Content Warning: sexual abuse. This entry might upset or trigger certain audiences, please read at your own risk.
This is the third and (almost) last volume in the Fertility Experiences series. Next week we will have a surprise epilogue to Lilia’s story.
We have all heard the tale of the looming figure stalking the female child at night. Hidden in the dark behind a corner, cowering in a poorly lit doorstep. The helpless child walks, unaware of the danger, into her building. The man attacks. We have heard the warnings, given by thoughtful parents and older relatives, that we should walk with our keys in between our fingers. That we should make three right turns at night if someone is walking behind us. To make fake phone calls, to speak loudly, to pretend that mum or hubby are waiting for us. We are told to cling to benevolent-looking men for protection. We are never told that those who are close to us can do the unthinkable, as well.
Like many other women, Lilia was betrayed by someone close to her. She was raped by her teacher. The technicalities don’t matter, they are a blur. Could’ve she? Should’ve she? ‘I could have done more’, she tells me as she reflects back into her past. She had a panic reaction at the time which made her feel numb, turning the ordeal into an out of body experience. After her rape, she cleaned up everything but could not remember how or why it had happened. Memories about it came back slowly as if her mind was trying to soften the blow and allow her to defend herself from the horror.
Lilia advocates that women are not taught that their bodies belong to them. She says that we not only need to teach girls that saying ‘NO’ it’s ok, but we need to teach them to mean it. Feeling the NO has to mean the same as establishing the right to say NO. Sometimes one might feel that sex is ‘owed’ and that our bodies are not truly ours. Just because you don’t say no, does not imply you are saying yes.
However, and as much as Lilia reinforces how important it is to feel you are allowed to say no, she stresses the relevance of the ‘YES’, of saying yes when you want to by your own choice and free from prejudices and boundaries.
When I asked her how she has stayed strong in moments of vulnerability, she says that digging through the layers of what she was taught to be, and then finding ways of how she should be by herself helped her break stereotypes. I told her that she is a brave warrior. Her response was that true bravery shows when we put down the weapons and dare to trust again, when we learn to be soft and openly vulnerable again.
“You have to be like yourself, you have no idea what you’ll discover”
Writer’s note: I had some doubts of putting this story under ‘Fertility Experiences’ since sexual abuse is a form of violence. Nonetheless, I feel this story suited the series of Lilia’s bodily experiences rather well, and would not be authentic to ignore it.