This # which started appearing on Twitter this weekend, the same weekend as Reclaim the Night Nottingham, hit me hard. Taking to the streets on Saturday with my brave, powerful sisters to reclaim the streets as our own, to break the silence and to shout back, felt like one of the most difficult things I have ever done. This was my fourth Reclaim the Night march but for some reason the hardest of all – so much so that I all but collapsed at the end. It took some extreme measures to get through the night and the support of some of the wonderful women in my life, who don’t even know what they did for me.
So why was this so hard? It was hard because I have slowly been reaching breaking point and the silence is suffocating. Shouting about breaking the silence but not being able to break my own, wanting to just stop and grieve for my own self, something I have never done.
Several people know bits and pieces of what happened but not the full story. It felt mean to tell this to the people I love and those who love me. It is difficult stuff to read, difficult to hear and difficult to know. It was also difficult to live through. But please do not read it if you don’t feel able to – I do not want to spread more sadness in a world so grim.
The reality is that I do not remember a time before being in the hands of a man. My earliest memories are of being sexually abused and it is unbelievably hard to admit that. I do not remember how old I was when it started or when the last incident took place – my guess is from 3-4 to about 9. Nor do I know how many times it happened but I have distinct memories of at least two different men in many different places. I also have memories of wanting it to stop so badly. I have memories of begging God for forgiveness after even though I didn’t know what it was that I was asking to be forgiven for, just that I had done something wrong. Memories of fear and of a certain acceptance every time he came near me. During that time, I spent hours trying to find hiding places which were never ever good enough and plotting ways to make it stop, one of which eventually did work. I still remember that feeling of dread and expectation. Knowing that it could happen anytime, day or night, that my fate depended on the whim of this man. I didn’t understand any of this but I knew it. I knew that I was nothing more than a play thing.
When it finally stopped, it wasn’t because someone stepped up to protect me, it was because I found a way to make it stop. I only wish I had done it sooner and the guilt of not doing it haunts me to this day. This is one of the many reasons I didn’t report, didn’t say a word to anyone until about 8 years later. I didn’t report because I didn’t know it was rape, because I considered myself an equal participant – after all if I didn’t want it, I would have stopped it sooner. I didn’t report because I didn’t have the words to report. We don’t talk about rape or even sex in Pakistan. I didn’t even know what sex was at that age. I didn’t know what to say. Then I didn’t report because I found out what sex was, that it was something wrong, that I had committed ‘the biggest sin of all.’ So I didn’t report. I didn’t report because I thought rape was violent and he wasn’t violent, not really. Then I realised that maybe it was rape but I didn’t report because the first time I heard the word, it was in hushed tones and something that ruined lives. Finally, when I stopped caring about what society thought of me and and tried to tell people, I was told it was normal, that it happened to everyone and that I shouldn’t ruin his life after all this time. His life, his needs, his feelings – I grew up knowing that they were more important than my life, my pain and my body. So again, I didn’t report and never will.
I am just a stat and not even that but I am still here so no he didn’t won. I fight every day and when I feel like I can’t fight any longer, I fight even harder. I might not have reported but no he hasn’t won.