History Historical Badasses

This gynecologist was Auschwitz’s only salvation

Editor’s note: The content below might be graphic and disturbing.

From a young age, Gisella Perl lived on a different path. Born in Sighet, Hungary, Perl was the only woman and Jew graduate of her secondary school class before later traveling to Berlin to study medicine, where Jewish medical practice thrived before World War II. Returning to Hungary, she became a doctor alongside her husband, Ephraim Krauss. Together, they had a son and daughter, Gabriella, who would be torn from her in 1944 when the family was sent to the Siget Ghetto. Later, Perl was stuffed into a windowless cattle train bound to Auschwitz. 

In Auschwitz, she was one of several doctors under the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele, a Nazi physician and captain who was known in the camp as the “Angel of Death”. If a prisoner was sent to Mengele because they were sick, weak, or for any other reason, they never came back. Mengele was known for gruesome human experimentation. At first, Perl had the standard duties of bandaging wounds and treating broken ribs. Over time, her work became harrowing, both physically and mentally.

Dr. Mengele had ordered Dr. Perl to inform him of any pregnant women in the camp so that they would be sent to another camp for “better nutrition”. However, Dr. Perl quickly realized that there was no separate camp for pregnant women and that they were being used as research subjects. Eventually, these pregnant women would be thrown into the crematorium, sometimes alive. After that, Dr. Perl decided to ensure that no women would become pregnant ever again in Auschwitz. In a 1982 interview with The New York Times, Perl said “The greatest crime in Auschwitz was to be pregnant.”

Rape and violence ran rampant in Auschwitz, despite Nazi taboos surrounding sex with Jewish women. Sex was often used as a commodity by women to trade for essential goods within the camp. Dr. Perl recalled being raped by a male prisoner in exchange for shoelaces, which she needed to walk to the hospital every day. This is how most women found themselves pregnant in Auschwitz, which was a death sentence.

After learning of a pregnant prisoner, Dr. Perl would explain the consequences of pregnancy to the expectant mother. If the mother consented, Dr. Perl would quietly perform an abortion to terminate the pregnancy in the middle of the night in the barracks. These abortions were performed without medical tools, anesthesia, antibiotics, or bandages. In the rare cases that a woman gave birth, Dr. Perl would silently take the newborn’s breath away to save the mother’s life. Aside from her surgeries on pregnant women, she would also treat women’s laceration wounds from S.S. whips, rashes, and sexual infections.

Eventually, Dr.Perl was moved to a different concentration camp, which was later liberated by the British. For another month, she remained behind at the camp to treat the sick and dying. After that, for 19 days she walked on foot across Germany in search of her family. Her husband and son died soon after they were taken to the concentration camp in 1944, but her daughter, Gabriella, had survived the war while being hidden by a Protestant family. It wasn’t until 1978 that Perl would reunite with her daughter and move to Herzliya, Israel to live with her. But before that, at the recommendation of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr.Perl specialized in infertility at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan after meeting First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and eventually being granted special U.S. citizenship by President Harry Truman.

Perl never forgot the horrific experience of having to kill babies in Auschwitz in order to save the mothers. Every time she walked into a delivery room, she would say the same prayer: “God, you owe me a life, a living baby.” God answered her prayers, and she delivered over 3,000 healthy babies. 

In 1948, her memoir I Was A Doctor in Auschwitz was one of the first books to detail sexual violence in concentration camps. Throughout her career, she also co-authored nine academic papers on women’s and children’s health. 

As an aspiring gynecologist, I aim to walk in the footsteps of Dr. Perl, a woman who continuously risked her life to save others. Each time she held a newborn in her arms, memories of Auschwitz probably haunted her…and gave her the resilience to continue to deliver babies. Today, healthcare workers on the frontlines remain society’s greatest heroes, and it was people like Dr. Gisella Perl who paved the way for good in a world of hopelessness that we have to thank. 


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Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I rushed my first time because I thought I was late to the game

Content Warning: Some parts of this article may depict assault or unclear consent, you can scroll past the section, marked at the start and end with double asterisks**

It’s simple, really: much like Drew Barrymore’s character in the excellent millennium celebrated film, I was (almost) 25 and had never been kissed. Except, unlike Barrymore’s character, I had really, really never been kissed. And until the moment I had been, I couldn’t even decide whether or not I wanted it. Unfortunately, this is not some magical love story: my first kiss—my whole first time, was a massive disaster. 

I’d had crushes, but I’d rarely seen them through: chickening out rather disastrously when I was 19, determined to preserve a friendship I could rely on, rather than a relationship I was doomed to destroy. I’d otherwise been dumped when I was 22 for having a “difficult family history” and mental health issues that left my partner convinced they’d always receive less from me than someone else (it helps for context, to add that right in the middle of this relationship I’d been diagnosed with severe depression and probably wasn’t in the right place for a serious relationship). Needless to say, three years on, I was not looking for love, but I was looking for something.

I had really, really never been kissed.

I’d felt late to the game with my 25th birthday looming in 2020 and seemingly nothing to show for it. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it before, but suddenly in those last few months of being 24, my lack of experience felt like the last milestone of adolescence I finally wanted to cross.

The second eldest of mostly sisters, I was the last of us and the only one to remain single for so long. While they never made a big deal out of it, it certainly felt like one. I worried they considered me prudish, shuttering more explicit talk when I neared, not wanting to make me feel uncomfortable, I assumed, in my inexperience. They’d later clarify it was in fact because of my indifference.

“Well you can’t know if you’re asexual if you’ve never had sex.”

This too, is true: I’d never understood, in the way it felt like my youngest sister always did, what made this actor or that person hot.

What did that mean?

What did that feel like?

How did I know if I was interested in someone if all I felt when I saw a simple picture was nothing?

My college experiences were borne of deep friendships: I’d cultivated an intimacy that made me feel safe enough to be vulnerable. It wasn’t how they looked, it wasn’t because they were both male.

When I toyed with the idea of finding a label, a well-meaning friend said, “Well you can’t know if you’re asexual if you’ve never had sex.” A few months after that conversation, I could confidently say that having sex absolutely did not make understanding sexuality any easier. 

In fact, if anything, perhaps backed by this sense of feeling broken and behind pushed me to make a decision I probably wasn’t ready for. Now it bears mentioning that I am a planner—I keep shoes in my online cart for months debating whether or not they’re the right ones, or whether I need, need them before executing a purchase. So it’s rather telling that from the time I thought of it (mid-February), to the actual execution of what occurred on the first Monday night in March that I was breaking my own rules by rushing into what I hoped would make me feel better. Rather, I was rushing toward someone I hoped would make me feel less confused. Someone, who, unfortunately, had no idea what was going on.

I wanted to get over this feeling of being “too old” to be a virgin.

A classmate of mine who I considered more than an acquaintance, if not friends, was where I landed. True to my nature, and probably my antidepressants, there wasn’t an immediate frisson. We were both writers, and perhaps through sharing our writing, I thought, in the smallest of ways, knew each other better than random strangers.

