She could remember a hand missing all but two fingers moving over her body. Being raped over her husband’s dead body, she could not feel anything. Not fear, hate, pain or anything close to that. She just focused on those missing fingers and she tried to remember where she has seen them before. She never thought that her rapist’s hand would be the clue which would later give him a life sentence. He was hired to killed her and her husband as they were involved in a dispute for their land. Two families never knew their land boundaries and that was the cause for the crime and rape. It destroyed our peace for ever.
Months after my friend faced that damaging and scary experience, I faced mine. One night after I was breast feeding my child, I stood up from my hammock to face an armed gangster who tried to rape me. I embraced my child with as much love and compassion as I could. I tried to understand the whole situation. How this might happen? Why? What I had done? What had not I done? I hugged my son Nicolas harder. And I can remember I asked this man who was all over me: “What has your mother done to you?” I said loudly, "What happened to you in your childhood? ""Who did this to you?”
Obviously he could not hear because he didn’t stop. That is, until he saw the feet of one of his five partners who was with him. They had come to our house in the rainforest to find a motor boat - maybe to move drugs to another country. To hear them entering from the beach was easy as our dogs were barking loudly. My husband came down quickly from our open living room to the rainforest while some of the gangster wrestled me and two visitors to the floor. Both of us women faced the humiliating reality of being groped by assailants.
My body was trembling, I had my eyes closed and I had my son Nicolas streched to my body and my soul. When I opened my eyes I saw my husband lying far away from me and his eyes were looking into mine. We stayed looking at each other until the gangsters had what they wanted and everything came again to an amazing night as it is always in the rainforest. Dark, frogs singing, the waves and our slow breathing. Very slow as if our hearts were going to stop. But they did not. They are still beating hard and feeling as if each day was the last. As it was for our attackers when they broke into a paramilitary beach house and were all killed.
That experience make me a silent woman for a while. I never knew how deeply it was going to change my life until now that I am writing about it. My husband and I never spoke about it. We talked late that night but basically about material things. We both never touched that night again as if never happened.
Writing about it this week, I discovered very deep inside my soul and heart the wounds. Wounds very painful but willing to be healed. Wounds I feel strongly in my chest that could silence me as if I were the guilty one. And I was not. Nor are the others who have been violated – like my friend, countless of women, children and our own planet.
Today, I barely can stand my partner over my body. I cannot help the feeling and memory of that night. I have tried many times, but this incident is kept deep inside my soul. It is deep inside my friend’s soul and the souls of other friends who have been assaulted and the souls of millions of women across our planet.
Rape has been something that men use to silence woman, to silence men, to silence kids, to silence history and to repeat it. I have to stop being silent. Writing and feeling, I had to return to a sacred place where I am still now. I keep here my soul, my body, my son and my life safe. I had to start telling.
Not many people know about this. Not my mom, my brother or my friends. Just yesterday, I told my partner about that night. He embraced me and we both cried trying to relieve my pain, his pain, our friends’ pain and in the end, everyone’s pain. People who read this story, might have had a friend or someone close to them suffer for reasons like this. We both cried for all of you who read our stories and suffer in silence and are trying as we are to change this world we are living in. We all are trying to improve as humans and to make this earth a better planet. And we can make this a better home when we speak, when we come out of our silence with its pain and speak without any fear, shame or hate. We change history when we talk, when even with our hearts hurt we are able to tell painful stories to others, taking out the wounds we might have had.
I did not stay silent for any specific reason, I just thought forgetting was a way to forgive. But it is not. I forgave but I could not forget as I see women facing everyday the same history. Different reasons but the same old strategy. A silent weapon. A powerful one.
Colombia is a huge country with an amazing land. Its coastline touches two oceans, making it a strategic territory. Biodiverse by nature,diverse by its geographical conditions, its ecosystems make us ethnical different. Native people, afrodescendents, and mestizos are our principal human population which for more than 500 years has lived in mainly rural territory which has been extremely vulnerable to illegal drugs and illegal business.
No other South American country has such a problems as ours. No other southern country faces kidnapping, drug dealing, guerrilla warfare, rapes and killing the way ours does. No other country silences its journalists as ours does. No other has such a silent people under poverty as ours. Not Perú, Brasil, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Guyanas, or even Venezuela with its new dictator.
430 metric tons of cocaine were probably made in 2008 in Colombia and the trade is hurting our country. During 2010, 810 people died by war incidents, 117 people were killed by landmines, 557 were injured, and more than 210 were kidnapped. Out of a population of 43.7 million people, more than 7 million are are indigent and almost 20 million live in poverty. Seven journalists were killed in 2010, 470,000 kids are abused every year and 35 of them are raped every day in my country. During the last eight years of the drug war, 94,000 women were raped. My friend is part of those statistics. I am not, even though twice I have escaped being raped. To me, those experiences do not count in official numbers yet they are so painful that numbers seem too small for these experiences that change a life.
This seems to be the cost of being a women in a developing country. "A young country," a country where development is just beginning. But we are paying a huge price. With no education and no opportunities, young people are being exposed to becoming "mulas" by the drug trade. Lately, our people are facing an increase in prostitution as more tourists travel to Third World countries for paid sex. And this poor people are giving these tourists what they want: their bodies, their souls, their feelings, their hopes, their peace.
Outside countries should know that the drug trade creates and encourages rapists, guerrillas, kidnappers, and gangsters. Every time someone has cocaine in a party, that act could be linked to a kid being raped, a mother losing a child to murder, a husband whose wife is forced to work as a prostitute, a young child dying from a landmine, an indigenous group being displaced forever from their sacred land, a journalist disappearing for saying that drugs should be legal.
Drugs are a global problem, but we in Colombia are facing terrible consequences. Until developed countries put drug legalization on their agendas so that we could work all together on the problem, I feel there can be no hope, no future, no community, no women suffering for her loving ones, no peace in my country for me, my son and his sons. We are not just an island in this universe. What happens in Colombia is part of the United States, Canadá, Africa, Antarctica and all the countries. We are one planet. One where everybody should speak, should come out of our global silence. A silence long should have end long ago.
How could we talk? How could we feel our word could be heard if we are silenced from the inside out? Our own families are not built for women to speak, to write, to be heard or even to cry over our painful stories. The stories are not believed. The stories do not seem to be heard except by people outside our own countries, our own communities, our own families, our own bodies, our own souls. Global readers are very brave even to read or be willing to listen to painful stories, sad stories of other women which give them new perspectives to live their own lives. I feel an inmense gratitude for those readers and listeners, as I know they might have remained as deaf or blind as the majority, but they choose not to be. And I embrace them for doing that. It encourages me to speak, to write, no matter how painful it could be.
To speak allow me to have a lighter life, a solid relationship, a new voice, a clear one because my voice is back. It came out cleaning my heart and soul from its pain. I can feel to speak. I can touch to speak. I can see to speak. I can smell my beautiful son and my forest to speak. I can taste life to speak. Speaking I have learnt the real meaning of resilience. I can feel it everyday in my heart and I embraced with all my love. Because it saved my life. My son´s life. And It will saved my country and our planet, if we speak.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future 2011 Assignment: Frontline Journals.