As luck would have it…

I read about violence, harassment, abuse in its varying forms regularly and I decided that I wanted to find out if the women I know have similar stories. For this round, I only reached out to the women I know. I am hoping to reach out to the men I know and ask them for their stories. Silence is violence and we have to lend our ear to hear everyone’s lived experiences.

Happy to report that some of my friends, acquaintances and family had no stories to share. Joy. But some did and I can’t thank these women enough for sharing this piece of their lives with me. I am truly honoured. It takes a lot of emotional strength to sit down and feel those feelings again and relive the pain. I cried. I got angry. And I avoided writing this blog for a long time. Nothing in this piece should be of shock to anyone. We hear it over and over again. 1 in 3. When the faces behind the stats are faces you know, faces you love, the stats come to life in a way that is powerful.

Quite revealing was the constant use of one particular word: “lucky”. I’m lucky I haven’t experienced any abuse, I’m lucky I got away (from a man who tried to date rape me), I’m lucky it wasn’t that bad, I’m lucky they believed me. What type of world do we live in? I ought to deem myself lucky that I haven’t been raped? Sadly, I do. We have to raise the next generation of children to think that violence, abuse, harassment of all forms is unacceptable. It’s not a part of life, it’s not just something that happens and it’s never okay!

As you can imagine, I got a wide variety of responses. Street harassment, cat calling, unwanted attention, being drugged, child abuse, rape, abusive partners, the list goes on. It is incredible how much courage these women have and how resilient they are in the face of violence. Here is a small sample of the stories I received.

[Trigger Warning]

Story 1
I was online dating and met a guy who was a few years older than me, and we went out a couple of times. The relationship was casual, we went out to movies etc., but we mostly just had sex. He was a good lover, and we hooked up several times over a few months, always at his place. The sex itself was always rough, there was some light choking and the intercourse was hard thrusts and hard smacks to my ass. The last time we hooked up he asked if we could do anal, I clearly and firmly said no, I was not a fan, and not interested. We proceeded to fool around as normal, but then during intercourse, while from behind he went full force into my ass. I screamed and was practically paralyzed from the pain and the shock. When I finally did get up to go to the bathroom I was bleeding and had started to cry.

He claimed that it had been an accident, but when I had moved away from him right after it happened, he wanted to keep going and I could have sworn my scream (which was clearly from pain) turned him on more. I told him what he had done wasn’t right, I had not consented to anal. He kept saying it was an accident, but I didn’t buy it. He gave me some pain meds he had and I went home. As soon as I got home I told my roommate what had happened and I thought about reporting it but I didn’t feel like I had a strong enough case to report on. The issue of consent shouldn’t be a grey area but it is. I honestly felt like because I had been a willing participant up to that point, I didn’t think the police would believe me. He messaged and called for a few days after the rape, kept apologizing, but eventually left me alone after it became clear that I didn’t want to see him again.

Story 2
When I was seven I was raped by my father’s best friend. We use to go to his house on a weekly basis. Most of the children that would gather were older, in their teens. My sister and I were one of the youngest children who use to meet at this dreadful house. By the end of the night, most of the adults were drunk. I was usually bored during these gatherings and often roamed around the living room on my own. I used to love drawing and always asked for a pen and paper.

One night, I was in the living room by myself. The women were all gathered in the kitchen, the children were all in the basement, and the men were all in another room. My father’s (ex) friend, came into the living room and asked me what I was looking for and I explained to him that I needed a pen so I could do some drawings. He told me that he had lots of pens and a pad of art paper in the guest room. I was very excited to hear this. He told me that I could go and get them and draw in the living room. I went upstairs, where I was away from everyone else. The house was noisy with so many bodies and everyone was preoccupied. I went inside the room, looking for the pen and pad of paper. The door opened as I was looking, and it was my father’s ex friend. He closed the door and put on Indian music very loudly.

At first I thought it was harmless, but he started asking me to do things, like taking my clothes off. At first, this is the only thing he asked me to do. Every week, from that day, he would make me go upstairs and make me do one other thing than the last week. Eventually it got to a point where he would be touching me, holding me up against the wall aggressively and hurting me. Every time we met in the room, he told me that I would have to keep it a secret because if I told any other adult, my parents would go to jail. That man told me, if my parents were in jail, my extended family wouldn’t be able to come to Canada and my parents would have to get divorced. This frightened me a lot.

Every time I met with him, he threatened me, but at the same time he would reward me with Caramel chocolate. To this very day I hate that specific chocolate bar. This went on for a while. It even went as far as him touching me and aggressively physically doing things to me in my own home. If I didn’t comply with his request, he would tell me that I was misbehaved and that he was disappointed. You have to respect your elders and do what they say. He would constantly ask: you do respect me, don’t you? He also re assured me that no one cared about me as much as he did, and that he was actually protecting me. I actually believed it.

I complied because I feared what would become of my parents. I was surprised that no one else noticed that I was missing some of the time, or that my hair was tussled, or that I had bruises on my arms. At the tender age of 7 I didn’t know what rape was, or didn’t know it was wrong. My brother would ask me if that’s what he was doing, and I would deny it or wouldn’t answer and he was catching on. One night, I heard him tell my parents the things he noticed. In the end, my parents made a final decision to stop going to my father’s ex friend’s house, but they never brought up the issue with him face to face. It took me a long time to get over this, and I still fear men who are drunk.

Story 3
When I was about 4 we moved from the Philippines to Canada. Everyone was so excited. My aunt and uncle sponsored us. Even at that age I knew we owed them for their sacrifice and encouragement. I don’t quite remember how old I was when the abuse started. Young. About 4 or 5. Does it even matter?

