The minute the topic comes up, Every Single Woman has at least one story. We talk about it, stress about it and even laugh about how things were and what we went through. And these topics come up again and again, every time the Weinsteins of the world get exposed or a major assault makes the news.
‘ Me Too. ‘ - The post of Facebook doing the rounds (sadly) says, ‘ If all the humans who have been sexually harassed and / or assaulted write the words "Me, too" on their Facebook page, perhaps we can give people an understanding of the magnitude of the problem. ‘ and women are sharing this as is of their stories.
It’s infuriating ! Why aren’t we already aware there is a problem and the magnitude of it?
If I go to count the number of times I have been groped or leered at, cat called or been subject to unwanted incessant flirting, my fingers fall short. In every city I have lived there have been stories to recite.
And yet for the longest time, it was “normal” for me that these things happened. When you sit in a bus. When you commute by train. When you work at an office. When you are at college.
When I was first assaulted, I was 11. I went straight to my mom and told her. My dad bashed up the man and had him arrested only to have him released the next day when the postman’s wife and children came crying to our door step.
When the men would follow me, my mom and school friends in their car all the way to school.
When I came home shaken for having been groped horrifically at the age of 16, my aunt scolded me for not having moved when he started.
I knew better the next time when it happened again at 18. I stood up and walked away.
Soon, I was carrying a pin everywhere. Still it happened repeatedly. In the bus, when a man put his hand stroking my hair. Another time when the man’s hand came towards me and I screamed at him wife for not saying anything while she sat next to him. Still another time when I saw a man pleasuring himself in the middle of the road at night as I returned home from work. I even witnessed my then 50 year old mom being harassed.
But none of this hampered my psyche because this and much more is “normal”. Almost expected. Something to talk about openly but not “retaliated” about.
Then I Had My Kids
Then I moved to USA and since then by God’s grace, miraculously haven’t yet experienced any of the above in all that time. Yet, the fear grips me constantly whenever I look at my kids or send them out in the world. After all, let’s face it. Me and mine have just been lucky. I read the news of cases every day. No place is truly safe or untouched by these disgusting acts of impotent power.
With my children in front of me, I feel anger and helplessness about why is it that those unwanted advances were never taken more seriously? Why was that postman who put a 11 year old girl’s hand on his pants and kissed it let out of jail?
Every day, millions of babies, girls, boys, men and women are assaulted. Where is the society as a whole going wrong? I read and ponder and pray with every story I come across. What can we do differently?
What I Can Do
There is one thing I can do. That my mom did. She always discussed things with me. Sure, not sex ! That used to be a big no no in those times. But I always knew, even as a child, if I said something she would listen. Which is why even at the age of 11, I knew I had to go tell mom immediately.
Having that open channel with my mom helped me through some of the biggest turning points in my life. I plan on taking that one step ahead with my children.
To have an open dialogue about sexual advances, assault, the different kinds, reasons behind them and how to deal with them. To teach them how to respect and treat the opposite sex. To prepare them for the world that’s as full of predators as kind, generous, loving people who want to do right.
And I will write. And keep writing and trying to reach people. I will not beg and stand by for change. I will do my best with what I have to make it happen, starting at my home.