So after thinking about it and deciding against it, after a particularly rough week I woke up on Monday, March 2nd and by that evening showed up at his place and asked him to turn me down. 

While he expressed genuine surprise in seeing me there and insisted that he couldn’t enter a relationship with me, he asked me if I wanted to go up. Bundle of anxiety that I was, I did. And I overshared—a lot. Probably too much. I wanted to get over this feeling of being “too old” to be a virgin. I wanted him to understand that I was nervous, but that I could be brave. The only thing I miscalculated was that he didn’t care. 

Sure, he listened patiently as he tried to sober up from the blunt he’d smoked before I arrived. He was quiet, introspective—listened to my anxieties about graduating, about my family life, about my failed relationships. Finally, he asked me why I was there. I didn’t know—to feel seen, I guess. For him to know that I’d been thinking about this—about him for a few weeks. I wanted to know if he could ever—would ever, be interested in me. He paused, then, before asking, did I want him to kiss me now? Only if he wanted to, I said. And he did, so we did. And while I was sure I’d be terrible at it, he said it didn’t matter. So I decided not to worry about it and follow his lead.


There’s a reason we talk so much about consent — because everyone, myself included, will go back to a moment and try to understand what happened. What changed? How did it go from a (somewhat) positive encounter to murky gray so fast? Was it when I joked that if he liked my breasts in my dress he’d like them in my bra even more? Or was it when he shucked the dress, mouth going straight to the cups that I was surprised, but still went with it?

By the time he said he needed to come, and even though I couldn’t because of my meds, it wasn’t fair to lead him this far, it was still only gray territory. Because, it was “of course, only if I wanted to.” I said no exactly twice that night, first when he said he didn’t have a condom (he didn’t prefer them because it was less fun with them).

And yet somehow, after a very enticing, and repeated “come on, let’s just stick it in” that no, turned into an okay. Fine. Sure. Thankfully, the second no stuck—despite his repeated requests that I put my mouth on him, I told him I wasn’t comfortable. I wasn’t ready, maybe next time.

He had no interest putting his mouth on me, first claiming reciprocity. But he did—just once to help me along. It wasn’t enough to get me ready, but he’d given up trying. Or didn’t notice. So what happened next was pretty painful. So. Extremely. Painful. I’d be bleeding for the next day.

There was an exact moment I swear I was watching my body from the corner of the room, in pain, trying to be into it. Watching him tell me about a girl he’d been sleeping with who also liked how he’d smelled so much she asked what it was so she could get it for her boyfriend. That definitely didn’t help things along. Finally, he gave up.

He didn’t come, I wasn’t into it, and now he needed to read for class. I should probably go. I asked him if he would hold me, but apparently, that was relationship-only privileges, which this was not. I felt like I was slowly returning to my body, but not in those cliched ways. It felt stranger now, that he had seen me naked. That he had put himself inside me, knowing it was my first time, with so little care. I dressed mechanically, saving my scarf for last, feeling his eyes on me as I recovered my hair. 

He wouldn’t ask how I was doing until two days later, the evening after I showed up to work looking “distressed”. He’d get drunk at a concert with a friend that night and tell her he thought he’d fucked up. That I had come on to him. That I’d been obsessed with him, insisting we have sex without a condom. He’d start gaslighting me, reminding me I’d initiated it whereas he’d been clear on the relationship point. So what else did I expect? This was how it was done, didn’t I know? He didn’t like condoms, couldn’t be bothered with them—I was being silly. 

I’d wonder for months during the long hours of quarantine if he was right. If I had pushed aggressively for this. If I had insisted he sleep with me. If, in accordance with his version, I was a villain. Leaving him no quarter, showing up at his place unannounced and insistent. I’d agonize over why he hadn’t been nicer, gentler, rejecting that he’d said that’s how it was supposed to be. 


In my journey for answers, for catching up with the crowd, I suddenly felt all alone (in the middle of a global pandemic), discarded, and unlovable. I didn’t want him to love me, but how could he renounce any responsibility?

Several months later, he wouldn’t have any better answers. He’d start sleeping with a friend in whom I’d confided about what happened. A friend who had at the time claimed to be stunned and so angry with him on my behalf. But suddenly she’d disappeared from my life, choosing him, and as he said it, “his side of the story.”

To be very clear, consent isn’t “tricky”. There’s yes and there’s no.

In the end, I could care less about my virginity—I had no answers and even more questions. My body no longer felt like my own. Every day, it felt like he’d told yet another person about what had happened—exposing me and my body before everyone. It felt like despite my scarf, my semblance of control over who could see my body was gone.

I felt like hiding from the world, anxiously messaging friends trying to feel out if they too were laughing at me, or if they meant it when they said they loved me.

To be very clear, consent isn’t “tricky”. There’s yes and there’s no. Yes is enthusiastic and genuine and if it’s not then it’s not consent. Especially if it’s given after repeated questioning, or is the easier option to get out of a situation.

Women don’t often come forth with encounters that they regret because there’s a misconception that we only cry assault because we regret it ever happening.

I do not regret my choice to want sex.

But wanting it, even approaching someone who knows you want it, does not replace agreeing to it. My only regret is approaching someone who cared so little for me and my comfort that I agreed to something I said no to after feeling pressure to change my answer. For my mental health, I’m not ready to label this assault, but if this has happened to you, you are entirely within your rights to call it such. Your body and choice are always deserving of respect. 

There doesn’t have to be a lesson here. But the only thing that goes without saying always, is that there is no deadline.

There’s no shame in not being interested in sex, in being interested, in pursuing someone, in waiting, in going for it. I was gaslighted and taken advantage of by someone who had no intention of taking care of me.

But I’m not terrified about what’s next. In fact, I’m hoping that he’s the worst I’ll ever have.

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The Best of The Tempest: Life edition. Our favorite 7 stories from 2019.

2019 was a year. While in the grand scheme of human history it probably won’t register as particularly significant, it was a year where womxn and femmes, and basically anyone who isn’t a cishet white man, started to find words to speak their truth. We talked about deeply traumatic experiences. We shared pain. But we also shared resiliency. So in no particular order, these are the Life Editor’s top picks for 2019.

1. “I couldn’t speak about my assault for years, until now” by

I couldn’t speak about my assault for years, until now

We all know assault sucks, but to describe it and confront it in writing? That’s something special.

2. “We’re all the victims in a world of school shootings” by  

We’re all the victims in a world of school shootings

In an America where shootings seem to happen every other day, a deep and personal narrative describing the effects of such happens is so important. Even if you haven’t been directly involved in a shooting, the PTSD hits us all in its own way.

3. “My neighborhood believes in walls and privacy, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed a week without a wall” by

My neighborhood believes in walls and privacy, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed a week without a wall

Walls are made for privacy but are they hurting human compassion and sympathy? During one week without a wall in the suburbs of Johannesburg, this author discovered an entirely new side to her neighborhood. But at the end of that week, the wall went back up and the camaraderie faded. Is privacy worth it?

