I have always known I am not a conventional beauty but possess an intangible that men have always gravitated towards. For years, men have preyed on me for it, trying to harness my gentle demure, my infantile whisper… my seeming naiveté. Like a freshly cut oak tree slab with its raw and uneven textured surface, my beauty is enjoyed in layers, in its depth, and in its ostensibly imperfect purity. It is only seen and truly appreciated by a keen connoisseur, like a fine wine aged in its earthy essence. But I have fallen prey to men who knew not how to handle their inexplicable attraction to me, except by force, in their hankering desire to possess and control me. I have been molested twice, at a young age and as a young adult, by those who were supposed to protect me and who were deemed most trustworthy.
No older than 10 years old, I was playing tag with my friends after-school as I had done every afternoon. Running around the office hallways, we headed out back to the outdoor balcony, laughing and shouting “I got you!” And there he stood, with his massive figure, waiting silently, waiting patiently, waiting intently. I felt a shove on my back propelling me out into the balcony and heard the door slam shut behind me. I quickly turned around and grabbed the doorknob. Laughing and giggling, my friends had locked the door and watched me on the balcony alone with him through the cut-out door window. "They're so silly aren't they," he said calmly "let's just hang out here on the balcony until they come to their senses and open the door for us." I suddenly felt a tug of fear in my heart, I had always sensed he wasn't one to be left alone with despite how close our two families were. Ten years my junior, he was a senior in high school and eldest child in our group. I turned around slowly, and the tug at my heart grew sharper. There he stood, with his pants unzipped staring at me like a lusting hunter. I reached for the doorknob again kicking and screaming, but my friends' laughter on the other side of the door grew louder, drowning my cry for help, as they watched him pounce on me, chasing me around the tight-spaced balcony, forcefully grabbing my hands and rubbing himself on me in ecstasy. They watched and laughed at my pain, my wounds…my humiliation. I kicked the door with all my might as he continued to approach me, the sheer pain of being so ferociously trapped and attacked, filled me up with such an out of body pain, ‘till this day how I managed to escape has been completely wiped off my memory. I was wounded in so many layers, my very soul was scarred by the betrayal, humiliation, abuse by both my predator, but most pronouncedly by… 'my friends’ They fed me to the wolf, watched and laughed with tortured joy at my pain, like witnessing an animal being tortured. I beared my wounded scars in silence. And, as though by some miracle, watched our families’ friendship inherently grow apart through the years. A sigh of relief, I thought, because I wouldn’t have to relive the shame by having to face them every day.
He waited silently, patiently, intently.
"Come dance with me," he said as his old record player spouted the old jazzy tunes of my childhood. His nostalgia reminded me of my father who used to play his favorite records on the weekends, filling the house with notes of a Haiti gone and gone too long. I smiled and held on to his hands as we waltzed through the living room. My little cousins sat on the stairway watching us like children looking at their parents in admiration when they dance together. Then I felt his hand stiffen on my back, holding me firmly as he quickly leaned forward to kiss me. I could feel the paralysis rushing up my body as I stiffened in shock. No sooner than I began to wonder why he was doing this, a flash thought rushed through me "the kids!" I feared my little cousins would bear witness to such an inexcusable act. I turned my head towards the stairway, but they were gone. Invigorated by the fact we were now alone, I felt his hand behind my back turn into a fist as he pulled me savagely with all his might against his body. Unable to move from his tight grip, I stared at him with such intensity, my eyes pleaded a resounding "WHY!!!!" But he shut his eyes and pressed his lips on mine. To my detriment, I suddenly felt his tongue frantically probing at my tightened lips in an effort to spread them apart, like a mad man preying on the nectar of a virgin without consent. I was trapped once more, but the maddening scars of my childhood didn't want me to be battered any longer. From my depths, in an out-of-body force, I screamed "UNCLE!!!" And like a snap into consciousness, my uncle began to loosen his grip and I smuggled by body out of his hold and ran out of the house. I ran down the street for what felt like miles. I was running from my predator, past and present, my wounds, my humiliation… the killing shame. I hid behind a tree and felt my body falter to the ground in despair. Thoughts and images of old wounds surfaced in my mind in a frenzy. What was it about me that made men want to prey on me? What made them so fearlessly disregard the risk of being found out considering our close affiliations? What were they trying to gain from doing this?
