By Faakirah Irfan:
One of my very close friends sat across me while I traced the sadness on her face. I saw anger in her eyes, the kind that had a spark and could light up any person’s day.
The first time she told me that she had been sexually assaulted, I felt nothing. I looked at her while she stared back at my face for a response.
What are you supposed to do when someone tells you that they were raped? My friend stood miles away from me that day while we sat next to each other. I didn’t even know why she cared to tell me.
After that day, we didn’t talk about it. She had moved on, and so did I.
The next time she opened up to me about being raped, was in class. I didn’t know why she did that, but one day she came up to me and told me everything that had happened to her. My heart raced through the night as I collided with the realities of life I hadn’t known before. I wept by the side of the bed, alone, never getting inside the sheets to sleep.
She looked at me the other day and offered me a warm, enchanting smile. It felt like my insides were going to come out because her face reminded me of that man who had forced himself on her when she was eight. It reminded me of the pills she took, in an attempt to kill herself. It reminded me of her in a room, alone, with cuts on her arm. Her smile burned the sanity in my soul. But we all sat in class that day as they taught us stuff that would never help me deal with how I was feeling about this whole thing.
She called me that day. She said, “When he entered me as a kid, I wanted to try and remember that feeling. The feeling of being raped. It’s so silly that it had happened for five years and I had no idea how it felt. I just, in a faint memory, realised that it had happened, I can’t even remember the day I realised I was raped, you know? It almost feels like it never happened. But on days when I look at myself in the mirror, I feel the wounds between my thighs that no one could see. I feel his arms moving across my body, the traces of his smell. His eyes are all I remember, that’s all I would see, his eyes were full of whatever hell is made up of.”
She hung up after this, I didn’t call back because one more word about her helplessness would kill the little trust I had left in God. For the next few days I felt anger against any man that would look at me and trace his eyes over my breasts. I felt anger towards any man that breathed around me. I felt scared that it could’ve been me.
I realised the strength my friend had, to raise herself out of a five years of sexual assault and how supporting her parents would be. It wasn’t until she said, “I told my parents when I was 17, I regret telling them now. I told my mother, of all people, so that she would stop shouting at me. So that she would love me, so that she could hug me while I was rebelling as a teenager, but instead she restricted me.”
“I remember she came to pick me up from tuition that day, her face filled with anger as she guarded me back home. Even now I’m not allowed to speak about it as it might hurt them. But no one cares about how I live with it every day. They told me it was not my fault. I knew it the moment it happened that it wasn’t my fault.”
She continued in a sarcastic manner “I don’t know why we say to rape survivors that it was not their fault. As a human being, who has been raped, your opinion doesn’t matter. That’s why it’s called rape.”
Talking about her parents she said, “You know it’s funny how your parents, or family, or whoever cares so much about you when you’ve had an accident. They visit the hospital. They bring you flowers, they treat you with kind words and chocolates. They talk to you about happy things. No one got me a flower or chocolate when I told them I was raped. Instead, they asked me to fight it out. I remember covering my mouth with a cushion and shouting my lungs out in the night – in the same bed that I was raped in, years ago.”
I got her flowers the next day, (red and pink) and a new cushion. One that she could hug in the night and not muffle her screams for help. I asked her why she didn’t visit a psychiatrist or seek help. She said, “I remember her, my shrink. I remember her telling me that it wasn’t my fault. She wasn’t a shrink but a teacher in college. She said that she’d help but made a case study out of me instead.”
As days passed by, I stopped asking her questions. But one day, while walking back home I saw her in the middle of the road. It almost seemed like she wanted to get hit by a vehicle. But she picked up a ball instead that some boys had thrown over while playing cricket. It was then that she looked at me and waved. I wanted to hug her.
This woman in front of me was waving at me with more strength than I had ever seen in anybody else. That night I asked her if she ever tried to kill herself. She said,“I died the day he entered me, and I died every time he did it. But it’s now that I am living somehow.”