4. “I wish people talked more about this depression symptom” by

I wish people talked more about this depression symptom

Brain fog is a real and horrific effect of depression that doesn’t nearly get enough attention. Brain fog refers to a cluster of symptoms that affect thinking, memory and recollection. Moreover, it affects more than just those with depression. Understanding each other is the first step to making this world a better and more accepting place.

5. “What I didn’t know about life after graduation” by

What I didn’t know about life after graduation

Moving from the freeform setup of college into the abyss of the unknown is terrifying for everyone. We think the real world will offer the same freedom but, instead, we take any and all jobs that will pay the rent and offers health insurance.

6. “Here’s why I’m done helping you with your white guilt” by

Here’s why I’m done helping you with your white guilt

It is not up to women of color to make you feel better about your inherent racism. The everyday turmoil of microaggressions and stress placed on the shoulders of POC is simply unfair and exhausting.

7. “I lost my faith in religion. Now I have to tell my Muslim parents” by

I lost my faith in religion. Now I have to tell my Muslim parents

Something changed in this author’s faith over time. Slowly, she began to listen to music, dance and lose her passion for Islam. Is she still Muslim? Why couldn’t she connect?

Life is nuts but when we share our experiences the world gets a little closer and we understand each other a little better. Cheers to 2019!

Love Life Stories

I was in denial, until a stranger in Germany helped me confront my past

When I was younger, I was sexually assaulted.

What happened to me set a precedent for the way I experienced intimacy, the way I perceived romantic relationships, and the way I felt about myself. For the longest time, the overarching narrative in my head was that men, even those I came to love, could (and would) hurt me one way or another and that when they did, I deserved it. 

Naturally, the narrative self-perpetuated and I made poor choices involving shitty people.

As far as I was concerned, someone who lied and cheated and claimed to love me was as good as it would get. When I did meet people who seemed genuine and caring, I was afraid of them. I was a master of self-sabotage, lashing out whenever I felt vulnerable.

I always thought that I just needed to grow up and get over it. My craving for intimacy fought hard to break through the mental barriers that were set in place, but they only seemed to reappear every time I convinced myself that I had made progress.

Picture taking down a wall brick by brick, and every time you remove a brick and set it down, you do so in such a way that you just end up building another wall. Only now the wall stands at a slightly different angle, and perhaps you built it to appear a little less haphazard.  

I always thought that I just needed to grow up and get over it.

I knew for a long time that I needed something to break the cycle. I tried meditation. I tried running. I tried to pretend like it never happened. But none of it worked, and I was at a loss, until… I wasn’t. 

I was about five weeks into my post-graduation backpacking trip around Europe. I had spent the last couple of days wandering around the city of Hamburg, drinking hot chocolate and getting stranded at Germany’s largest port. Needless to say, it had been an eventful (and tiring) couple of days. So, I decided to spend this particular evening sitting in a corner of my hostel’s common room and making a dent in the book I was reading. 

In between chapters, I struck up conversations with fellow travelers and made plans to meet this one girl for coffee the next day.

We found ourselves in this little alternative cafe a short walk down the road from where we were staying. I enjoyed a slice of blueberry cheesecake while we made small talk and swapped travel stories. 

She eventually started asking questions about my upbringing: What was it like to grow up in Saudi Arabia? How accurate were the depictions of the Kingdom in the media? 

She was curious about my personal experiences and we delved deeper into my life than I anticipated. But she seemed genuine, and I found myself opening up about my strained relationship with men, and how I felt like the root of it all could be traced back to a few key moments in my life.

I told her about how I was sexually assaulted, more than once, and forced to carry the blame. She just looked at me, nodded, and said: “That must have been really hard for you.” It was oddly grounding, almost as I had never really allowed myself to see it that way.

She just looked at me, nodded, and said, “that must have been really hard for you.” It was oddly grounding.

She took a breath and opened up about her own experience of sexual assault. I just sat there, listening to this beautiful girl talk about the man who hurt her, unable to understand how she seemed so calm, but she had made her peace with what had happened.

She was living a full and beautiful life; he had no hold on her here.

She offered to share a poem she had written during the aftermath. I remember how hard I worked to keep my hand from shaking while I held her phone. I remember still how the room felt when I set it down and looked up to see she was now crying too. I remember just sitting there, holding her hand across the table, feeling my chest grow a little bit lighter.

I was sexually assaulted.

I can say that now or, I guess in this case, I can type it without feeling my entire body tense in the apprehension of an uninvited hand reaching out to wander across my skin. But I didn’t get here alone, so this is an ode to the person who really helped set my healing in motion.

She wasn’t a mental health professional. She wasn’t someone I had known for years. She was just a girl who had experienced something dark, and, through it all, had chosen to live a full and happy life.

What she didn’t know, was that in doing so, she had given me permission to do the same.

Editor's Picks Gender & Identity Life Stories Life

I couldn’t speak about my assault for years, until now

Trigger Warning: Mentions of sexual assault and PTSD.

It’s never easy speaking up about the person who assaulted you. But it’s much harder when you decide to come forward with your story many years later.

My fears had drowned out my voice. But not anymore.

I was young, innocent, and afraid when I was assaulted. I didn’t know who to tell. I didn’t know who’d want to hear my story. I didn’t know who’d believe me because I lived in a society where girls were told that it was always their fault.

You can’t laugh too loud. You need to walk a certain way. Your dupatta must always be around your neck.

Some part of me grew up believing all these excuses. Some part of me thought that maybe, I was responsible for what I endured.

You need to walk a certain way. Your dupatta must always be around your neck.

But now, years afterward, when I think about it, I realize that it couldn’t have been my fault. I was just a little girl back then.

My harasser had no excuse to assault me.

For a long time, I kept my story close to myself. I didn’t let anyone else hear it. It only lived in my journal until now. But, I’ve finally found my voice. After years of hesitation, I’ve decided to write my story. I know there are already too many out there. But they’re all important.

Including mine. And yours.

It was late summer. There was still time before school opened again. I always wanted to learn tennis and my parents decided that I should take up tennis classes before summer was over. I went to the tennis court every day. For a few days, my coach gave me lessons outside in the open courts, where there were people all around. But later on, he insisted that we should go to the squash court, as it was empty, and he could teach me better.

I went with him.

Within the four walls of the squash court, he didn’t teach me tennis. He assaulted me.

What would have become of him if I exposed him all those years ago?

I didn’t resist when for the first time, he wrapped his hand around mine and said, “I’m only telling you how to hold the racket.” I smiled and asked if I was holding it correctly. As days passed by, he became bolder. He would wrap his arms around my stomach and ask me to hit a shot. I would do as he would say.

His prickly beard rubbed against my face and his hands grazed my body in all the wrong places. He smelled of all things bad. I wanted to pull away, but he was big and strong. My tiny wrists wriggled in his fists.

