the same time, I feel some strength and power in knowing that there are others out there that have gone through similar experiences to mine. It makes me feel hopeful to know that there may be open dialogue with these topics for generations to come.

You may feel a range of emotions after reading this article, from rage to discomfort to ambivalence. My hope is for our Tamil community to confront these issues with an open mind and heart.

Please share this story with your family, friends and loved ones. As you share this story, #nomoresecrets. If you want to reach out to me for support and guidance, to find appropriate resources in your community, or to just chat, please do not hesitate to email me at jstarke@thegatehouse.org.

*The Gatehouse is a Toronto based charity organization that provides support for survivors of childhood and adolescent sexual abuse. There is no cost for their services. For more information, please call 416-255-5900.

* * * * *

Related articles:
Finding Hope in the Hopeless: Sexual Abuse in the Tamil Community
Sexual Harassment: Not So Black & White

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Jenny Starke

Jenny Starke

A German Tamil Canadian woman that allows her intuitions to guide her to live a life of purpose. Jenny is a woman of many identities that has/is embracing personal struggles and sharing them to create awareness, challenge normative ideologies and inspire self and political transformation.

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38 thoughts on “Diary of a Mad Tamil Woman

  1. It seems like a lot of articles here are trying to make the Tamil community look bad, a lot of self-hate going around.

  2. It seems like a lot of articles here are trying to make the Tamil community look bad, a lot of self-hate going around.

  3. Articles like this does not make the tamil community look bad, it shows you what kind of community we have already built around us. Its shows the truth. Its not about self hate but about bringing a voice to these issues we show a blind eye too. For some reason we live with the idea that if we are tamil things like this don’t happen to us but it does. Its the truth. And its raw but its factual and its. happening. If you think this makes the tamil community look bad then maybe we should change the way the community addresses an issue such as this instead of pinpointing irrelevance.

  4. But when you consistently emphasize the very slim bad minority over the very good majority, it becomes very nefarious and problematic. This website seems to consistently do that. The majority of pedophiles and sexual deviants are white men but they don’t announce it in their community and it never makes the news. But whenever a person of color does it, it get national attention. You are just adding to that harmful narrative and thus weakening our community and other POC communities. Not to mention supporting the white supremacist narrative The self-hate and mental colonization is real.

  5. Articles like this bring awareness to the tamil community that persists to live in the “impress the society” kind of world. There’s no need to compare between whites and persons of colour. There are plenty of blogs in which white women speak of their experiences as young sexual abuse victims. It’s important, we as Tamils, open up the door for our young and future generations. Prevention and education is better than ignorance. And perhaps to your liking, thanks to brave souls like this, we won’t have to see this kinds of post in future from the young ones growing up right now.

  6. True Toronto Tamil Girl And it’s people like you who turn the other cheek when they hear about atrocities like this, who constantly make it harder for sexual abuse victims to speak out and seek help.

  7. Shetty, thank you for your feedback. While this article was published on TC with the hopes of eradicating the taboo and stigma associated with sexual abuse and incest within our Tamil community…I have to say that sexual abuse and incest or abuse in general is NEVER an issue of race. I encourage you to share with TC an issue that you are passionate about.

  8. It’s a heart breaking story…. As once I read in an Indian story, it said that our community has no place for victims, as being a victim is seen as failure. Similarly I think our Tamil community seem to take this approach too. I believe this is very sad state, where victims are out casted, and left to suffer on their own. I think there should be more supportive places for young Tamils to go to. I thank you for having the courage to talk about this issue. I am aware this happens in our Tamil society but one that is never allowed to be addressed in the public.

