Mirror, mirror…

I share the tragedy of my rape because when I snatch my story out of its’ dark corner and shove it into the light, the impalpable shame that surrounds it vanishes and it becomes powerless over me and my future.

I share my story with the man or woman that is raped every 7 minutes in Canada, with the Brazilian woman that is raped every 15 seconds, to the 93 women that are raped every day in India.

75% of Aboriginal girls are raped by the time they reach 18 years of age.

My story is not just my story. It is the story of many. It is the story of one out of four and one out of six. One is still one too many.

1997. I was 17 years old. It was a cold, dry morning, around 7:00 a.m., I was on my way to school to attend choir practice.

Weeks prior to the rape, we had a brief encounter. I was walking from my house to the bus stop to go to school and he came up from behind me, put his right hand underneath my (uniform) kilt. I felt his hand cup and grab my butt and when I turned around startled, he stared at me valiantly and walked away casually, looking back at me with offensive satisfaction. I just stood there, stunned. I blamed myself for that moment. “Why are you wearing your kilt?” I asked myself. So, guess what? Since I placed blame on myself, I started to wear sweatpants every morning and would change into my uniform when I got to school. Now, isn’t it fucked up that we live in a society where girls and women feel they have no choice but to accommodate evil? It took me decades to realize that there is only one thing that causes rape: RAPISTS.

The morning that it happened I was on my usual route, with my Russell Athletic sweatpants on. Hey, my legs are completely covered, no one will harass me THIS time, right?

Everything happened so fast that I had no time to react. From the time he came up from behind me, to when he grabbed me to when he threw me to the ground, to when I tried to fight back to when he got up and left me there – it all seemed like a matter of seconds. Every touch from him was cold and remorseless. When it plays back in my mind, it’s usually out of sequence and the same fog of frustration and unanswered questions swirl around me.

What were the series of life choices that led this “man” to rape me?
I shouldn’t have tried to fight to back, what was I thinking?
You should pay more attention in tae kwon do class!
It’s this same guy from weeks ago, you should have known!
Why me?
Did she see me?
How could she not see me?
Why didn’t she stop to help me?

I didn’t see her face, but I saw her black heels while I was on the ground – him on top of me. The black heels didn’t stop to help me, I didn’t hear her cry out for help, she didn’t even take steps back, she just kept moving forward as if I was in invisible.

I think of this woman more often than the rapist. For decades, I hated her. Why, why, why? Why? Why didn’t you help me? How can you just walk by something like that? But now, after years of self-reflection, a different assortment of questions have surfaced.

Maybe she thought that someone else would step in?
Maybe she figured someone had already dialed 911?
Maybe she thought there was more than one rapist?
Maybe she was scared that he has going to come after her?
Maybe she simply did not want to get involved?
Maybe her stress response was simply dissociation?

This bystander handed me a gift that day – a mirror. Never will I be a mirror like image of her choices in that moment when she saw me. I am quick to offer help to others because I know what it’s like to be aware that someone has witnessed an incomprehensible situation I am in but does not offer assistance. She has influenced me in my advocacy work. Her actions that day is the reason why I am more than willing to spend hours on Twitter with an online translator supporting a survivor who is 9 hours ahead of me. She is the reason why I point blank asked my cousin if she too was molested by our grandfather. I rather create an uncomfortable conversation and be wrong, then choose silence and be right. I recently spoke at a highschool and shared with them the psychological phenomenon known as the bystander effect. That part of my talk is inspired by the bystander and her black heels. I still think of this woman, but with empathy and compassion now.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and this includes every conversation you hear and everything you see, whether you are overhearing a man disrespecting his girlfriend in public or when a friend slowly starts to confide with you about their childhood trauma.

Always help someone. You might be the only person that does.

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Always Be Aware.

95% of child sexual abusers are known to the child.  The younger the victim, the more likely the abuser is a family member – in my case, my paternal grandfather.  He not only groomed me, he groomed my parents AND my grandmother.  She knew what was happening and did nothing to stop him, making her guilty as well.  Using my molestation in the summer of 1994 as an example, here are four signs to take caution of.

Child Sexual Abusers:

1.  Are ALWAYS available to take care of your child.
My paternal grandparents were ALWAYS our caregivers when they visited us or when we visited them.

2.  ALWAYS gives your child special treatment.
He ALWAYS called me his “favourite granddaughter”.  I remember when he saw my 10th grade school picture, he couldn’t stop gushing over it, telling me how beautiful I looked, that I was all grown up, blah, blah, blah.  When I visited my grandparents in 1997, three years after the last time time he molested me, I noticed that that school photo was framed in my grandparents room.  My siblings school pictures?  Outside in the living room.  Did my parents notice it?  Nope.

3.  ALWAYS gives your child gifts and showers your child with never ending compliments.
One of our summer routines included our grandfather taking my siblings and I to the corner store.  Guess who never had to share her candy?

4.  Manipulates you, the parent, to spend time alone with your child, or ALWAYS finds the time to be alone with your child.
He would molest me after lunch, when my siblings were outside playing with my grandmother, and I would be inside the house trapped with him.  My grandmother’s “job” was to usher my siblings out of the house right after lunch, while letting me know, as the eldest, it was my job to wash the dishes.

Cut Through.

I have been asked quite a lot about why I used to cut and what led me to it.  I share with you an excerpt from an email I sent to a close friend.