I wanted to run away. I wanted to scream. But even if I tried, I couldn’t. I was scared of him. And then, finally, one day, I stopped going. When my parents asked me why I told them I didn’t want to learn tennis anymore.

I wanted to run away. I wanted to scream. But even if I tried, I couldn’t.

I still think about him, even if I don’t want to.  And I don’t think that’ll ever change. I remember his face, his hungry, malevolent eyes pricking my skin like needles.

I think about where he might be right now. I think about how many more girls he probably assaulted after I moved away.

What would have become of him if I exposed him all those years ago?

I’ve realized now that all those years ago, I was assaulted by a man much older than I was. It was sexual assault when his hands moved up under my shirt, when he tightly held my wrists and when he rubbed his face against mine.

All of it was wrong and none of it was my fault. I’ve spoken up now, years after all of it happened, because it’s never too late to speak up, to share our stories, to raise our voices.

I was always afraid to speak out. But not anymore.

His time is finally up.

Reproductive Rights Gender Love Life Stories

My professor forced himself on me. Here’s why I didn’t report him.

Trigger warning: descriptions of sexual assault

This past week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made headlines when she publicly stated she was assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’sSoon after, Donald Trump questioned why Ford did not report the assault to the authorities

In response, survivors shared why they did not report, using the hashtag  #WhyIDidntReport on social media Like Ford, I too was assaulted, but I did not report because of major power imbalances between the person who assaulted me and myself

I was out of the hospital after spending a week in the emergency room and short stay, for a then-unknown disease which turned out to be vasculitis. I was only in the second month of my first semester at university.

To say the least, I was overwhelmed, confused, and scared.

At that time, I would describe myself as being as a hardworking student whose identity was very much attached to her grades. I had a quiz two days after I was released from the hospital in an advanced course. I thought the best thing to do was to go to my professor during office hours to ask if I could take this test at a later date.

He would be understanding, right?

His office hours were right after class, so despite feeling still sick, I decided to stick it out until the end. He tried to force himself on me.

I ran back to my dorm and cried. I could not form coherent thoughts – all I knew was that a professor sexually assaulted me. I didn’t feel like I had a choice about what to do next. I didn’t want to go to the police because I was afraid that they would belittle me. I still wanted to continue to be in the same program.

I wanted to switch classes, but I knew I would have to go to the same professor to get his permission. 

No way was I going to be alone with him again.

Nothing too horrific happened over the next few months. By “not horrific,” I mean not anything that I would label as sexual assault. He winked at me every single class, whenever I was close he would put his hand on my back – both of which made me want to disappear. Whenever I asked him about an assignment or grade, he said that I had to go to his office hours because he didn’t understand my question

A few months went by, and a summer program accepted me that I really wanted to participate in.

The problem was that I needed him to sign off that I was in good standing in his course. I thought doing this in the hallway would be a safe place to ask. Unluckily, he was also in charge of transfer credits for my program. When I asked him if he could sign off on my form, he said that he would think about it. At the same, his hand gripped my breast. I didn’t think he would be so blatant about his sexualized violence towards me, but I was wrong.

The next class he signed my form, winked at me, and ended up raising my grade at the end of the year. In the fall, I had to meet with him, in an open room, to discuss my transfer credits for the summer program that I had completed. He didn’t want to give me the credits despite agreeing to do so the spring before.

Over the next two months, he continued to send emails saying that I had to meet with him to discuss the courses that I took. There was no way I was going near him. I ended up contacting my faculty and complained how long the transfer process was taking. They ended up granting me the credits that he refused to give me.

I left that university at the end of that semester, which was in December 2017.

I had somewhat of a mental breakdown in early April this year, when all of his abuse towards me was triggered by news of this happening to other students. I never blamed myself, but I was somewhat in denial about how bad it was. I didn’t know how to cope with it and knew my university would do nothing even if I reported him.

In a world that makes it hard for survivors to come forward about their experiences, we can’t be blamed for being afraid of reporting assault. Systems need to be put in place to be more friendly towards survivors, and universities need to become less violent places, where rape culture could not be more present. Until we confront rape culture both in academia and in society in general, gendered and sexualized violence will continue to unfairly punish survivors.

#WhyIDidntReport: he was my professor, and I didn’t want to face retaliation. 

Editor's Picks Gender & Identity Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I’m afraid to tell the police what happened – because he follows me everywhere

If I were a different person, maybe he would be in jail right now, instead of in my grocery store when I’m trying to buy cheese.

I was raped a decade ago. When I was in college I would flee the common area once I spotted him. At my first job, he walked in, asked me about nail polish and said we should be friends again. At a Denny’s on Halloween, I excused myself, went to the bathroom, and vomited after seeing him enter with his friends.

There are a million reasons why people don’t report sexual assault. Mine is: he’s everywhere.

By the time I was nineteen, I was already very familiar with the concept of fear. Most are. But with an untreated anxiety disorder and a history of sexual abuse by a former partner, fear and I were far better acquainted than I would have liked. I’d never dealt with it particularly well, especially not considering the many ways it had been used against me during that relationship. But I’d learned to ignore the knot in my throat – to swallow the nausea and remember to breathe. I counted slowly with deep inhales, and though it wasn’t a cure, it helped.

But how do you overcome that sort of fear when you’re faced with reliving your experiences? When the source of terror walks casually through a door and grins at you, almost as if nothing had ever happened? That’s the thing though. That calm collection that fills whichever room you’re in can also get into your head.

Looking back now, older and more educated, I have the resources I need to cope with what happened to me and pivot the need for accountability away from myself. But a younger and newly independent me couldn’t understand why he thought it was okay to look in my direction and show no remorse. He thought it was more than okay. He thought we could be friends. It was so much different in my head than his.

Fighting against his perception only fueled the endless pump of doubt that I had to somehow keep in check. How was I supposed to feel about my trauma when there was this nagging fear that maybe I was just overreacting? That feeling bled through all of my decisions, and like many people, I ended up sinking into it, trying not to be seen.

On those occasions when I would run into him, he would corner me and make small talk while I chewed on the inside of my cheeks and tried not to say anything. He said we should be friends. I gave nothing in return save for a polite smile – the kind that can barely be regarded as one.

“Don’t you think?” he pushed, as was his M.O.

I received a text from him three days later and blocked the number. I wanted it to be as easy as that. But every time I stepped out my door, I ran the risk of bumping into him. He went to my school. He lived four minutes from my house.

He showed up at my work, my social events, and even once came to my home unannounced, only leaving because my brother refused to let him in.

Even to this day, I’ll happen upon social media posts from himself and his family. They’re usually along the lines of shaming women and the victims of assault.

It’s no new story, only the ignorantly accepted norm of a white family from the south. I feel lucky because he hasn’t contacted me in years. Our last encounter was one I can’t even remember, as a friend informed me that he tried to get my attention on a drunken night out after we passed him on the street. It was my birthday. I’m sure he knew that. I’m sure he felt comfortable in approaching me with the cushion of that fact behind him.

