I was 16 years old. In other cultures, that is old enough to drive, to drink, to engage in sexual activities, but I was only 16 and I wasn’t intending to mature before my own time. Not once in my life did I wish I was older, I knew that the time would come. I was 16 and my ideal weekend was a trip to the mall with my best friends to catch a movie and have a McDonald’s meal. I was 16 and my parents were my role models, and I was naïve enough to believe that everyone had their pure hearts and good intentions. Up until 16, I had only been kissed and as silly as that might seem, that to me was the biggest correlation to love. I would daydream in class, draw hearts on my notebook and try to see if there would be a nice ring to my name along with my crush’s surname.  I was just 16 when I was touched for the first time, and it was not by choice. The man who took the liberty to touch me was at least 50 years older than I was, a life-long friend of the family. Right in the middle of our house, he found the decency to touch me, as if knowing for a fact that I will sit quiet and allow him to. Little did he know, I was innocent to the point where I did not understand what he was doing, and what sort of intentions he had, so instead I stood still making excuses for him in my head, not because I recognized what he was doing but because I felt that there ought to be a good valid reason why he would do so. It was only until he aggressively ordered me to go to my room and remove my undergarments that I felt scared. Scared enough to lock my bedroom door, but still not scared enough to raise a red flag to my parents and jeopardize a lifelong friendship.

My parents were furious when they eventually found out and took the necessary measures to keep him out of our lives for good. Although I’ve always considered our family to be quite open-minded, “sex” was never a topic that was openly addressed in our home, up until that moment when my mother explained to me the dangers that I will come to face as a young girl growing up, from strangers, and more shockingly from the people closest to me. As a person who doesn’t believe in luck, I suddenly felt lucky enough that I was not tainted even more by that man’s dirty hands and lucky enough to have had my supportive family to protect me. And so, little by little, I became attentive to everything around me. My eyes were finally able to see the gawking of men when I was in a skirt or a dress, my ears started to hear the filthy words that came out of their mouths, and I, unfortunately, started doubting peoples’ intentions and any acts of kindness towards me. “You give and you take”, but everything I have given and continue to give in any aspect of my life has been a personal choice with no expectation in return. But I couldn’t help but question every person’s motive and what they wanted to take from me in return.

I may have been too young to want to engage in any sexual activity, but I was not too young to know that it does not and should not happen by force. It does not and should not happen because a man desires a woman and suddenly her body becomes his entitlement. I am now 28 years old, I fully understand a human’s needs and desires, and I am no longer naïve to believe that sex is an act of love or a result of it. I did hope that with time though, I will be proven wrong but I wasn’t. And in an attempt to not generalize, maybe it really is because I have failed to meet someone to reinforce my trust in men. The bigger disappointment to me though was not the men, but witnessing the women who used every open window to judge each other. I will not defend myself or other women who have been put in similar or even worse positions, but I feel the urgency to clear this point here: When I smile at strangers, I’m not asking for it. When I’m friendly with colleagues or acquaintances, I’m not asking for it. When I wear short skirts or dresses, I’m not asking for it. When I post pictures doing yoga poses, I’m not asking for it. Even when I was only a clueless child and stood still, I was not asking for it.

I refuse to wake up every morning and worry that my choice of wear will provoke an unwanted reaction. I refuse to become someone less friendly and stop smiling, for the fear that I might be misunderstood. I refuse to accept that I deserve any demeaning comment because I’m proud of my persistence to accomplish a full split. I refuse to live in the fear of returning home late by myself. I refuse to have to worry about any comment I make because it might entice unwelcomed feelings. I refuse to live in a world where a woman’s body is a man’s entitlement and her silence is his consent. I refuse to believe that some men thrive on the verbal, physical or even emotional abuse of women. So here is only to the men that have no control over their thoughts and even less control on their actions; we were not placed on earth to excite you, nor to fill any emotional void that you have. We are not challenges for you to overcome nor are we validation of your manliness. We are your mothers, your sisters, your daughters, and your equals.  And for that, I urge you to reconsider. Reconsider not just the short term consequences of your actions, of your words, but the long term impact and damages that you will cause. They say “time heals all wounds”, and while I believe that to be true, I also strongly believe that once something as significant as trust in mankind is destroyed, it really is difficult to recover. For whatever your reason may be, whether be it a sexual desire or merely taking advantage of a woman’s love, it really is not worth it.

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