Their stories are varied, yet frighteningly familiar. They all happened and they all went undocumented. Throughout our lives, we have been thrown into situations where we have felt uneasy. We recognize that these things were a little off. After some perspective, we come to realize that what we went through was not okay. And, more often than not, unfortunately, the responsibility for change is on women, not men.
5 different stories from 5 ordinary women
These are stories told to me by various women in our community. Maybe they come from a neighbor, a friend, or even a sister. The thing is, you will never know, because they will never be reported. Sadly, as women, we can easily substitute ourselves into at least one of these situations.
“It was wrong, though. I knew that much.”
“As a child, I saw my sister groped by a friend of the family. When it started, he was just messing around, but it soon developed into a situation that felt uncomfortable. Not knowing what to do, or even how to describe it, the smile on my 10-year-old face disappeared and I simply looked away until it was over. It was wrong, though. I knew that much.”
“It was a party”
“At various parties throughout my life, I have been groped, fondled, and pushed against walls for more times than I care to recall. It was a party; what do I expect, right? No harm done. Yet alone, afterward, there was a trace of that feeling of it not being right, that I was not taken care of. Maybe I was asking for it…”
More often than not, we question ourselves. We wonder what we did leading up to it to deserve it. But truthfully, things happen and these things go unnoticed. We let them go, often laughing them off. We say, “Of course he was only joking!” allowing another unruly narrative to bloom among the unpunished truth.
“Some guy put his phone quickly under my shirt as I passed him on the bus in the aisle. I heard his friends laugh, but I was too embarrassed to stop and be confrontational. I let it go, and listened to them gasp as they received the notification from their own phones. It was humiliating.”
“It was rough”
“Years ago, I cheated on my ex. He found out and was angry. Because of my remorse, and the fear of losing him, I felt the treatment I received afterward was justified. He didn’t exactly rape me. But it was rough. And I knew he was angry.”
“No harm done; I am physically fine”
“While in another city recently, I took an Uber to my hotel. I, along with my son, were there for a sporting competition. The driver asked if he could bring me to the airport the next day and asked for my number. After I got to the hotel room with my son, I received the most vile text from that same driver that made me fear leaving the room. I reported it to Uber and the local police. They were sympathetic, but made me feel silly for wasting their time. After all, there was nothing they could do. Physically, I was fine. He didn’t touch me.”
Subsequently, we talk ourselves out of raising our voices to these acts. Telling ourselves that we somehow deserved it. I was on my own. It was late. Was I was a tease? It was just the wrong place at the wrong time. More often than not, we question ourselves first. Painstakingly agonizing over the minute details of events, looking for clues.
However, with time, what happened comes like an ice bucket over a drunkard’s head.
If your daughter went through all of these things, wouldn’t you be angry? You certainly wouldn’t blame her, or imagine why she would blame herself.
Life is hard enough. But this is the invisible social norm our sons and daughters inherit. We leave a legacy of mistrust, judgment, and untruths. Speaking out, although admirable, is equally weighed with tormented consequences. When we feel like we can come forward and say something, we should be socially encouraged to. Instead of a time filled with scrutiny and torment, it should be something of a moment of expression of freedom . Blaming women for what happens to them is just wrong. Doesn’t it take a lot of bravery to say anything in the first place? Let us honor that.
Stop Amputating The Truth
Let’s start building the men and women we would be proud of, and rid ourselves of the toxins that pollute our thinking of what we expect of either. Boys should be raised as men that do not constrain, hurt, or see someone’s worth simply because of what sex they are. But they do, because, as parents and adults, we let them.
If a woman says something, say you believe her, and even if you have doubts, don’t voice them. By keeping our opinions to ourselves, we give weight to her experience, we don’t amputate her truth, and apply smoke and mirrors to her memories. When we see the line and recognize the boundaries, our own children’s memories will not be dusted with the same prejudices and fears of speaking out as previous generations have been.
Read more here about widespread violence against women.