But there is no comfort in knowing what I know. I’ve gained a sense of peace through my openness. When it came time to decide whether I would participate in the #MeToo movement, it wasn’t a question of whether I would admit I had been abused. It was about whether I felt safe enough to admit who the abuser was. And I didn’t. I don’t. I’m not sure I ever will.

Not with him lurking around the corner.

Maybe I’ll find my words once I’m far enough away to know he won’t come knocking at my door. Maybe I won’t. But he does know. And I’ll never forget.

Love Wellness

The first attack happened when I was 8. It was my cousin.

Trigger Warning: Mentions of child molestation, rape, and abuse of substances.

For many people, sexual violence is just an idea; a definition they’ve read.

To one in every three women, it’s a reality; a horrible reality that takes years to understand, digest, accept, and, with years of “healing,” move on from. While the actual incident may differ from woman to woman, the conclusion doesn’t differ; they (we) were violated.

I was violated. I’m not talking about the catcalls I often hear walking down the street, the creepy men who have asked me out and refused to take no for an answer or the times I’ve had my ass grabbed at a club. I was molested. I was raped.

Regardless of culture, molestation by family members is quite common yet extremely taboo. I know many women who spoke out as children; they were silenced. I remained silent because I was too young to understand that I was molested.

I must have been about eight years old and my family was gathered at my grandma’s house, like always. My 14-year-old cousin and I were playing cards in the dining room, like always. It started innocently with him asking whether his hand was cold on my neck. It ended with his hand on my chest and his tongue in my mouth.

To say I was confused is an understatement. Why was I uncomfortable? He was my cousin and my friend, so he wouldn’t try to hurt me, right? That was the first time.

The same thing happened the next day, except his hands drifted into my pants. Again, I felt uncomfortable, but, as a child, I had no logical explanation of why.

I tried to fix it by making a bigger mistake; I brought my 16-year-old cousin into the picture. I made sure he was always there. He was more subtle than the younger cousin; he tickled me just enough for his hands to “naturally” drift from my ribs up to my chest or down between my legs. Tickling; innocent and makes you laugh, right?

Yet, I still couldn’t explain why being tickled between my legs made me feel weird. I avoided my cousins at all costs for two years; I only hung out with them when the family was around. Right after I turned 11, I moved to a different country and it was one of the happiest days of my life.

I moved on and suppressed everything.

Fast forward three years later to when my first boyfriend came into the picture. The minute he touched me, the memories came back and smacked me right in my face. I was lost. I wanted to gain control. I asked my boyfriend to sleep with me. We lost our virginity to each other at the age of 13.

Soon after, we broke up and I became rebellious; I smoked cigarettes, I ditched school and I made out with every remotely attractive guy I met. But I never let them slip their hands into my pants; I wanted to feel in control. I went on like this for five years… until I was raped.

When I was 18, in the summer before my sophomore year of university, I traveled with my best friend.

I met a guy through mutual friends; he was drunk and bullshitted some philosophy on love and sex to me. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and kept the conversation going. A few days later, we attended a pool party with friends. I was drinking whiskey straight and was quite drunk. I didn’t realize how drunk I was until I woke up to a loud knock with this guy on top of me. I jumped out of bed and towards the door, stuffing the blood-soaked sheets into the wardrobe on the way. I opened the door to find two of my friends there, blabbing on about something. I just kept asking them where my best friend was.

When they realized I wasn’t responding, they told me where to find her.

I found my friend, went back to our room and broke down in hysterics. At this point I couldn’t remember much beyond hanging out by the pool, walking around with this guy, making out with him than hearing the knock on the door. She tried to calm me down but the only thing that helped was downing more shots at the pool bar. I spent the next 24 hours drunk and trying to forget. When I finally sobered up, I played Jimmy Eat World’s “Drugs or me” and cried.

I was in pain for a week straight.

Then I went numb. I pretended nothing happened. But I was not okay. I started pushing away close friends. My GPA dropped and I was close to academic suspension. If I wasn’t skipping class, I was asleep. When I did go out, it was always for a drink… or six shots of tequila to be exact. When I couldn’t drink, I would binge eat my emotions. Then I would hate myself for it so I would throw up. It became a habit; I threw up every meal I ate.

My family and friends thought I was losing weight naturally because I was eating cleaner. The reality was that, generally, junk food tasted the worst on the way up and left a foul taste in my throat. I lost more than 20 kilograms in less than nine months. This was my destructive lifestyle.

I snapped out of this routine after nine months because I was scheduled for hip surgery in July. I had less than three months to become strong enough to support myself on crutches for eight weeks. I pulled myself together and began working out regularly. I had to start eating properly again. Initially, I couldn’t keep any meal down. I slowly got better and made it through surgery and recovery. It was time to get better mentally.

I opened up to guy friends from university at the time but never used the word “rape;” I would always say “I had sex but don’t remember anything.”

My friends’ attitude changed; their eyes widened, their jaws dropped, they shifted closer to me and said: “I’m sorry.” They didn’t dare to call it “rape.” They didn’t dare to ask for more details.

When I opened up to a guy I was dating at the time, he saw it as an invitation to sleep with me. “You’re not a virgin, so what’s your problem?” I stopped opening up.

It took four years for me to start saying “I was raped.” I only started using the word after a close, very blunt friend immediately commented, “You were raped,” when I told her the story.

When I denied it, she insisted, “You were raped. This is rape.”

It hit me all over again. This time, I wasn’t numb. I cried my heart out.

I knew it was okay to cry. I had moved past the self-blame, anger, and self-destruction to acceptance. I starting opening up to some of my close friends, which wasn’t easy; it took me days to muster up the courage to even say, “I need to tell you something.” I felt relieved when I finally told them.

My friends always knew me well but never understood why I act the way I do. They now understand why I’m always on edge, why I always push anyone who cares about me away and why I lash out when a stranger as much as puts an arm around me at a club. They understand why I don’t trust anyone. What they don’t see is how high my guard is and what my thought process is in any scenario with a stranger.

For example, let’s say I want to take a cab home.

The same thoughts always cross my mind. “What if he locks the car doors?” “What if he tries to touch me?” “What if he succeeds and worse?” I have various escape routes planned in my head. “If I sit behind the passenger seat, I’m further away from his reach.” “If I sit behind him, he would be pretty stupid to try and reach back while driving.”

It’s exhausting.

I wish I could say that being molested and raped is something you can forget about, but they cross my mind every day. You never forget; you move on. I still have self-destructive tendencies when I feel down. I still find it hard to open up to my closest friends, who I consider my family, but they keep me going. They listen, they hold me, they cry with me.

They teach me that it is okay to have a bad day because I have them to fall back on. They show me that some people can be trusted.

Most of all, they have my back while I work hard to rebuild myself.


If you need help, please reach out through any of the hotlines here. You matter. 

