Sometimes, when I’m lying in bed or sitting on a bus or just letting my legs dangle over the edge of the couch, I feel this warm and tingly sensation on the bottom of my feet – and I wonder if I’m feeling the warmth of the flames from the fires that burned my ancestors as witches.
I run my fingers on the perfect, flawless skin of my daughter’s cheek. She is sleeping, soundly, and for now, all her skin knows is the touch of love. All her body knows is affection, appreciation, being cherished. As my fingers trace the chubby curve of her cheek, I wonder: does your skin remember the strikes and punches that your ancestors have had to endure? I wonder if our bodies carry the memory of the trauma of generations past.
These past few weeks have been emotional torture for many women – because many of us have had to relive events we’d rather never have to think about again.
Our bodies carry memories of trauma. Of unwanted touches and gropes. Of someone grabbing us in the dark and the first thought in our mind being “will he rape me or kill me?”. Of strikes, punches, hits, kicks. Bruises that are no longer visible to the eye are still there underneath the skin. They are always there.
I remember the shortcut through a small park from the bus to my apartment that I used to always take over a decade ago – until something happened one night when I was walking home. After that, I took the longer, well lit route. I still avoid walking on paths or roads that aren’t clearly lit at night. And I didn’t say anything for a long long time – because I was sure no one would believe me.
I’ve been reading and hearing the stories of women from all over, and it has made me so sad, because I’ve realized our bodies are like fields of war. Hurting and aching from things that have happened, and things we feared would happen. And we don’t only feel the pain we’ve experienced, but that of others too. Our mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers. Friends and neighbors. Strangers online who are recounting stories eerily similar to our own.
We don’t know each other, but our lives are still impacted by the same violent and misogynistic structures and patriarchal powers that have normalized this kind of behavior throughout history. The structures and powers that for a very long time, allowed violence against women to take place in daylight, and then inside the home because it was a “private matter”, and then in marriage because a married woman has no right to say no to her husband, and then on the streets and nightclubs and dorm rooms because “boys will be boys”, and then in the military because “women should know what to expect if they join the army”.
While the laws may have changed, attitudes clearly haven’t – and we are still expected to carry our trauma in secrecy and in silence and simply just expect it, as if this is something we’ve signed up for, as people daring to exist and take space as females in this world.
And now, in 2018, we watch – not even in disbelief, because it has happened so many times before – how this kind of behavior is still normalized and brushed aside. And just like when #MeToo took off, people seem to be surprised by the magnitude of this problem. Surprised to see their family members, friends, neighbors, come forward with painful stories and memories of sexual assault and violence. And I wonder how long it will take before this no longer surprises us – before we actually recognize that this isn’t something abnormal or out of order. This is the order. It has been the norm throughout history.
For everyone reliving their own trauma right now – I am so sorry for you. I am so sorry for us. I am sorry we have to keep dragging our most painful encounters and memories to daylight over and over and over again for the sake of demanding a society that does not condone and normalize violence and sexual assault against women. I am sorry we have to keep reliving the trauma and pain of our ancestors – just to have the right to live a life free of assault and violence.
I believe her, because I am her. The generations before me were her. Almost every single woman is her.
Will my daughter’s generation be the first whose feet won’t feel the fire anymore?