It’s been over three years since that night in the back alley. Three years since a man touched me so roughly, I’m still waiting for my chaffed skin to soften and heal.
Everything had happened at warped speed. He laughed whenever I asked him to stop, calling me a tease as his fingernails dug into my skin and dragged down to my ass, leaving red imprints of blood-filled tributaries. He manhandled me for his pleasure until the faint echo of my name began swimming down the street so he jumped back and I ran to safety. I told my friends what happened and they took me straight home and two days later, I decided I was going to let this go. Not for his sake but because I couldn’t be yet another girl in a college dorm explaining my drunken self to a woman who didn’t want to do much paperwork. She also happened to be his mother, so there was that; she would always favour his word. So three days later, I finally changed my clothes, took a long shower, swallowed my screams and decided to move forward.
And although he walked away that night, I worked on myself obsessively. I stopped smiling at the men around me, realizing that my kindness had to be earned and was not to be doled out for free. I kept them on their toes by staring back unabashedly, and calling out those that felt entitled due to their false sense of superiority. I committed myself to therapy and confronted the demons that still visit, almost as if to check up on me. It took me months to be touched again but it took me up until recently to lie with a man willingly and not have to question my safety. I became loud and aggressive, almost as if overcompensating for the weak girl he brought out of me, the one who buckled in his grasp and crumbled into his palms. It took me years but I thought I was finally beginning to heal.
But for the past couple of weeks, there is news of yet another woman raped daily and all those fears come echoing back like tumultuous waves, crashing against and washing me in, what I thought were, forgotten memories. For you don’t just fear what is done to you, but it is to be in the presence of merciless brutality. It’s to look into eyes that look like yours but are the farthest thing from human. It’s to see your own reflection in them and watch yourself crumble into ruins. It’s to see how much he enjoys what he is doing, despite my constant pleas and squirming. It’s to be in the presence of a beast that licks his lips and reduces you to a feast that he helps himself to at his choosing.
I thought I was beginning to heal but ever since that news reel, I no longer take the elevator at work. I walk faster in a crowded hallway just because a man was standing too close wearing a smirk. I stare straight ahead as a man on a bike pulls up next to my window, slides off his sunglasses and peers down my shirt. I am constantly scanning every room I enter to guess how many are indifferent, and how many are perverts. Because ever since then I have once again been reduced to a mere commodity. I see myself as a naked body walking around teasingly and I am all too aware of all the eyes on me. It took me three years to get to a place where I was comfortable enough to coexist with ease but it took a couple of weeks of honest journalism to untie all that was held together so tightly.
It took just a handful of days to undo the years of hard work I had put in, but then I look around and see so many women in the same boat as me, tending to their oozing wounds in the wake of these horrific tragedies. Every single woman is reliving memories of the last time she was touched or teased, the last time she begged on her knees, the last time she was looked at like a piece of meat. The last time someone heard her “No” as a “Yes Please!” We’re all nursing our wounds silently, thinking about all the times we were told it was not a big deal. All the times we were shoved into corners and left to our own devices to heal.
But perhaps that’s exactly what you should fear. Because your entitlement has made you lazy. You think you’re already the best you can be – a gift from God, birthed in your perfect form – so while you remain content and stunted, us women will continue to fight and evolve, until we transcend the shackles you have bound to our feet. We will rise beyond your insults and threats and preying on our body for unlike you, we aren’t bathing in a pool of false sense of superiority. Every time we emerge from our corners, we are a little bit stronger. For no one reinvents themselves quite like a woman. So for now you may be sitting comfortably, but more of us are emerging from our corners and all of us are done with this lack of humanity. Today might be unsettling and plagued with tragedies but there is a storm in the horizon, and I promise, you’re the one who should be afraid of me.