Politics The World

We won’t ever find justice for Zainab, until this sweeps our nation

By now you have probably heard of Zainab, a seven-year-old girl from Kasur, Pakistan who was kidnapped, brutally raped and thrown into the trash. The victim’s parents, who were performing Umrah (Islamic pilgrimage), reached Islamabad, Pakistan an hour after their daughter’s funeral in Kasur.

My heart has never ached this badly for anyone before.

I wonder what little Zainab was thinking as that barbarian took her last breaths. I don’t understand how someone can be cold-blooded enough to rape, let alone do so to a child.

I wonder where and how one gets the brutality to torture someone who is going to be buried in the same ground as them after they die.

I will always fail to understand how some people can perform such ruthless acts that have the ability to scar a human being for eternity, knowing that the same sinister mind that led them to do all of this will one day shut down, leaving them with nothing but fragments of their past.

But, sadly this isn’t the first time such atrocities have taken place.

Kasur was first brought into the spotlight, three years ago, when reports of organized pedophilia and fanatical exchange of child pornography amongst the area’s elite, surfaced. People from the lower class were forced to hand over their children just to maintain a roof atop their heads. This scandal sparked tremendous outrage but later subsided because the underlying report made it evident that the perpetrators were in fact, government officials and their underdogs.

This series of minor rape, however, began with a six-year-old boy named Waqas, from Rahim Yar Khan whose father was a local journalist.

He recorded pictures and videos of his son’s dead body which make it evident that, in addition to stabbing him multiple times, his neck and wrists were slit by the vindictive perpetrator(s) in order to kill him.

Another incident (very similar to Zainab’s), took place in Kasur, yet again. A six-year-old girl named Kainaat Batool was abducted on her way back from a local store. Rattled, her father alerted the police. 24 hours later, he received a call from the police station, telling him that Kainaat had been found, unconscious, in heaps of trash.

Her clothes were ripped and her face dotted with bruises, but the little fighter survived. Her wounds have healed, but her life to this day is a far cry from normal.

On most nights, she sleeps for long hours and when she wakes up, cries uncontrollably. She fails to recognize her parents and siblings, meals are forcefully fed to her by nurses.

In fact, in the last two months, Batool has barely spoken.

All of this would lead anyone to the conclusion that if proper investigations had been carried out regarding Waqas’s tragedy, Zainab, Kainaat, and Faizan wouldn’t have had to die the same way.

But no, to us, Imran Khan’s marriage and Nawaz Sharif’s illegal property matter far more than the souls of these innocent children.

Do these perpetrators have any families of their own?  Have they no concept of humanity? The questions flooding my head are many, but the answer is only one: provision of education and security to low-income families.

Countless Zainab’s will continue to die such ruthless deaths if the government of Pakistan keeps devoting the majority of its budget to building useless buses, trains, underpasses, and bridges. Infrastructure will not protect the vulnerable children of our country. The only thing that can save us from the point of no return is the beacon of education, which the government never want to provide us with.

The lives of civilians are being set on fire as these supposedly patriotic politicians roam around with top-notch security protocol.

The perpetrators of Zainab’s rape and murder have lived the majority of their lives on the tax money given to them by people like Zainab’s family.

And yet, it is the lives of people like her that are in danger because the government doesn’t want to spend a penny on the education and security of their people.

I mean why would they, anyway?

There is no proof of education and security for them to show to the World Bank and pretend like that’s what they’re using the loans for, in order to conceal their traces of corruption. I don’t understand how these public office holders sleep at night, knowing they are the reasons why people like Zainab are dying every single day.

What right do they have to rule when people like you and I are left raped, murdered and dumped in heaps of garbage?

If they can’t spare time for our wellbeing, they don’t deserve to represent us.

We cannot let another Zainab die.

We must keep protesting until the assailants involved in these cases are held accountable.

Government officials will try their level best to make sure they don’t face a speck of penalty, but as a nation, it is our responsibility to assure that the lost lives of our mothers, sisters, and daughters don’t go in vain because of these monsters.

Gender & Identity Life

I’m a Pakistani woman. Our society needs to stop teaching men that women are there to be harassed.

I felt his hand on my ass, and I was having such a good day until then. 

I was in Istanbul – far away from everything and feeling a kind of freedom I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was in a city with endless water and open streets, my two favorite things. 

And then, in a moment, I felt like I was back home in Pakistan all over again with his hand on my ass. 

Everything I wished my country wasn’t a culmination of – the incessant male gaze, the need to be conservative, the degradation of the female gender – came back to me. 

I jumped towards my brother and screamed out.

I glared back at the man thinking, did I imagine this?  Is this just the way people are?

I refuse to believe the latter because I know there are good people out there. I glared at him, and he just looked at me. No sign of remorse, almost as if it were his right. Almost as if my body was his right. It reminded me of what my mother would always say, wear something long when you go out in public.

But I wasn’t home, and I wasn’t even wearing anything revealing. This was all him. This was all them.

In that moment, I clung to my brother as we moved out of the tram and on to the vast cobblestoned street. But it didn’t matter. I still felt it. He had already made me feel small. He had already made me want to disappear.

Why today? Why here?

There is never an answer because men like this will always believe they can do whatever they want in a woman’s presence. They will continue to diminish our confidence for the sake of their egos. They will continue to push us further towards the sidelines. I kept walking, replaying the moment over and over and still feeling his hand there.


I wish I had stared back at him and asked him what was going through his sickening head that made him think that he could do that. That made him think my body was there for his use. It is my body and it is my choice but the world around us makes believing in that very taxing.

A caress here, or a smack there is not nothing. Anything that makes you feel less worthy than you are is an insult and downright degrading – do not stand for it – now, or ever.

Sexual violence and harassment go hand in hand with silence, especially in a country like Pakistan. He was inappropriate, she’ll say. Just ignore it, she’s told.

And when she doesn’t want to be silenced, when she is willing to speak up for herself in a place that is constantly putting her down, they claim she’s lying or after something.

She’s that girl you smiled at on the street. She’s that girl who’s outfit you eyed at that party. She’s that girl that works in your doctor’s office. That girl that sits next to you in class. That girl you call your best friend. Your sister.


She is everywhere and yet at the same time, nowhere. She is invisible.

Hidden behind closed doors and quiet whispers.

There are too many women to name who have been through this phenomenon time and time again. And the fact is, there are only a few rare cases that we know about.

To all the women out there, don’t let their silence hold you back.

Don’t let that one hand, that one touch, define you because you are so much more than that.

Don’t let his hand on your ass affect the power of your voice

Gender Inequality

#MeToo might be just a hashtag to some people. For us, it brings up haunting memories.

This week, the words “Me, Too” took over social media. The idea behind the social media phenomenon was that if every woman who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted put the words “Me Too” in their status or used the hashtag #metoo, the world would see the prevalence sexual abuse.

Soon, all of our social media pages were filled with the words “Me Too.” Women began to add their own commentary to the status, mostly along the lines of “Me too, who hasn’t?” The question made the powerful point that almost every woman has dealt with some kind of sexual harassment or abuse in their lifetime. Unfortunately, most women have encountered sexual harassment and abuse multiple times.

