I groped for words as I read the Breaking The Silence stories of my World Pulse sisters. My heart felt like being hammered by a thousand nails, it bled profusely. I wept bitterly for every girl who silently suffered the trauma, and now become a wounded woman because of a scarred past.
In my mind, I was screaming, "Why?!? Why are women treated as sexual objects by haughty insecure men who are unapologetic to conquer a little girl's body? Why is the woman shamed when she bravely tells her truth? Why does the society place the condemnation on the woman who revealed her tragic story and let the molester, the rapist, the perpetrator get away easily? And even after these traumatic childhood experiences, the world still expects these women to be good wives and better mothers without taking into account that the wounded girls inside them are still screaming for help. They all wanted to heal!"
We all silently scream for healing. For justice. For apologies from the men who stained our sacred bodies, and from the men who did nothing to prevent it.
I am not a rape victim. But I know women who are. And I feel strong emotions against rape and all forms of sexual abuse because I have seen what it does to a woman's psychology. Each coped differently, but one thing is common: it takes years to heal.
My #MeToo story is not a physical penetration by men. It is about how our male adult neighbor invited the four-year-old me to sleep beside him in a hammock. Innocently, I joined him. He demanded that I sleep immediately, but I couldn't. It was daytime, supposedly, my playtime. But his voice sounded pissed.
Frightened that he'll report me as being a bad girl to my mother who would spank me hard, I pretended to close my eyes. Then his hands explored my body, and one hand stayed inside my underwear for a long time. I did not know how it ended. My memory escapes me.
My #MeToo story is about a male teacher aide who secretly kissed the nine-year-old me while no one was looking. As to how many times he did it within a school year, I could no longer recall. Back then, I thought it was alright for a teacher to kiss a student, just like a parent kisses a child. I felt awkward and confused for being singled out. I told no one.
My #MeToo story is about an adult stranger who followed the ten-year-old me as I walked on my way home. It was night. His face covered with shirt, I could only remember the red in his eyes. He caught me at the darkest spot in our village. His strong hands captured my frail shivering shoulder. What followed was a slow motion of caressing the sensitive parts of my body beginning from my blossoming bossom going downward.
By this age, I knew about rape cases based on the evening news. So my mind was racing, " he caught me. He is so big and strong. He might rape me".
Together with a cry of prayer, I screamed my loudest shriek hoping someone or Someone would hear me. The man was startled, he hurriedly left.
As soon as I got home, I rushed to the kitchen to get a knife for defense as I tried to catch my breath. I still felt he was following me. That night and many nights after, nightmares on that man awakened me from my needed rest. Because I did not know who he was-- until today I have no idea who he is--, I viewed all men who possessed the same body built as suspects. Eventually, I hated every man.
I felt shame that it happened to me. It didn't help that I was scorned because of it. I loathed being a woman.To protect myself, I wore loose clothings so I would no longer attract men's attention. I felt disrespected when men from the streets catcalled me, or even when they wanted to introduce themselves to me. I usually gave them my angry stare. Deep inside, I wished I were a boy instead. And so I wore male clothes, and detested anything feminine.
That incident made me kept on guard by not talking to strangers. It also became my reference when women confessed to me their "please don't tell anyone" rape stories. So when a friend told me that her uncle raped her, my initial reaction was to immediately hug her and I wept with her.
From then on, I listened to another friend as shared she was raped by her grandfather, then later by her cousins. And another friend who revealed what her uncle did to her while her aunt was at work.Then recently, a young lady sent me a text message that she too was a rape victim committed by her cousin.
When the #MeToo story broke out across the digital world, none of us shared our stories. If I were to search #MeToo on Facebook, only one among my network was courageous enough to share it. She is a professor, and a writer. The rest was silent just as I was.
Perhaps because ours is a Christian nation who preaches we must forgive those who have sinned against us and to leave room for God's anger. We are told to forgive and forget without helping us process the experience. We are shamed and scorned for "not moving on". Instead, we fall as topics on the mouth of gossipers. So the girls who secretly cry for justice deal with it alone, putting an "I'm ok" mask while inside her she is actually screaming, "please help me."
What we didn't know by staying silent meant we could perpetuate these lascivous acts. We might not be the only victims of those men.
My #MeToo story did not end at 10 years old. Because no matter how careful and guarded I had been, there are men who think they are superior over women. There are still many tales to tell. Of men in high places with seemingly blameless reputations, but in the secret they reveal their demons.
I am still apalled to the core that the baby girls the world once awaited to arrive, and whose smiles brigthened our days became broken women of today. Sexual abuse is just one aspect.
How long will this atrocious injustice end?
How many more daughters, sisters, cousins, friends tremble at their sleep, frightened that their private spaces will be invaded by monsters?
How can we protect our newborn daughters from the scheming men in sheep's clothing who wait for us to let down our guards so they can attack?
So I am joining the rest of the women of the world as we scream our loudest shriek, hopefully loud enough to scare these contemptible men.
And to the rest of the girls and women of the world who share the same Breaking the Silence stories of our World Pulse sisters, my message is:
It is NOT right that men took advantage of you.
It is NOT your fault that this tragic thing happened to you. The shame must be placed to the audacious perpetrators and never on you.
It is NOT right that you were thrown away or neglected or excommunicated for telling your truth.
It is NOT right that your feelings were invalidated.
You are not less of a woman because this happened to you. Those men might have touched you physically, but the essence within you that defines you as a woman stays intact.
You are a woman because of your purity, your resilience, your strength, your ability to heal from within, and your power to bring healing to others as well.
Your essence as a woman is a combination of your gentleness to those who are wounded like you, and your bravery to speak your truth and to stand up for justice.
So celebrate the woman that you are because your identity is not defined by what other people did to you, but how you discover the well of wealth that is springing within you.
Arise, and use your uniqueness and creativity as you reach out to other woman. For a woman's power is finding healing in the process of loving others as she loves herself.
Happy International Woman's Day!
P.S. Reposting this in solidarity with my World Pulse Sisters.