There has been a lot of talk about sexual assault; the kind that millions of women worldwide endure on a daily base and that leaves deep psychological scars. When this whole scandal with one of the presidential candidates came to surface many people (some women included) said things like, “Well, if this was true why is it just now coming up?” or “Why are all these women all of a sudden coming forward with these stories? Isn’t that suspicious?”
I am not endorsing one side or the other of the political arena, but I’m here to tell you that the reason why all these women are coming forward now is because once the first one had the courage (yes, it takes courage) to bring her story into the public eye it gave all others the motivation and the strength to do the same.
When you have been a victim of that kind of assault, no matter how minor, you go through many emotions. You’re embarrassed that this happened to you, you feel guilty sometimes because of comments you hear about similar cases, you’re afraid that no-one will believe you or even worse, that they will turn you from the victim to the one who was asking for it.
I grew up in a very male-oriented country at a time when women had very limited opportunities. Back then only rich people drove cars to work. Driving to school was unheard of. You took the bus or the train, most of the time both. During rush hour the public transportation was standing-room only and we were crushed against each other like sardines in a can. It never failed. There was always the one guy (sometimes two) who decided this was the optimum setting to give free reign to their sexual desires. By the time I hopped out of the train or the bus, I had been groped and rubbed against just as matter-of-fact as if I was wearing a sign saying, “Please, use my body in any way you please.”
From the time I was thirteen I had to endure these not-so-subtle attacks and the odious cat-calls. They were not really cat-calls and they did not stop at “hey beautiful”, “hot mama”, or whistling. Most were very explicit in what the men who yelled them out would do to me should they ever catch me alone. Others felt compelled to comment on parts of my body that should never have been discussed by strangers, especially those who were old enough to be my grandfather in some cases.
One day as I am sitting on a bus commuting home from a long day at work, I dozed off. When I woke up I felt something warm between my legs. The young man sitting next to me had slid his hand on my crotch and even my death-gaze did not faze him. Why didn’t I tell the bus driver or the police? Because I guarantee you if I did, someone would say he was just being a young, red-blooded male and what did I expect when I was wearing such tight pants?
I am a much older woman now and if you think these incidents are lost in memory you’d be very wrong. They live in my head as vivid and as painfully embarrassing and demeaning as the day they happened. They have left scars, some of which I may not even be aware of. It’s hard to speak about them (this post has been languishing in the draft folder for a while) without feeling shame.
Things have changed quite a bit since then, even in my country, but let’s face it, there are still many who either think this is acceptable behavior or that it’s just “play” and does not do any harm. Well, you are wrong! It’s time women stand together against this type of assault and for one, I admire and applaud those who were courageous enough to come forward. As a woman who “been there, done that”, I thank you.