"When I wasn’t trying, she would slap me or scratch me"
British Asian student, Manveer*, was sexually abused by his Desi girlfriend in his first year at university.
His emotional story captures the pain and torment he felt whilst shining a light on an overlooked topic within society.
Although sexual abuse against women is widely discussed, for men it remains a silenced issue.
In 2021, The Guardian highlighted some vital research done by ManKind. This initiative helps men escape and overcome domestic abuse.
In their study looking at over 1,000 men, they found:
“9% of people identifying as men said they had been raped or assaulted by penetration, 14% had been coerced or pressured into sexual activity, 21% had taken part in sexual activity with an adult while under the legal age of consent.
“Respondents were asked if they had experienced 15 different categories of unwelcome or non-consensual sexual activity. Half said yes to at least one.”
ManKind also noted that their referrals had increased by 95% between February 2020 and February 2021.
This staggering finding highlights how many men have already experienced sexual or domestic abuse. Additionally, it notes that these victims are actively trying to get the proper support.
These alarming figures emphasise just how important it is to build safer parameters for men and the abuse they suffer.
However, these foundations are also needed within British Asian communities.
Sexual and domestic abuse is often seen as taboo and is not talked about enough within Desi households. So, as difficult it is for women, abuse towards men is seen as unimaginable.
But, it happens and that’s why it is highly important to reveal the stories of the unfortunate men who have suffered sexual abuse.
So, we spoke with Manveer about how his Desi girlfriend sexually abused him and the pain he felt whilst it was happening.
The Honeymoon Period
As Manveer started university and settled in with his newfound freedom, he details how he and Nandini* first became acquainted:
“I went to university in Birmingham to study law but actually decided to change my degree at the last minute to English literature.
“I just thought law was more of an Asian thing to do whereas English was my actual passion.
“But, looking back it’s weird how if I didn’t make that decision then my life would’ve been different.
“So, I started my first semester and I remember every time I went into the lecture hall, there would be this girl sitting right at the front.
“I saw glimpses of her face from time to time but she almost never chilled with anyone. I kind of liked that about her – mysteriousness.
“After a few weeks, I approached her in a seminar class and asked if she wanted to be in my group for a presentation.
“We hit it off straight away but it was just purely as friends to begin with.
“She was a lot of fun and I always wondered why I never saw her with people around uni or clubs.”
“As we slowly began to hang out together, I would invite her to my room and we would watch films or order food.
“Then, I started inviting her to parties to come out with me and my mates.
“Before I know it, we’re kissing on nights out, dancing, and turning our relationship into something more sexual. I was having the time of my life and she was too.
“After a few months, I asked her to be my girlfriend and we started having more romantic dates as you normally do.
“I would buy her gifts, give her money when she needed it and would always make sure she was okay.
“I remember one time she asked me for £70 to get her nails done, I wasn’t exactly rich as a student but I gave it but my boys were giving me stick.
“They would say ‘oh she’s just in it for the money’ or I’m under the thumb. But, I just thought that stuff was normal, I hadn’t exactly had a relationship before.”
The speed of Manveer and Nandini becoming closer highlighted their companionship more than anything.
This is evident in most abusive relationships. They mostly start in a very romantic way but it’s a tactic abusers use to manipulate their partners.
It’s important to note how Manveer said he was not in a relationship before. So, as much as the university was new to him, so was his Desi girlfriend.
A Sudden Change
As Manveer became further engrossed by his Desi girlfriend, there were cracks that began to show within the relationship:
“Once my mates started to ask me if she did anything for me, I couldn’t really recall anything.
“I was always the one planning dates, paying for her, inviting her to parties etc. I didn’t pay any attention to it but I brought it up with Nandini.
“So, I played it casual and said ‘it’d be good to meet your friends, maybe invite them on the next night out’.
“Suddenly, she started mouthing off at me and said ‘why do you wanna meet my girls, they’re not your mates’. I was so baffled.
“I shrugged it off and then she said ‘if you wanna meet girls then that’s fine’.
“But she totally exaggerated the question, making it out as if I wanted to meet them to flirt with them. So I just denied that and said ‘forget about it’.
“I told my mates the day after and they were creasing.
“They said it’s a girl thing, them being typical and starting sh*t for no reason, which I kind of understood. But from then on something switched.
“She would tell me to stop going out as much with my mates or if we were at pre-drinks together, she would always want to leave early.
“If I ever said to her that I wanted to stay or go out, she would storm off. She became so controlling and would say I wouldn’t find anyone like her.
“I kind of believed it at the time, because she was my first girlfriend, the first person I slept with, the first for everything.
“She knew about my own insecurities and started to bring them up when we argued. I would always end up apologising.
“We started to argue more but sometimes she would just turn and kiss me or touch me.
“I’d just let her because I thought that was her way of apologising.
“Sometimes, we would be talking and if I mentioned me going somewhere else, she would start shouting at me in public or arguing whilst people were looking. I constantly felt embarrassed.
“Even times we ate at the student union, my friends would say hello and if I wanted to go over, she’d tell me ‘no’, otherwise she would leave. But I honestly didn’t know what to do.
“I didn’t know how to handle the situation and if I told anyone, they wouldn’t believe me or laugh at me and think I’m being a coward.
“I used to go back to my room and be so upset thinking ‘what am I doing wrong?’ and how can I make it better.
“She would turn up and see that I had been crying or upset but would say ‘I’ll never leave you’ and start groping me and telling me that I’d feel better.
“We’d end up having sex but that kind of masked over things. I obviously felt better but emotionally, I was still confused.
“We were quite sexually active but there were days I felt I didn’t want to.
“One day she pushed me onto the bed and told me to strip.
“I’d be doing it slowly because I felt like I was forced to and then she’d take pictures and say it was just for us and then we would have sex but it was far from pleasurable.