I remember my brother and I were so excited to be allowed to sleep in my aunt and uncles room. It was like a sleep over party. They let us stay up late watching TV and we were allowed to eat in bed, and colour. On one of those nights I slept on the floor while my brother lay sleeping on the bed. I guess my aunt had already gone to work because I woke up to my uncle removing my underwear, and then he proceeded to kiss and lick me down there.

I just remember pretending to sleep. I was confused, disgusted, ashamed. I didn’t understand what was happening to me or why. I felt dirty and used. When my uncle was finished he made sure to put my underwear just under my head. Growing up, I always wondered why he did it and then I realized that he needed to show me that I was conquered. Owned.

I was so afraid to say anything to anyone. When I thought it was safe and he had left for work I quickly put my underwear on and continued to lay there pretending to sleep, feeling very empty. The abuse quickly escalated from there. He took me aside and told me that if I told anyone he would be taken away and everyone would me angry with me. He made sure I understood that I would be breaking my family’s heart and tearing my family apart. And that my auntie would never forgive me.

He told me no one would believe me or support me. And I believed him. He made me believe that my family had no rights because they were immigrants. And my mom and dad’s hard work getting us to Canada would have been for nothing. As I’m writing this, my story, for the first time as an adult, I see the web that he spun. I see how tangled or trapped he made me feel.

He became more brazen with the abuse. I began to think every girl went through this and that his abuse was my cross to bear. The abuse went on for years. Even after we moved out. Even at family functions, I couldn’t get away from him.
I started saying no to sleep overs. All the while I pretended every day that I was okay. Everyday my family would not see the real me. I smiled. I lied. I tried to be perfect.

In grade 6 or 7 I overheard that this uncle and auntie wanted to adopt a little girl from the Philippines. I felt like I could keep my abuse a secret for the sake of my family and their well being but I couldn’t live with myself if I allowed another child’s innocence to be stolen from them.

I disclosed to my teacher. I’ve never regretted this decision. My teacher called the police. They set up a meeting with my parents. The support I had from people who were not my family was overwhelming. It was the first time in my life I didn’t feel so alone.

My mom and dad believed me. They wholeheartedly supported me. They never doubted what I said. I was lucky. They arrested him and it did break my family apart. I caused irreparable damage. I guess disclosure is only an uphill battle. My aunts would ask for details earlier on but then stop me. I got as much support from my extended family as they could handle. I was often told by them to not dwell on it and get on with my life.

I found out that my mom suffered from the same abuse and rape by his hands. And some of my family started to believe that she was the cause of my abuse. That she, a victim herself should have protected me. They started calling her rape and abuse “an affair”. He used the threat of deportation and scandal as a tool to keep our mouths shut.

This talk started to wear on my dad. He began doubting my mom’s love and loyalty. My decision had not only tore my extended family but now my immediate one. My parents almost didn’t make it through the ordeal.

Years later was the court date. My uncle vs. Princess it said. Was Princess me? Because I never felt as pure or as happy as those fairy tales my mother read to me as a child. I was on the stand. The opposing council drew a picture of filled with lies. They said I walked in on their affair and was so angry that I made the abuse up.

I was in a state of shock.

When I was on the stand they asked me for specific details like dates, times, places and ages. I met with my lawyers once when they took my deposition, years before the court date and again in court. I was given no guidance from my family, counselling, no one even told me what to expect at the hearing.
I had to face that man again, while my whole family watched. Had to tell my story in front of people that had turned a blind eye to my pain and suffering. In the end, the judge turned to me and said that because I was so young when it started and due to the lack of physical evidence and witnesses he had to side with my uncle. But under no circumstances did that mean that it did not happen or that no one believed me.

As my mother and I passed by my abuser, he said that we should apologize for the turmoil we caused in his life. I remember that subway ride home. Everyone was quite. My other aunt turned to me and told me to forget it. Don’t think about it she said. Get on with your life.

I grew up believing I was worthless. The abuse left me feeling like used goods. I allowed people into my life that did not have my best interests. I still wonder how some of my family can sit in the same room as him knowing what he did. How can they allow their children to associate with a pedophile? The only consolation is that I saved a little girl from the Philippines, who may have suffered the same abuse as me. And for that I’m proud.

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And then there are stories of emotional abuse. Oddly most of these women weren’t sure if their experience would count or if it was the type of abuse I wanted to write about. Abuse in any form is worth discussing, sharing and most importantly eradicating.

Story 1
Past relationship: I had a constant feeling of anxiety when I was around my guy friends or any guys at all because I knew that if a pic of me surfaced or if a friend of his saw me and told him, I would never hear the end of it (this happened quite a few times). He would fight with me, make me feel guilty, and would be so convincing that I would feel like I truly did something wrong. When you’re in something like that, it’s hard to see how toxic it is, no matter what outsiders say. It took a while for me to take a step back and realize how unhealthy it was and cut ties.

Story 2
He was manipulative. I couldn’t go out with a group of girls without him. I wasn’t allowed to hang out alone with other guys. If he found out I talked to other male coworkers he would freak out on me. He used to tell me that one of my coworkers hated me because I was always flirting with her boyfriend. He constantly told me that I was a cheat and a liar and not good enough for him.

Story 3
After a first date with someone I met online, he asked if I would meet him at a hotel room the next day and I said no. What followed was verbal assault, death threats and things of that kind. He continued to contact me for months in a verbally abusive fashion.

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“Nowhere in the world is a woman safe from violence. The strengthening of global commitment to counteract this plague is a movement whose time has come.” -Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro

Let’s come together to create a safe world where violence against women is a plague of the past. If you or anyone you know are experiencing abuse or need someone to talk to, here are some useful resources:

Ontario
Canada
Global

-Kavita Dogra

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