I’m struggling to understand the shock expressed at the magnitude of the #metoo affirmations.
This revelation was made to me when I was fifteen, at a slumber party with eight or nine other girls. When we were exhausted from indulging in gossip, TV shows and music, the darkness crept in. First we talked about sex; made crass jokes, wondered how many people in our class weren’t virgins.
It took one girl’s inability to hold the dam of suppressed memories to release a flood. An uncle, a teacher, a neighbor, a shopkeeper, a cousin. Every single girl in that room had a story to share. Sexual abuse felt like a rite of passage, akin to getting your period or growing breasts.
Even now as I sift through the countless stories being shared on social media, I’m surprised at how numb I feel. She got fingered, she got masturbated at, she got her ass grabbed, she was forced into a hand-job. I’m beyond disgust and nausea. This acceptance has become a coping mechanism. I don’t have it in me to get angry anymore.
We have dealt with our violations and moved on. The shards remain within us, pricking at the most unexpected moments, reminding us of our once-upon-a-time powerlessness. We’re damaged but okay.
But what of our children?
Mallika Dua’s metoo story described an incident that occurred in the back of a car while her mother was driving and how later that night, her father dislocated the predator’s shoulder. The narrative here is different; it brings out the courage that a seven year old had to tell her parents that a man felt her up.
I have no faith in the possibility of people being compassionate enough to not touch someone without consent. What I do believe is that raising strong children who come right to us at the first sign of trouble can deter sexually deviant individuals. A lot of us who’ve dealt with this bullshit did it silently. We shut up, felt shame and worried about our fragile honor.
Even as a grown up woman, I carry splinters of that little girl within me. The one who used to lock herself in the bathroom with Archie comics to hide from a man. A man who had his own children, who laughed and drank my mother’s tea, whose grainy mustache I can still remember so well.
I inhale, exhale and watch my daughter coloring her book.