I remember the first time I became aware of what my “private” body parts could do. I was at one of my uncle’s house playing with his daughter when he walked in. He had been drinking and he simply sat on the bed by us as I felt my cousin tense up. He was slurring his words and slowly caressing his daughter’s face. Only a few minutes passed by when my mom came in. She said “Stacey! Vamonos. Ya nos tenemos que ir.” As I hurriedly grabbed my toys, I ran out of the room and my mom grabbed me as we went in the car. On our way home she explained to me that the little thing between my legs should never be looked at by anyone else but me and that I should never allow any men to hug me too tight or kiss me in any place. That should never go to the bathroom alone, and that I should always keep my eyes down when I walked. She specifically told me to stay away from my uncle when he drank and to never leave her side when he was around. As a little girl I never understood why being around my uncle made me feel uncomfortable, almost like I was being hunted and he was always ready when the opportunity came. At the time I was 4-years-old. I haven’t seen my uncle since I was six. He got detained and jailed for raping his daughters and was found guilty of making child pornography.
If I could go back in time and talk to my 4-year-old self now, I would say this:
I am so sorry for the many many times you will suffer sexual harassment. I am sorry that boy in middle school grabbed your butt and you felt your stomach drop to the ground in embarrassment, I am so sorry for the men who made you walk a little faster when you were taking the bus, for the fact that you always made sure to be surrounded by women when you were in large crowds, for the fact that you have to walk around with your keys in your hand acting as a weapon in case something comes up, for the endless disgusting men who take pictures of you as you’re walking by, for your friend’s boyfriend who took pictures of your ass only to blame you of being too provocative when he got caught. For the man who followed you in a truck in 10th grade and persistently asked you to get in his car, for the other man who followed you all the way home and asked you how much money it would take to suck him off. I am so sorry because one time you got too drunk and went home with a guy who after having sex with you left you in a strange house with no sense of where you were at. I am so sorry for allowing you to become a person who believed that sex was the only way to keep a man. I’m sorry for believing that maybe if you let him fuck, if you gave great head, if you always said yes to sex and you did it just to please him — somehow he’d fall in love. I’m sorry for believing you wouldn’t be loved if you were anything less than sexy and sensual. I’m sorry I didn’t always love you and I allowed men to treat you for something less than you are. Most of all — I’m sorry that it took me this long to realize.
I own my body. I am mine. I do not deserve to be treated as a piece of meat, as a simple fucking hole for men to stick their dick into. I will not tolerate any other man making me feel like I am guilty for not accepting their drink, not giving my number out, not allowing them to have sex with me. All men — from a random dude at a bar to my future husband. I AM MINE. I will no longer feel guilty for standing my ground, for knocking phones off of disgusting hands when they are violating my privacy, for flipping pigs off, for saying “What the fuck are you looking at?” when old creepy dudes stare a little too long.
I will create a safe space for other women, I will celebrate other women’s sexual freedom as I do my own, I will stand up when I see other women being harassed. I will inspire other women to join me.
Me, too. I have been sexually harassed, I have felt my heart drop as a group of men approached me and I had no one by my side, I have felt belittled and under appreciated for not being sexually good enough, I know what it feels like to think that I would rather be killed than raped by a man.
If you’re reading this — you’re not alone and I am sorry and give my deepest apologies to you too. Between your thighs lays power. You have super human force. If you’re a part of those who have been harassed, assaulted, used, raped — know we are all with you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are more than your body, your outside shell.
If you’re reading this — I see you. I validate your pain. If you’re reading this and you’re not sure if you have ever been assaulted, if your memory blocked off the pain, if you felt guilty saying no, know there’s still a community of us to support you through the uncertainty and blurry flashes of pain.
I am proud of the world for speaking up on these things. As often as they happen, they are still taboo and hidden behind the scenes. As a feminist, I promise to keep fighting to make this world a better place just as my mother did for me the best she knew how. I cringe on the thought that one day I will have a daughter who will experience some of these things and because of her, I promise to keep talking, standing and fighting for against them.
To my future daughter, to my sister, to my mother, to my friends, to every girl reading this. I will never not stand for what is right and that is your right to OWN your body.
Thank you so much for reading and taking the time. Tonight hold your women a little closer, let them know you are not giving up the fight.
I love you guys. Thank you for reading my thoughts.