  9. Unfortunately Mrs. Starke, issues dealing with POC communities always is an issue of race. Especially when the dominant white narrative uses ANY bit of negativity as ammunition to undercut and undermine the upward social and economical progress of POC communities. Even your article has twinges of self-hate and false white supremacy. “I am not ashamed to say that I despised the Tamil community”, this is a direct quote from your article. “My “surrogate” mother may have named me, my last name may be German”, another poignant quote. YOU made this about race our and community, don’t blame me and others, who actually care about our community, our sisters, our brothers, our mothers, our fathers for calling you out on your self-hate and white supremacy. Blaming a whole community for the actions of one, even if done subtlety and with veil political correctness as in this article is wrong. It does nothing but hurt the community. Sexual abuse is wrong, but showing only one side without acknowledging the potential ramifications of not calling it out properly, can be problematic as well.

  10. Victorian values came from the West but they have moved on. We know about child abuse, incest, marital rape etc etc through western liberalization.The so called “colored communities” are still stuck in victorian era.Using culture as an excuse, we sweep a lot of things under the carpet. Our victims don’t have a voice. She doesn’t blame the community but rather talks about the inherent problems in the community.

  11. Not to mention the very problematic narrative of you having to be rescued by white “German” people, from the “evil” brown people (the white savior trope). This essentially demonizes and infantasizes POC communities, in that whites know best and have to save brown people from themselves. Essentially brown people don’t know what they are doing and white people do. This narrative will be used to undermine tamil community politicians, businesses and such. Again you made this about race, don’t demonize me for calling you out on it. This narrative demonizes Tamil men while removing the independence and agency of Tamil women (it flips the script when the abuser is female), but in both cases it undermines Tamils by saying that they not only can’t help themselves but that they actively hurt themselves. Racism and white supremacy is sneaky.

  12. Shetty, I sincerely apologize for your interpretation of my story. This article is not meant to be an “attack” on the Tamil community which is what I’m sensing you perceive it to be. It seems as though I have made you upset from sharing what is the most vulnerable I have been on a public forum and exposing the darkest secret that I have kept for all these years. I ask you to take a second before you type your next words and consider that I am a human with feelings and emotions. Obviously, the topics you address are extremely important and deserve attention and discussion. I hope you will consider writing an article for TC on topics that you appear to be extremely passionate about. Take care! 🙂

  13. JanaSelva True Toronto Tamil Girl

    I’m truly overwhelmed and proud of the many Tamil women and men that are supporting my vision on behalf of me and our Tamil community.

  14. Clearly you did not actually read what the author wrote. She talks about how through her experience she has reconnected with her Tamil identity and not wanting to loose that despite the reaction from the community in the past. The point is not to blame anyone or to “look bad”, it’s to question why were so concerned about looking bad at the hands of someone else’s suffering.

  15. So sad and horrible 🙁 I’m a proud Tamil at heart, but I’m very critical of our community for their poor attitudes towards issues like sexual abuse, domestic violence, etc.

  16. Hmm confused how this should be properly called out. Also what white supremacy is this article drawing on. If a white supremacist wants to use this against the Tamil community , why should the Tamil community not be brave enough to admit their are issues and tackle these issues. Stuff like this can drive a person mad and lead to suicide. This younge women is brave to share her story. Tamils are way past trying to prove to others if we are a good community or not. She clearly wrote she is a proud Tamil. This new generation is bright smart and have the balls to tackle these important issues. Our community is not perfect we don’t need to parade around like it is. A majority off all cultures and races would appreciate this article. I don’t think anyone needs to apologize for this bringing awareness. What’s the other side for the story she was young and her father made a mistake. Well it’s a mistake that man failed as a Tamil father. If you want to be a proud Tamil have balls and bring forth these issues and call it for what it is. Proud of my younger generation ….. Giving Tamils an amazing name uplifting and bringing change, giving voice to the voiceless is the truth…. This young girl just saved lives. God bless your bravery to speak up.

  17. Great article …… The Tamil community is proud of brave people like this coming forward to share their stories so future generations can have a voice to share similar incidences and most of all have support.

  18. Thank you for taking the time to speak out on not only your experiences, but also providing a voice for others that go through the same thing. You are a well needed catalyst for change!!

