Gender-based violence is an everyday affair for most women and other individuals who don’t fit into the stringent patriarchal boxes of identity. I undergo street sexual harassment on a daily basis, every time I step outside my house. I have been ogled at, felt up inappropriately, called names like “sexy”, and have received creepy flying kisses from random strangers on the road and in public transport. These have been some of the instances so far and they aren’t even one-time experiences. If I go out after writing this, I know this would happen again.
Adding to it, about six months ago, I was sexually assaulted while I was unconscious/asleep. Initially, I was unconscious and thus, unaware. But when I finally started to realise what was happening to me, I froze. The fact that I apparently didn’t outrightly say ‘No’ was read as me being up for whatever was happening. However, I still fail to understand how, a body that inactive and frozen (almost like a corpse) could give out a message like this. It took me almost an hour to get up and stop the abuser (who was supposedly a friend, by the way).
Since the day it happened, I have been trying to write about it but have been constantly choking on the words. Finally, after about ten days I managed to pen it down in a poem and that felt like one of the first victories.
Next, I made sure that I wore the hoodie (which I was wearing that night) on happier occasions with my friends and family to get rid of that tangible reminder of that night. I also made sure that I constantly communicate with people about how I was feeling and vented out my frustration/anger/sadness. What I had to keep reminding myself was that my body is mine, no matter what and I don’t have to lose love and respect for it because of anything
Surviving through that incident has made me empathise with the kind of torture an individual faces in such a situation and after such experiences. To fellow survivors, I would just like to say that it is very important to reclaim the lost sense of agency over your body once you have been assaulted. You have to believe that your body is solely yours and will be yours no matter what.
It is also important to make sure you vent your emotions/feelings until you feel that you have made progress with healing from that moment of horror. It feels good to continue doing so, even after that, as part of your healing process.
Finally, and this is the most important one, make sure you give yourself the freedom to act according to yourself, for your healing process. Nobody other than you knows what would work best for you. Accordingly, you can ask for a helping hand from your loved ones, but your healing process is yours to decide and chart out and nobody should be able to prescribe one for you.
I don’t know how many more survivor stories would we need to understand and start working to curb sexual violence. Sexual violence against women needs to be opposed headfirst, by getting rid of patriarchy. Everything that impinges on and violates women’s and other marginal identities’ sense of agency is because of patriarchal systems that give privilege to the phallus over anything else. It is time we start teaching consent related topics to people before any more women fall prey to the male sense of entitlement.
Disclaimer: This story was originally published as an interview as a part of The Survivor Stories Project by The Pixel Project, on their website here.
Featured Image Credit: Jason Thielke