This whole week has been ridiculously devastating. The topic of sexual assault and sexual harassment continues to show up everywhere I go. If I scroll through Facebook, Instagram or even walk into my Social and Behavioral class for Public Health. I cannot escape it.
Every time it gets brought up I feel the tears well up, my stomach turn in knots and my heart begins to race. I know you are probably thinking, what happened to her? Who has caused her so much trauma that she physiologically and mentally cannot handle the thought of sexual assault. The truth is I know this goes beyond just me – it is the majority of my loved ones that my heart begins to beat for.
We all have our #MeToo stories and that is why this is so sickening. Every women (and some men) can attest to the disgust. The harassment. The questioning of self and appearance. The fear. The hurt.
The stories take me back to when I was young. Very young. The young age of maybe ten or eleven years old. My cousin had confided in me that one of our uncles had touched her in the closet. I was scared for my life, she told me to keep it to myself and I did. She tried to tell our older cousins, but no one believed her. She carried that pain for so many years. I did not understand how could someone so close to you be hurt by blood. It was confusing. I did not know what to think or feel but kept my mouth shut and my body far, far away from him. My cousin ended up running away with an older man – pimping herself out, getting pregnant with a client’s baby and now is somewhere in the mid-west. It hurts, because for me – after years of being in school and studying psychology and public health – I know part of the reason her life turned into those events was due to her sexual assault case.
I remember being in India when I was thirteen or fourteen years old and being trapped in my house. Never released outside the four walls of the village. Entrapped and locked to the television set, for alternate reality was my only escape. I would sneak out when my uncles were not home, to play games at the house next door and breathe in the fresh air of cows, grass, mixed in with the dirt and pollution. My uncles had the best intentions, they wanted to protect my sister and I. They heard stories. They knew little girls. I was never told directly, but I remember in the middle of the night, after causing a scene and crying for an adventure, my uncle finally told my mother the logic behind the imprisonment. A boy who was about two years older than me – sixteen – raped a TWO year old out of spite due to a feud between their families. Two years old. I was mortified. How dare someone even THINK of a child as a sexual object, out of spite? From that moment on I was thankful for my uncles’ protection but I could not believe what devils walked on Earth.
Fast forward into my college years, the years of experimentation, growth and hopeful transformations. I was a sheltered child. My parents protected me with all their might. They raised me with intentions of me being a good-mannered, cautious, educated woman. I grew up with the mentality, “Stay away from boys. No friends that are boys. Boys are not meant to be mixed with girls.” Retrospectively, I know they were protecting me from reasons that I NOW understand more than ever. With all that said, I went into college – first time away from home – and I was ready to live life.
I did what any sheltered child did, everything I never had done before. I walked into Forever 21 and bought the cutest new wardrobes – from the tiniest denim shorts to the smallest tank tops. I began to wear my hair differently, adorn myself in a different makeup regime and be who I have always wanted to be. My confidence skyrocketed and I blossomed from a full-on high school dork to a beautiful swan.
I talked a lot, used my eyes to charm people and was “over” friendly. I was bubbly and outgoing, I liked to be the center of attention – for fun. I went to parties, had a great time dancing and talking and just having a ball. I always made it a point to talk to everyone and make sure that everyone was enjoying themselves. Never, did I ever want it to get even the least bit sexual – my virginity was one thing I had vowed to keep safe until marriage.
Little did I know people began to talk. I mean really talk. Rumors began to fly everywhere about things I had never done. Boys began to claim they had sex with me. I was called “easy,” “slut,” “whore,” and at one point the boys would come up to me ask me what my favorite sex position was. It hurt. It really hurt because to be quite frank, I had never even had my FIRST KISS and individuals were spreading rumors about me because I refused to partake in sexual activities with them.
I was the biggest lover of love and at that moment -in those years- I had lost any chance of ever having a real relationship with someone who wanted me for who I truly was, because of who they pictured me to be.
It hurt. It ruined me. Words cut so deep. I began to believe it. Maybe I was a whore? Maybe my shorts were too short? Maybe I should have just gave my virginity away? Maybe I should just sleep around? Maybe I was not capable of being loved by a human being?
Then. There was a night. One night. I had too much. I let go. Began to dance the night away. My friends left me there by myself. Surrounded by individuals who had assumptions about me embedded in their minds. They did not want to deal, so they left me. I found an acquaintance. Holding hands, drinking, dancing. Then he tried to put his hands up my skirt. I stopped him on multiple accounts. He said I needed more to drink to loosen up. I was dumb, I complied.
Then he pushed me to the couch, in front of all those people. I said no. I pushed and pulled. Those people who watched from afar or continued dancing. My “friend” passing by and throwing up thumbs up signs as this man pushed me on the couch and blocked me from leaving attempted to take off my skirt. I screamed and pushed and said no. no. no. no. He didn’t budge but I managed to pull out of his grip run under his legs and out the house.
That was the moment I stopped it all. I stopped going out. I was scared. I cut myself from all of those people. How could humans be capable of being so disgusting? So inconsiderate? I could not let anyone take away from me what I wanted to keep the most. No more. So I stopped.
Changed my lifestyle because maybe I was asking for it? Maybe I dressed poorly? Maybe I lead boys on? So much self-blame.
Then I grew stronger. It took me years to get over that incident, emotionally. But I learned to love myself again, eventually. To be at peace.
But the stories did not end. I heard instances of my friends being forced into threesomes, assaulted by family members, raped by multiple individuals in one setting. The pain.
So, yes it has been hard hearing of these instances in my newsfeed. Over and over. But ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
We do not deserve this. We do not get to blame ourselves. We never asked for any of this. Men and women all around need to step up their ability to intervene and stop this from being the social norm. Individuals are not toys to be played with.
Ask for permission. Think twice before sexualzing a human being. Be respectful of an individual’s values.
Enough is enough.