This is a story a friend has bravely shared with me, a story about her experiences not only in the States but in other parts of the world as well.
Sometimes I wish I had been born ugly. Sometimes I wish I had been born a boy. As luck would have it though, I was born to blossom fully into womanhood at the young age of 10. Having an hourglass figure in primary school attracted the wrong sort of attention from men. I was just a child when a man in the back of a bus pinned me down like a butterfly and attempted to have his way with me. He picked the wrong girl to mess with. He wears a scar on his face. I wear a scar on my heart.
When I was still in grade school, I went to Louisiana with my youth group to help rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. I helped to build a house for a man I would never forget. He told me I was the most remarkable lady he had ever met, and treated me with the utmost respect, until he didn’t. He would find me in dark rooms. In crawl spaces. He would whisper things to me that no 80 year old should whisper to a girl who had just become a teenager. He brushed my breasts and kissed my neck. He told me he would give me everything in his will if I stayed with him and married him. When I told my church director about it, they said they would keep a better eye on things. They didn’t.
When I was 18 years old, I went to a fair ground with my best friend. We met these cute twins who asked if we would like to have some beers with them. What we couldn’t know was that those beer cans had been injected with a needle. I woke up in a padded leather room with bunk beds in the back of a semi-truck, with a gun to my head and a man relieving himself between my thighs. When he finished, he was replaced by another man, and then another. I have no idea how many hours passed that way until the fight broke out. The men couldn’t agree on whose turn it was next. It was the distraction I needed to bolt out the door. I ran naked across the parking lot, being chased all the while by a man with a shotgun. He gave up when I made it to the road. Shaking and in shock, I threw up everywhere, and prayed to wake up. When people ask how I lost my virginity, this isn’t the story they expect. It wasn’t the one I expected either. I still believed I was saving myself for “the one.” That night shattered my world.
After that night I was scared of men. I was scared of alcohol. I was scared of parties. After that night I became a victim. I eventually found a sweet boy in college who I fell for in an instant, but took things slow with. He was understanding about my past and my fears, and eventually, I felt safe enough to date him…but I never liked having sex with him. When the sex started to hurt, I would remember that gun to my head, and would revert to a place deep inside myself where I wouldn’t feel anything until it was over. My boyfriend knew I didn’t want it, and didn’t enjoy it, but he pressured me into it all the same. I just figured I didn’t like sex. I also figured it was what I was supposed to do in my role as his girlfriend. I would stare at myself in the mirror, trying to psych myself up to sleep with him that night in hopes that maybe he would leave me alone for a few days after that. I didn’t know then the true meaning of consent. I didn’t understand that rape can happen in a quiet room with the one you love.
After four years of terrible sex I came into my own. I moved across the sea to Japan and enjoyed the new freedom of singledom to its finest. I learned that I could enjoy sex, so I did. Then one night I went on a date with a boy. Dinner and karaoke. I was a little nervous to be alone in a room with him, but there was a glass door that everyone could see in, so I figured I was okay. What I couldn’t know was that he had paid the men at the front desk so that no one would come down our hallway. When the struggle started, I gave in and did what I was conditioned to do. I curled up deep down inside myself and waited for it to be over. I hated myself for being a victim instead of a fighter. Where was the girl who had fought back so bravely in the bus? When he left me there, I slowly gathered up my clothes, and my sanity, and all of my rage. Rage at myself for not retaliating, for being stupid enough to put myself in that situation, yet again. Then rage that I lived in a world where I couldn’t feel safe on a public date.
I moved to Korea, a country that is 117th in the world in terms of gender equality. At the time, I didn’t comprehend what that meant for me. What is meant was men grabbing my crotch on the sidewalk, and masturbating next to me on the subway train. What it meant was learning to sit in the back of taxis so the drivers couldn’t touch my thighs, and that even wearing jeans and a t-shirt couldn’t exempt me from being asked “how much?” while walking home from work. What it meant was being picked up from behind with my arms pinned to my side and being dragged to a table with a group of men, kicking and screaming all the while, and then being asked what the hell was wrong with me, because he was a “nice guy.” What it meant was losing my right to vote, and my ability to fight back or speak out against these injustices without losing my job and being deported. I finally had the fight back within me, but I didn’t have a platform to use it. I loved the city, I loved my job, but I had had enough. My heart breaks for all the women who don’t have the ability to leave.
I hate to think of all the injustice out there in the world that I don’t ever see or hear about. All the quiet survivors. All the unnamed victims. It sure seems like I have had my fair share of harassment, when going through this list of events, and I am just one person. That’s not to say that it was all bad. Certainly, I have also experienced moments of love and true passion. I have experienced sex with respect and consent. Those should have been my only experiences, but I wasn’t born that way.
I was born a woman.
These are not stories I usually talk about. They are not your typical dinner conversation. They are not things that I like to remember. But, if my stories can teach anyone that they are not alone, that they have to right to consent, and that this world is in serious need of healing, then they are worth re-living.