One of the biggest reasons I am such a strong advocate of women taking ownership of their sexuality is my own #MeToo experiences.
TW: Sexual assault, trauma
I was 9
My friends and I were waiting outside our all girls Catholic school in Pakistan for the school bus to take us home when this man showed up on a bike, whipped out his dick, masturbated in front of us, and left the scene. He returned several times over the next few years. None of us reported to our teachers because we knew we would be blamed for a. knowing what a penis is and b. looking (without wanting to) long enough to know what he was doing. We knew we’d be blamed before we even knew what victim blaming was.
I was 13
I went shopping with my mom for Eid in Pakistan during the last few days of Ramadan (although I’m an atheist, Eid is a family celebration) when this guy groped me. My mother went ballistic and shortly the mob had taken over to teach him a lesson. I still didn’t know what consent was.
I was 15
A classmate confided how her 17 year old sister had to be given “medication” (read, drugs) a month into her marriage because she was afraid and not ready to have sex — but her family and his family thought it was necessary to consummate the marriage so they sedated her so her husband can have sex with her (read, rape her).
I was 17
I in the doctor’s office in Pakistan for my medical evaluation for my student visa to Canada because I had just secured a full ride scholarship to a private boarding school (United World Colleges) when this doctor draws the curtain asking my mother to wait on the opposite side while he takes my shirt off, asks me to lie down on the table, and fondles me while heaving for a good two minutes saying he needed to check for any lumps. Mind you, I was 17 with no familial or personal history indicating any kind of cancer in my family. The doctor was a Canadian-embassy-appointed panel physician.
Checking for breast lumps was not a Canadian embassy requirement for visa application. My mother knew something happened, might even have seen some of it, and I was quiet the rest of the way home but we didn’t say anything to each other or to any authorities lest it jeopardizes my visa application without which I would not be able to afford the same standard of education because I came from a family with extremely limited resources. Interesting fact, though, I was asked by the Canadian visa officer about a month later when I went for my final interview how come my parents were allowing me to travel across the world alone at 17 when in my “culture” that’s unheard of. I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes and simply answered that both my parents are elementary school teachers and they understand the importance of education.
I did get my visa, btw, though it was almost a week delayed from when I had to be on campus.
I was 19
I went to a party on my college campus in Indiana. It was the first semester of my freshman year. We were a couple of months in. The soccer team captain had been staring at me in the cafeteria the past few weeks but I ignored it. That night, at the party, I had one too many beers. I remember briefly dancing with him at the party but the party ended abruptly due to loud noise complaints. Since most of us were underage, there was a bit of chaos as everyone tried to rush out of the premises and back to their dorms. I remember the senior soccer team captain escorting me back to the dorm since his room was in the same hallway as mine.
The next thing I remember, trying to get his heavy and muscular body off my naked body and muttering my Nos to him. He ignores and turns me around and proceeds to rape me. My dorm building was a newer one so it had suites with semi-private bathrooms. Each bathroom was connecting two rooms. His fellow athlete from the other room enters his room through the bathroom door, sees what’s happening with me feebly trying to fight him off, laughs and says, “**** (his name), you asshole.” Turns around and walks off. I see an opportunity and turn around and summon all my strength to say, “I don’t like you, I do not want to have sex with you.” He stares at me in disbelief, says, “you don’t like me? Fine. Get your stuff and leave.” He turns around and pretends he’s fallen asleep. I grab my dress from the floor which I don’t remember taking off, put it on hastily, grab one earring I was wearing but couldn’t find the other one, grab my boots and my underwear in my hands and dash out of the door back to my room where I call my best friend over to tell her what had just happened while I tried to soothe a few bruises I had sustained on my inner thighs. The next morning, a friend of his meets me in the coffee shop and talks me down about his slutty I was on the dance floor and that I started dancing with him when I had never even spoken to him before. I pretty much lost my shit and lectured him on slut-shaming.
I didn’t go to the school or any authorities to report because I had no idea what it would mean for me, my family back in Pakistan, and where to even begin asking for help. I didn’t go open with this story until a couple of years ago.
I was 21
I was in Chicago for the night because I had an early morning flight to Pakistan for summer break leaving from Chicago O’hare. I put up a status on my Facebook before leaving for Chicago that I’ll be coming over and if there’s any friends out there who would like to hangout. A friend who I’d known since we were 14 (because my first date ever was a best friend of his), messages back that he’s moved to Chicago and would love to meet up. He also hooks me up with a good deal at an airport hotel where a cousin of his was a manager. I feel excited that I’ll get to see him after almost 4 years. He generously offers me a ride from the bus stop when I get to Chicago. His cousin comes along too. We all go for dinner and drinks. The next thing I remember, I’m naked in bed with an awful, awful headache and nausea while two men are all over me, one fiddling with a condom. I stand up abruptly. I push them off and pull all the covers on me while my head is still throbbing. I demand an explanation and I tell them I will call 911 and report them which will get them deported. They start crying and begging how they come from poor families and it took their entire family’s savings for them to come to the US to go to a community college.
I was in pain, confused, and realized I have a plane to catch in 8 hours. I asked them to leave the hotel room. I lock the room as soon as they leave. I stumble into the bathroom and see 3 used condoms in the trash can.
I felt disgusting and ashamed. I rip almost an entire roll of toilet paper to throw on top of the trash can to hide the condoms and I proceed to take a long shower. I call a close friend and tell her what happened. I called another friend on the way to the airport to tell what happened. Both of them asked me to report it right away but all I wanted to do was leave Chicago, get on that plane, and run to my mother. I text the guys where they confessed and “apologized” about raping me. I figured I will show this to the police. 30 minutes later they text saying I consented and they didn’t rape me. I was furious. I just got on the plane, never spoke to them again, and was gone from the US for another 3 months. Only after coming back I started looking into sexual assault survivors and the what to dos for reporting — I didn’t know you shouldn’t shower. I didn’t know I had a non-police route of doing a rape kit and having my testimony on record and deciding later what I wanted to do with it. I didn’t know. And I was not a dumb or stupid girl. I was a scholarship holder top of my class student — I was ridden with self-doubt in that moment.
I was 24
And newly in what’s now my current loving relationship when a family friend decides to pin me against the wall while Ali had gone to the bathroom, and tries to feel me up while I have my hands up in the air and demanding him to clear off. There were people in the house including his own wife and while a couple of them said, “****, stop being an asshole” while laughing (btw, why always this sentence?!), no one did anything in the moment. I ultimately had to touch him to push him off and his reply, “aren’t you an atheist?” He was later on reprimanded by the family and profusely apologized. But despite reluctantly forgiving him, I haven’t forgotten this and it has since left a kind of bad taste whenever I do interact with the said person — although he has never, ever crossed a line with anyone that I know of since that day. I am not defending but merely explaining how things can be complicated and repeated interactions doesn’t mean the wrongs were corrected.
And none of this is counting casual sexisms, cat calling, and other instances.
THIS is why I believe YOU.
And THIS is why I continue to fight for women and their empowerment and their liberation.
THIS is why we must raise better men.
THIS is why we must speak out.
THIS is why we should be the kind of parents children can share this with knowing that we will believe them.
THIS is why we need real life Olivia Bensons.
THIS is why we must keep fighting.
THIS is why when Trump mocked Dr. Ford, he mocked ALL WOMEN, EVERYWHERE.
This is why we must fight.
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