While many men expressed their shock that so many women they knew had been harassed or assaulted, many women said they weren’t surprised at all. They talked about how sexual abuse is part of their everyday reality.

Though it’s really sad that we need a social media campaign to highlight the pervasiveness of sexual abuse, brave women coming forward to share their experiences has started a conversation that needs to be had. Women are learning that they aren’t survivors alone. Men are learning that this issue is way more prevalent than they thought and that things need to change. And we’re all learning the power of women’s voices to change the world.

At The Tempest, we’ve always been about providing a platform for women to share their stories, so a few of us decided to be brave, get vulnerable, and tell our own #metoo stories.

Maybe it was the alcohol that emboldened him, or maybe it’s an excuse. I don’t know I’d never seen him before or since.

Maybe my hijab was enticing, “What you have hidden under there?” when everyone else was in swimsuits, I was totally covered in my hijab and long swimsuit, with music blaring loudly on a boat in the middle of the sea.

He repeatedly called my name even though I refused to acknowledge him. Whenever the boat would stop, I made sure to stay close to my friends, hoping that he wouldn’t try to come over to our side of the boat, but he eventually did, sitting right in front of me. I pulled my hand away from the railing but not before he grazed it with his own, and I walked away from him, digging through my bag for a wipe, or hand sanitizer something to scrub away his repulsive touch.

For the rest of the trip, I stayed even closer to my group, keeping my eyes open to see if he would venture over again. I felt uneasy and disgusted by what happened. I let people in my group stand around me keeping guard, as I did too. Afterwards his friends were apologetic for his behavior but never said that to me. I didn’t care.

Many people think hijab protects you from harassment or assault; how amazing would it be if cloth could protect you from leers and unwanted interaction? Hijab has, and will never be about men. That incident has stayed with me, that despite me thinking I should be safe, in reality I was a magnet. Just me being there, as I am made me a target; #metoo.”

– Saffiyya, Sr. Community Editor

I was 14 when I first got catcalled, but I don’t even know if it was a catcall. I stood there at the bus stop, winter boots laced up, hands stuffed in jacket, ears listening to hallelujah, not listening to anything when a truck rolled by, usual for the hour, two men in the front seats, windows down.

I thought, “Aren’t they cold?”

They yell as they pass by a loud sound with no words to it, looking in my general direction as they did. I was the only one outside, butt half-frozen from waiting too long. I wore jeans I think, winter boots laced up, hands stuffed in jacket. The usual.

It couldn’t have been me they were yelling at, right? I was only 14. I was inside the clear plexiglas bus stop. They were men, a little rowdy, but boys being boys. Why would they care?
Did I get catcalled? I’ve been taught to dismiss it so much I don’t even know.

– Tempest Staffer

I really hate dancing with people. I have my own rhythm. White girl rhythm, for sure, but it’s all my own. The dance floor is my sanctuary, my temple. Disrupt my groove at your own risk.

And some dumb ass drunk boy always chooses to take that risk.

Suddenly I feel hands on my hips, on my waist, on my ass. Or perhaps he doesn’t even start with his hands. Sometimes it’s hips pressed directly against me. A boner in my lower back.

I always resist the urge to throw a punch, or an elbow. I’ve been taught that it’s too dangerous to confront the men who decide that my body is theirs to grope, without my permission. I try to spin away, but they always grab me and hold me close to their body, telling me without words that my permission means nothing to them. When they prevent my exit, I try turning around, pretending I’ll dance, only to say loudly and firmly, “No thanks.” I’m still polite, even after they’ve violated me.

Then the smooth talk begins. “Come on baby, just one dance.”

I become more insistent. Now it’s simply, “No.”

That’s when the name calling begins. “God, you don’t have to be such a bitch.” After being violated, I’m the one who’s villainized.

Best case scenario, it ends there. He walks away and gropes someone else. The worst case scenario that I’ve experienced is that he follows me, through the club, for the entire night. He finds a seat where he can watch me dance and treats it like a private show, violating me over and over with his gaze. Or he tries to touch me over and over, at various times throughout the night, never listening when I say no, never taking the hint when I run away.

Sometimes he’ll stop if I show my wedding ring, or if another man intervenes. If he perceives I’m someone else’s property he may back off, but never just because I don’t want him to touch me. If he wants to touch me, he’ll touch me. He’s made that clear.

And just so we’re clear, this hasn’t happened once, or twice. It happens every time I go dancing. And these are only the milder stories that I could tell when I say #metoo.

– Robin, Love Editor

I’m sitting alone on a grassy spot in the park, wearing my favorite new lipstick and scribbling poems in my journal. It’s the first warm day of spring, and I feel beautiful and tender and creative.

When a stranger asks to sit next to me, I say “sure.” In the sunlight, I forget to be afraid.

I avoid eye contact, but the more I try to avoid his gaze and focus on my writing, the more he questions me. What am I writing? Can he read my poetry? I give one-word answers. I hope he’ll see I’m not interested without me having to say it.

Some women are good at this, I think. Some women have trained themselves since puberty to respond to the emergency of male bodies in public.

I’m not one of them. When confronted with fear, I use my docility as a defence mechanism. I smile. Wouldn’t want to offend him. Maybe he’s nice deep down. After all, he must think I’m pretty. I’m supposed to be flattered. I am also supposed to be a self-aware feminist and not be flattered.

I finally get up. I hear him running up behind me. Where I am going? he wants to know. Can he see me again? Can he come join me and my “friend” (who I made up to make him believe I wouldn’t be alone)? He meets every made-up excuse with another question. Can he come hang out with me and my friend? Can he go to the Poetry Slam I’m going to later?

“Can I come?”

“I think it would be weird…”

“Where is it going to be?”

“I’m just going with my friends…”

He asks so many questions that I can’t keep up, and I let slip the location of the event where I’ll actually be later. I finally, definitively, tell him no and think he’ll leave me alone.

Then he shows up to the event hours later. Two male acquaintances have to kick him out, because I am straight-up terrified.

I spend days thinking about what might have happened. How I could have responded differently. If I’d been more aggressive. A better liar. If I’d said I was meeting a made-up boyfriend instead of a made-up friend. 

Women are asked to choose between being polite or fighting back in the face of male aggression. We should not have to make this choice. We should be able to exist quietly in a park without having to prepare to be stalked.

Months later, I see the same guy at a bus stop. He waves at me and says, “Hey, what’s up?” My blood turns to ice, but he keeps walking, completely oblivious as to how unsafe he made me feel. 

-Hannah, Staff Writer

The first time I had sexual attention forced on me, I was seven years old. Both of my parents worked constantly and my older siblings were away at college. So my aunt would frequently have me over at her house to watch me.

My cousins and I would play and my aunt would cook us Hamburger Helper. One day, things became incredibly uncomfortable for me. My older cousins decided that flashing me was a funny game because I would freak out. As a kid, I didn’t understand female and male genitalia but I knew that I did not want to see that.