Then in between, I thought: How was I going to handle this, this time around?
I knew all too well the residues of being silent and holding the pain to myself. I decided I wasn't going to be silent this time! I frantically called my closest cousin and told her everything that happened. But then, in the midst of the tumult, while my cousin was frantically advising me, a quiet calm took over me. I got up on my on my feet and wiped my tears. "I will call you back," I told my cousin, my steady voice abruptly interrupting our conversation. "What are you going to do?" she hesitantly whispered, confused about what was suddenly going on. "I will call you back," I repeated and hung up the phone. An inner voice, an inner strength inside me affirmed: "They may try to break my spirit, but I won't let them take away my ability to LOVE." I walked back to the house and spent the rest of that weekend locked in the room. I thanked my aunt and uncle for their hospitality and never returned there. But on that day, I took an affirmation that changed my life!
I made a decision that day not to let these wounds and offenders stop me from ever loving a man. I made the decision I was not going to see all men as predators, but take the time to love each man for the individual that they are. I made the decision not to cringe at the touch of a man, but to embrace and delight at the soft caresses of a man’s affection. I made the decision not to fear relationships, but know I am worthy of sharing my life with someone completely and uninhibitedly. I made the decision, one that took me the longest to learn, to remain and embrace that seemingly naïve, unwavering True Self; to be ME. I made the decision to not be a VICTIM. They may have tried to make me so, to break me, but STILL, I RISE. I CHOSE TO LOVE instead.
They may try to break my spirit, but I won’t let them take away my ability to LOVE.
I know all too well that inner battle within victims to either bear the wounds and scars left behind silently or to speak out to protect other potential victims. You struggle for years to understand why someone would want to hurt you so deeply morally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, psychologically... why they set out to crush your soul and very being. It is a very personal journey for victims when they have to make a conscious decision on how they will deal with the aftermath of being assaulted; every soul deals with darkness in their own way. For those who chose to break the silence on sexual assaults and harassments, I know how momentous it is to gather the courage to speak out when you are not sure people are ready to listen. I know how momentous it is to proclaim out loud to your predator and to the world, “in spite of the all the pain I endured “I CHOOSE LOVE!” That was my affirmation twelve years ago, that’s what got me through the darkness, helped me heal my wounds, lifted the shame and humiliation, helped me center back to the core of who I am and wondrously… FORGIVE. Yes, forgive! Forgive myself and my predators. I sincerely feel empathy for my predators because I know for sure their souls are more wounded than mine will ever be. Their actions were a cry for help, a beg for healing for some deep wounds afflicted on them at some point in their lives whether they are conscious of it or not. I have crossed paths with both of them again in my lifetime, and with complete clarity can truly say I hope they find the peace they are seeking in this or their next lifetime.
Every soul deals with darkness in their own way.
My wish is that our global community listens more carefully and dares greatly to have the real conversations we need to have about victims, both the offenders and the offended. Men and women are hurting spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and physically. Ill-prepared they don't know how to deal with their emotions. I have observed for way too long how men are groomed not to express their feelings or view women as their equals. So ill-equipped, their natural desires to express their feelings come out through aggression and violence. Wounded, and unable to find solace in an empathizing ear, where imposing men has become the norm, women, on the other hand, are passing on their unhealed anger, shame and fears to the next generation of grown adults. Facing this reality as a global community is as important as a victim's WILL to continue to LIVE, FORGIVE and LOVE compassionately in spite of all the wounds and scars an offender has left behind.