“When I wasn’t trying, she would slap me or scratch me.
“As soon as I’d stop or tell her to get off me, she’d bribe me with the photos and say she would send them to everyone.
“I was so fragile, I stopped talking to my family and friends and was constantly depressed.
“I thought I was going crazy or this was my fault but then I didn’t know what to feel at that time.”
“Mental health, abuse and things like that weren’t really talked about with Asians or in Asian families. Especially with Indians.”
Although couples have a right to be protective over their counterparts, this is only acceptable up to an extent.
This is what victims experience as their abusers focus on their weaknesses and control their every move.
Especially as a young guy, Manveer was unaccustomed to these experiences.
His Desi girlfriend started her abuse mentally which then made way for her sexual advances towards him.
Preying on Insecurities
Manveer found himself in a similar situation to thousands of men. He was trapped and couldn’t fathom a way out.
Sexual abuse survivors often tell how they were mentally drained or manipulated but when you’re in that situation, it’s hard to tell:
“Nandini was constantly with me and wouldn’t let me go anywhere for too long. The abuse got worse as the months went on.
“She would tell me what to do to her, kiss her in places and tell her things she wanted to hear.
“She’d make me strip down and make me do things like licking her heels and force me to make love to her.
“Nandini would light candles and as she kissed me, she’d pick the candle up and pour the wax on me.
“Every time I told her I didn’t like any of this, she’d be even more abusive.
“There were times that she would hit me and kiss me. If I tried turning away then she’d pull my hair.
“She’d always force me to go down on her and pleasure her by any means necessary. She’d tell me not to move and then control my hands and put them in places.
“The same with my body and private parts. She’d just do whatever she wanted and manipulated me by saying this is how I can be the best boyfriend ever.
“I just kept thinking this is all my fault and honestly thought my life was over.
“She kept saying this is how relationships are and that she would do anything for me and I should do the same for her.
“Every time I wanted to run away, she’d tell me something I needed to hear.
“I said I needed to see my family sometimes but she would always call me or FaceTime me to make sure I wasn’t lying.
“She’d tell me to keep our secrets to ourselves or else. I knew she had photos of me or would break up with me and I just thought if I keep her happy then things will get better.
“I’d be quiet at home and my parents would chat and get p*ssed off when I wouldn’t reply and think I’m being a moody teenager.
“When I went back after these weekends, she would say how much she missed me and I’d feel happier thinking we were back to that emotional connection.
“But then it was the evening and the abuse came around again. I remember one night she asked me to turn around.
“She was massaging my back and then moved lower.
“I started to fidget and get up but she told me not to move and started pulling my hair, but not in a seductive way, it was like she was trying to rip it out.
“She told me again not to move and was trying to do something to me, I don’t know what.
“I felt her hands on my behind and felt an object but I got up straight away but she started slapping me and I got a small cut near my eye because of her nails.
“I started getting emotional and just lost feeling within myself.
“So, I laid there on the bed and she got on top, groping me, kissing me and I was just unresponsive. I was still. Like when you have sleep paralysis, I was numb.
“She molested me, as I lay there, doing whatever she wanted.”
“She kept shouting ‘get it hard’ and I didn’t do anything.
“It lasted a good half an hour or so, but I can’t even remember, all I could see was the ceiling.
“After she was done she threw my clothes on me and I just laid there and wanted God to take me.
“I felt so manipulated, so exposed, timid and sad but also felt nothing at the same time. I left that night and went back to my room.
“As I laid there, my mum called out of nowhere and I had to put on a brave voice. She just asked me how my day was and what I had been up to.
“I just burst out, I couldn’t hold it in any longer and I didn’t care at that point how it would make me look.
“I kept thinking before about how the family would look at me. Would they think I was less of a man?
“I’d think if I told my boys, they’d take the p*ss out of me or everyone at uni would think I’m a weirdo. But at that point, all I needed was my mum’s voice.
“As soon as I explained to her what had been happening for months, she came down straight away and picked me up.
“I blocked Nandini on everything and at first I was worried thinking she would do something but nothing.
“All those months I could’ve walked out but she made me second-guess myself so much that she controlled me.
“My actions, speech, body – she controlled it all. But not anymore.”
Manveer details how bad the sexual abuse got to the point that he felt numb. He felt so used and drained that life didn’t seem possible anymore.
Like Manveer’s Desi girlfriend did to him, many men feel silence is the only answer and they won’t receive the proper help.
There’s a big urge for more organisations to specifically help men escape these types of situations because of how prevalent they are.
Breaking the Silence
Manveer emotionally details how he felt once explaining everything to his parents:
“My parents were astonished and shocked.
“They were so supportive but obviously said I should’ve said something sooner. I told them exactly how I felt and what I thought people would say.
“But they just wanted me to feel better and feel safer.
“I told them I thought the family would disown me or that nobody would believe me because I’m a guy.”
“I told them no one talks about guys being abused and I felt silenced. But they supported me through it all afterwards.
“I started to get therapy and work on myself before doing anything else. I wanted to be selfish and think about myself for the first time in months.
“It’s crazy to think how your life can change so drastically and the things you experience with just one decision.
“Although I’m still going through challenges mentally and physically, I’m glad I’m finally getting the help and support I need. We will see what the next steps are.”
The hardest but best thing men can do within these situations is to break their silence.
This is why it is important to build a foundation of resources so that men feel safer coming forward.
However, ManKind is one of the fantastic organisations providing a non-judgmental and open space for men. So, progress is happening.
The narrative also needs to change within society and British Asian communities about sexual abuse towards male victims.
Hopefully, Manveer’s shocking story will spark a wider discussion around this pressing issue.
If you or another person are suffering from sexual and/or domestic abuse, do not suffer in silence. Help is always available.