My school was just 2 bus halts away from home. My father would drop me to school every morning, and in the evening, I would be escorted home by my Mom, coming in the bus. I was as sheltered as sheltered could be.
When I was about 14 years old, I was sexually assaulted in the bus. Looking back, I feel sorry for the Me back then, because it took her quite a while to realize that the man pushing against her was being deliberate, and was not a result of a crowded bus; because when that man was feeling her up, all she knew to do was fidget, and look around desperately for her mom; because the approach was so sudden and surreal that she couldn’t find her voice; because when she got home, she felt so dirty that she cried for days; that she tried to scrub herself clean where the man had touched her so hard, that her mother thought the blistering skin was an allergic reaction; that she was deeply ashamed of what happened, she couldn’t bring herself to confide in her mother even.
When I was 15, I was returning home in 154, after buying many books at the book fair-once again, with my mom, in a very crowded bus. I have had experience of people feeling me up, that I knew I should move away. But the 15 year old Me had no idea what was happening when she felt something rock hard rubbing up against her rear side. She was naïve enough to think some man must be having trouble with his goods (oh, the irony of it all), that she in fact tried to provide the poor man with enough space. Thankfully, the conductor in that bus was quite a gentleman, who noticed what I failed to notice. He made the driver stop the bus, threw out the pervert, and advised me to “speak out” and they would make sure nothing would happen. Needless to say I was in tears that everyone kept giving me sympathetic looks.
When I was 20 years old, I was allowed to travel by myself as long as it was before dark. It was about 4.30 pm, and I was walking down the little lane to my place, which is a private road. A motor bike came rushing psat, and my intuition screamed at me. I was ready to handle bandits, robbers, to scream at the top of my voice. All that happened was that the man grabbed at my breasts as he rushed past, ensuring I was in pain for quite a number of days after that. To those of you who say abuse is brought about by what you wear, I was wearing a long sleeved sweater. Hardly, provoking. Another day, around the same time, I was flashed at while I was walking, talking on the phone, compelling me to run all the way home. These incidents, I have not spoken about til now. Perhaps because I felt dirty for b3eing touched.
Once I started to work, everything took a different meaning. Now I travel by bus, 154 as well as 138 (Kadawatha) buses, after dark as well. Once, I was in 154,sitting by the window, updating status on FB, when the guy who was sitting next to me was feeling me up (I was wearing a knee length skirt). I do not know what brought me strength, but I swore at the man, jammed my hand bag between the two of us, and called my bf. On the phone, I said quite loud “there is a pervert next to me, who tried to feel me up. I am seriously considering breaking his nose. Shall I?” while glaring at the pervert. He immediately got off the bus, before I could hang up.
Through many other such incidents I have learnt that speaking up when I am being used, actually compels these men I would like to coin “bus-pervs” to take flight.
I am 21 years old. I am 5’ 3”, and does not have much of a figure to speak of. I look like Lisbeth Slanader (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, except for the tattoos and the colored hair and the heavy mascara). In fact, I could still pass for a 15 year old easily. What I have come to realize is that for these perverts, it does not really matter if you are curvaceous or not. All that matters is that you look the role of a victim, taking their abuse meekly; submission. The moment you dare to speak up for yourself, show that you are not a woman to be messed about with- that even though you look like an innocent submissive, you would not let anyone walk over you, they flee.
I am planning on going for One Billion Rising Sri Lanka, on the 14th of February, 4.00 pm at Lipton Circle. I am rising because I do not want to watch while innocents are being abused; . I am rising because one gentlemanly conductor told me that my voice will make a difference, and it did. I am rising because I know, now, that even the smallest voice can make a difference. I am rising because I believe.
If you believe too, I will see you on the 14th Feb. Let us rise