Thinking back, it was an awful experience for anyone to have. Hesitantly, I still went over to my aunt’s house because my parents didn’t trust me to be completely alone just yet.

The next time I stayed over, it was my uncle pulling me away into his room, to flash me.  As a child, I was so afraid of conflict that I would just freeze. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know why it was so awful at the time, but I knew it wasn’t right.

I tried to get away and he grabbed my hand saying, “I thought we were friends, don’t you want to be my friend?”

I ignored him, ran out in the room, and was forced to sit in silence for the rest of the day, and for the rest of my life.

What bothers me the most is that men try to frame sexual harassment as friendliness. It’s messed up that grown men and young boys take advantage of growing girls, convincing them that friendship is that twisted. They prey on our vulnerability and mask it as kindness. Dealing with catcalling men, unsolicited gropes in tight spaces, and losing your trust in adult figures are things that girls have to face every day. It needs to stop. We can’t keep looking the other way.

-Tempest Staffer

It was my freshman year in college. I was in my dorm hallway, talking to a guy who also lived in my hall. He was drunk, and in the middle of a conversation reached out and grabbed my breast, and then let go and walked away. I was more stunned than anything else. I couldn’t even react because it was such a random occurrence. The shock silenced me.

Men should not be able to get away with inappropriate touching ever, and nor should women. The problem lies in the fact that women are the ones conditioned to accept this behavior and men are taught to implement it. Every human being is a human being. Respect your fellow human being. That’s all we need to do.

-Meagan, Life Jr. Editor

He was my driving instructor. 64, pale and lonely. He coaxed me into taking a 2 hour driving class with him. As I drove at 120 km/h on the highway, his hand slid slowly up my thigh, knowing fully well that I couldn’t take mine off the wheel. It took me a few seconds to react, and when I did, I pulled over and took a taxi home. I had half a mind to report him to the authorities, but I didn’t, for fear of sabotaging his career. I regret not doing that to this day. #metoo

-Dyuthi, Staff Writer

Some of us didn’t feel safe sharing our stories. Some of us weren’t comfortable telling the stories that were even more awful than these. Even as strong women, with powerful voices, sexual harassment and abuse are part of our everyday lives.

We live with the scars men have given us, literally and figuratively, every single day, and we endure more injury every time we are catcalled, groped, or exploited.

Maybe, just maybe, people will get off their asses and do something to address sexual abuse.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Nobody else wanted to believe me

Rape isn’t the only way that women are violated – they experience violation every day

Violation isn’t always forced, non-consensual sexual penetration by a stranger.

Sometimes, it’s being exposed to porn at a young age, learning that sex equals dominance and discomfort. Learning to have no voice but to make theatrical grunts and moans. Learning to see everything from the ideal male perspective. Learning that violence is normal. 

Learning to tolerate pain.

Sometimes, it looks like me finally working up the confidence to have a conversation with my doctor about sexual activity and birth control, only to find out that my parents had been breaking my trust and listening through the office door. I remember wondering if that was a HIPAA violation. I remember wondering if I could sue my grandmother each time she told me I dressed like a whore or forbade me from interacting with the opposite sex.

Sometimes, it’s the gynecologist who, for the sake of a proper medical evaluation, asked me how many sexual partners I’ve had. I answered honestly, for the sake of a proper medical evaluation, and she follows not with questions like, “Do you use protection every time?” or, “Have you been tested recently?” but instead says, “You know, you’re a pretty girl. You should save yourself for someone special.”

 She might as well have said, “No one will want to marry a loose girl,” while she put her speculum into my vagina.

Sometimes, violation is when my first boyfriend shared pictures of me partially nude with his friends. Pictures that I took for his eyes only. Knowing that so-and-so has seen my naked body when I never wanted so-and-so to see my naked body and peers telling me, “Well, you should have seen this coming.” It was experiences like this that gave me trust issues, that made me retreat inward, that helped me understand my mother and her detachment a bit better.

And sometimes, it is a man saying, “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel like it,” or, “You take too long,” when it’s my turn to orgasm. It’s the fact that I was okay with that answer because I’d been taught my whole life that my pleasure is secondary; it reaches no end and serves no purpose.

It’s not fully understanding my own anatomy and the oppressive nature of pleasure until I was 21 and had already given the best parts of me to so many who didn’t appreciate me. It is the man who says he would like to please me but whines out accusations of my bossiness when I tell him there are better techniques. 

Your tongue hurts? I’m sorry, but my tongue hurts too, from the literal and metaphorical incisions that have rendered my sisters voiceless in the face of oppression and injustice for countless generations.

Rape doesn’t always look like a stranger in an alley, a home invasion.

It can look like people I thought were my friends. 

Friends who took advantage of my drunkenness. It can look like the time I woke up to three men, ‘friends,’ redressing me. It’s the not knowing. It looks like a female friend peeling my sluggish, inebriated body off the floor and asking, “What have you done?” 

Because it was my fault, of course; how did I get so drunk? Why did I get so drunk? Where was my self-control? What did I expect would happen?

It can look like my mom’s motto, “My first husband ruined me for sex, and my second ruined me for love.” 

After all, spousal rape was not universally adopted as a crime until 1993. Hearing my mother say this meant I could never think of my father the same way again. I wondered if they tell me these things with the intention of ripping me apart on the inside, wanting to lay claim to the half that they believe belongs to them, and forgetting about the rest. If only it could be that easy.

It can look like a guy I connected with in college because we lived in the same area when we weren’t at school. I was far too drunk to participate in anything sexual with him, but he didn’t care. I woke up naked to an empty bed, not remembering what he had or had not done to me, with or without my permission. I filed a report months later, realizing that something was wrong, hoping that I might find justice or just closure.

He tried to characterize me as promiscuous by pointing out a tattoo that sits on my pelvic bone, just below where my underwear hits my hips. I don’t remember taking my underwear off but his argument almost convinces me that I must have done it willingly.

 I lost, I panicked, but he transferred anyway. 

He began working at the winery across from my job and I would have panic attacks about the panic attacks that I thought I would have if he ever came in for dinner while I was working. 

Luckily, he never did.

Sometimes, it’s a guy who slips off his condom while he’s having sex with me from behind. He didn’t ask, and I don’t find out until he ejaculates on my leg like a dog. How dare you? How dare you take my health into your hands, how dare you treat me so deceitfully, how dare you take my voice and my choice for granted?

It is also the moment when I started to question myself. 

When I drunkenly had sex with a man who didn’t matter, who didn’t mean anything to me. He was drunker than me. I was in control. I talked to him throughout the night and even the next morning. He was okay. But was he truly okay, or was he just taught to be okay with experiences like this? Have I done something truly fucked up?

 I shame myself into a state of utter disbelief and regret, thinking that I had become my abuser.

Violation is hardly ever just as simple as forced penetration by a man in an alley with a gun to your head.

Though it can look like that, too.