When we met I was already cutting.  I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t really “dead” and in actuality, I was indeed living in Hell on Earth.  I started out making “points” on my skin of the constellation Orion (The Hunter) with a sharp pencil.  As an astronomy geek, I knew that Orion can be seen from anywhere in the world, and that comforted me, something constant in my fucked up life.  Dotting and tracing wasn’t exactly cutting, so I guess that doesn’t count.  A bobby pin was my first instrument of choice.  I broke it in half and removed the protective coating that makes it dull.  Then I would use a Swiss army knife, cutting characters onto my thighs.  I then progressed to the elusive box cutter.  I would cut “Samurai” in Kanji (Japanese) on my left thigh and on my right, “Warrior” in Chinese characters.  Kanji was easier, 3 cuts, Warrior took time.  It made me feel in control and in some way, having Samurai Warrior inscribed in my skin was more like an act of affirmation rather than self-injury, staring at it in the middle of night, terrified to go back to sleep because of recurring nightmares that would make any modern day scary movie look like a cartoon.  In the morning I would lie on my bed, with my legs propped up so it would be looking back at me.  Sometimes I would recut, bleeding and repeating it to myself until I believed it, and that I could leave my room and face the outside, this war zone, a world I knew from a very young age was not safe and I had lacked the weapons to survive.  I would stand in the shower and look at those two words trying to feel that I was that…and I would watch the blood from “Samurai Warrior” flow down and mix with the water.  The cuts made my whole body burn.  I would feel it underneath my clothes.  I was numb.  I was dead; a walking corpse.  Blade to skin was the only way I could check to see if I was still alive. 

Thank You.

I woke up on my 34th Birthday with one intention: let love in.

I was thrilled by all the Birthday wishes I wholeheartedly received that day as I continue my journey back to a connection with my body, a soul case that has, for most of my life, been a stranger to me. My day of birth has never been easy, and like many things in this world, I have a detachment from it. Being forced to evacuate my body at 4 years old because a monster made a choice to invade and steal my childhood is the primary reason that I have always woken up on the seventh of every July with an unexplainable emptiness. I would always ask myself, “How can I celebrate a life that I can’t wholly remember and was not allowed to live properly?” It has only been in the past three years that I have started to “like” it, but it was always a game day decision; whatever I felt when I woke up on my Birthday was the wave of emotion that I was going to ride.

It has been a little over twenty months since my first speaking engagement, and the number one question I get asked is why I have chosen to do “this” publicly, why I choose to blog, to speak, to rant, to rave. My answer has stayed the same; nothing positive came from staying silent. In silence, I was cutting, purging, bingeing, over exercising, depressed, suicidal, you name it, it was happening. I don’t know about you, but I like the whole Breaking My Silence thing a whole lot better. I woke up on the morning of my thirty fourth with no shame of my traumas and acceptance that I will never receive apologies from my abusers. But I have also accepted that as long as I am alive, I will always be a work in progress, and that I am living life with intention now, instead of waiting to die. Thank you to everyone that has stood by me, you guys are my real family. And to those that have walked away, you guys have been my greatest teachers, teaching me that rejection is protection in disguise, and that silence is, I believe, a staple in the cultural identity of Asians.  I am thankful to these people for clearing so much room for amazing possibilities. My fellow survivors, in the wake of our monsters destructions, we will always rise victorious. One day at a time. ‘Coz they win when your soul dies.

Thank you, Celeste.

The excerpt is a shining example of how to reach out to a survivor. The message is sincere, supportive and direct without being assertive.  Often times, people find it easier to distance themselves from the person, as if they have contracted some kind of contagious disease.  Instead of asking questions, they resort to making assumptions.  Thank you, my dear friend for reaching out to me.

Do you cut to self medicate?

If so, I just want to support you with sharing. It really shows me you have had major traumas in your life, which I’m aware of, but that it was also traumatic to you.

You coming out and sharing your story I felt you may have come out unscathed. This shows me you are a more courageous woman than I even thought before.

 

10 Warning Signs Of Possible Child Sexual Abuse.

This list are warning signs that I exhibited and my parents missed.

1. Nightmares. (I have not slept through the night since I was 14.)
2. Bedwetting. (Defense mechanism)
3. Easily startled when touched or if a particular person enters the room.
4. Suicide attempts.
5. Self-injury. (My mutilation of choice was cutting, over exercising coupled with under eating.)
6. Sudden changes in school performance.  (I went from being on the top of the Honour Roll to sitting in detention during Summer School.)
7. Overly protective and concerned for siblings. (He threatened that he would go to my little sister instead if I didn’t comply.)
8. Wearing very loose-fitting clothing or more clothing than the weather requires. (Scarves in the summer anyone?  Yup.  That was me.)
9. Outbursts of anger. (Demotion of a belt rank in tae-kwon-do, yellow and red cards at field hockey games…)
10.  Dissociation. (Unexplained crying, blanking out, unresponsiveness)

10 Child Sexual Abuse Statistics

  1. 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
  2. 95% of sexual offenders are known to the child. Only 5% are strangers.
  3. 84% of sexual victimization of children under 12 occurs in a residence.
  4. 453 pedophiles were collectively responsible for the molestation of over 67,000 children, averaging 148 children per individual.
  5. 3 to 8 years is the most likely age for children to be exposed to sexual assault.
  6. 71% of sexually abused women were first abused under the age of 12.
  7. In 98% of reported child abuse cases, children’s statements were found to be true.
  8. 1 in 3 adults would not believe a child if they disclosed sexual abuse.
  9. 73% of child victims do not tell about the abuse for at least 1 year.  45% do not tell for 5 years; some never disclose.
  10. As high as 81% of men and women in psychiatric hospitals have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse.  67% were abused as children.