  19. Considering i was sexually assaulted and raped by a WHITE male high school teacher, hearing the other side is not only poignant but necessary. I just hate how the mainstream media is quick to demonize men of color as rapists and deviants when white males freely commit just as horrible acts and due to their white privilege and the media’s refusal to act on people that look like themselves, these white men are not only getting away with but are not being criticized. Just look at the news, always reporting “black” men as rapists as well as the recent India rape hysteria all the while ignoring white pedophiles and rapists in our own backyard. I just don’t want anyone inadvertently falling into that narrative. I find the media’s particular obsession with the rape crisis in India very relevant to the white supremacist narrative. Why are they so focused on another country and demonizing brown and black men when white men like my high school teacher are doing the same here and those stories are being relegated to the back pages or not being reported at all? The real kicker that makes me almost vomit, was the excuse that dirtbag gave, he said the reason I was doing bad in his class was that my parents were too strict and they were putting too much pressure on me and that he relieved some of that pressure. He said i came from such as sexually repressed culture, that he sexually “liberated” me, how friggin sick is that, he used my own culture against me. This why it is always important to question the white narrative and try our best not to contribute to it.

  20. I should apologize, my intent was not to hurt you but to bring to light certain issues that plague POC communities. I guess it also brought back bad memories. It just upsets me that some people seem to get away with more because of their white skin and the media ignores crimes by whites and plays up crimes of people of color. I don’t want this website which is supposed to be our own to turn into that as well. White male privilege is very real and is very harmful to people like us.

  21. “SS” you have valid points. It must have been a horrible experience. This is a community page and this one story is shedding light on this young girls experience. Your initial writing showed no empathy. It’s easy to feel sorry but the article was looking to put ourselves in a young child’s shoes. It must have crushed her as a person and mentally scared her since the victimizer was her father. Again your experience must have also had similar impacts.

  22. Thank you very much for your courage to speak out.
    This should be translated to Tamil for our people back home.

  23. Shetty Sivaruban I’m incredibly angered and saddened by your experiences. That must have been such a traumatic and awful time for you and your family. Thank you so much for sharing through your post. I encourage you to share your story and use your voice to make a positive impact! Love, Jenny

  24. Should have been put down. Incest is the worst form of sexual violence :(…Stay strong Jenny Starke.

  25. Hello Jenny,
    I want to comfort you as I can feel your pain and anger. Please contact me ( E mail: –  lalitha.brodie7@hotmail.com )as I can help in your healing to ease your pain with Pranic Healing Lalitha Brodie

  26. Hello Jenny,
    I wish to comfort you as I can understand your pain and anger – I am a Pranic Healer / Counselor and can help in your healing to ease your pain so please contact me by e mail  lalitha.brodie7@hotmail.com and you will feel better with pranic healing.With Love Lalitha Indranee Brodie

  27. Hello Jenny,
    You are great and I admire your courage in telling your story which will educate, create awareness and help in widening the scope of prevention too – Why not use the Toronto Tamil mass-media of Tamil  radios and print.media instead of using only Facebook?.

    I can understand it if you don’t like to use Pranic Healing to get rid of past karmic influences which can be performed in absentia too through visualization –  Please  respond to my comment – Thank you.- Lalitha Indranee Brodie My E mail  Lalitha.brodie7@Hotmail.com

  28. Hi Lalitha, 

    Thank you for your comments. Please email me at the email posted under my story to have a personal conversation of how we can support one another. 

    Just FYI, I am actually in the process of having my story translated in Tamil and published 🙂

    With love, 

  29. JennyStarke
    My dear Jenny Starke,
    Thanks for contacting me.  I could not find any e mail under your story for me to have a conversation with you, so please e mail me at lalitha.brodie7@hotmail.com.or call me at 905 270 1214 and talk to me – I am 81 years old and am not too good at such things, so please excuse me and contact me.
    With love

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