Posts Tagged woman

Abused women and children – too close to home

girlwhatyoudontknowaaa

After going through some of the most recent media coverage on rape and women abuse, I will talk today of what I know from my own experience or from other ladies. Following accounts which went through court, as well as statistics on women abuse, real life stories come as raw scraps of this gruesome reality many live through, are scared of and even too terrified to do anything about it.

Growing up in a family where no such abuse was present, I might have been inclined to thinks it doesn’t happen too often. But then, while a teenager, I was told by older girls to always stick with a group if I go to the local disco, to avoid the risk of being dragged somewhere and forced to have sex by older boys. A very good friend of mine in my High School years was raped when she was 14. Another Romanian lady I know left her house and lived in a shelter, while she filed for divorce from a drunken abusive husband who’d threatened to kill her.
And then there were the rumors whispered at corners about young girls being touched in inappropriate ways by older men. I heard them occasionally while growing up, and I can confess that I am no stranger to such an unpleasant experience.

Possibly one of the most disturbing such accounts I have overheard growing up was about a girl in our village, never knew whom exactly. A neighbour, an older man, apparently held her in his arms so she could reach and grab an apple from his tree. While doing this, though, apparently he started to touch her vagina through her panties. The girl wore a skirt. He must have done it long enough for her to wet herself, get scared and go home crying as she did not understand what was happening to her. She was of an age when urinating in her underwear was considered embarrassing.
Now I can say I was never intimately touched against my will by anybody so far. Well, that is if you take out that summer day, at 13, when I came back to my grandparents flat from the city and a foreign guy, seemingly a student (or of that age) followed me after I got off the bus and started to touch my breasts on the street, in full daylight. I cannot remember how I reacted on that occasion, my memories are completely blanked from that point on.

But I can say I was once kissed in the train by an elderly man at a younger age, and that a distant relative, then in his twenties, undressed and touched my bottom, then tried to persuade me to let him teach me how to French kiss. I did not allow him, so he gave up and left.
On the train I was with my grandad and my brother, whom both just went to the toilet at the end of the carriage. The elderly, seemingly a very nice person, having played with both of us earlier on the journey, caressed my calf and asked me if I liked playing like that. Then, shortly, he asked if he could kiss me. I took it as a sign of affection from an older person, and agreed. He then pressed his lips against mine and tried to stick his tongue in my mouth. Puzzled by all this, I left and stayed on the carriage hallway with my family. Not much later, when we got off the train, I started to realise what just happened and rage grew inside of me. However, I did not mention anything to my grandad or back home as I felt I was stupid, I should have known better and should not have allowed that horrible old man touch me in any way.

The male relative asked me, before leaving, not to tell anybody about our “game”, it was our secret. Unlucky for him, I was a very talkative and intelligent child, so right away as my mum got home from the neighbours’, I told her. He was never allowed to come again to our house or be in touch with me in any way. Possibly my parents did not report it as in communist Romania of the 80s the case would not have been taken too seriously.

I was 7, if I remember correctly, when the subject of the “secret game” suggested by the man in his twenties. My father was at home, but busy in the garden, I was playing in the lounge with the telly on, and the aggressor was sitting on the sofa, where he managed to drag me as well for a short while.
On the train, I was 8. Fact is I realised what had just happened because in my foggy memory laid that bit of “instruction” about French kissing using your tongue. Otherwise, I might have been confused, but oblivious to the fact I was being sexually kissed.

While in High School, I felt the floor breaking with the heaviness of the news just being dropped on me. My friend was telling me she’d just been raped, by a stranger. She, 14, went to meet her then first boyfriend, a few years older. Actually, I think he was at least 18. She did not see him in the pub where he was meant to be and asked around, so a benevolent stranger, possibly even older than 20, offered to show her to her boyfriend’s. She followed and was lured inside a house where the door was locked behind, and she was raped with a knife at her throat and the threat he’d bring another 5 young men if she didn’t submit to it.
True, my friend did not fight. She was too afraid, not necessarily of the knife used to assault her, but of being then beaten up and punished by her father, then an alcoholic. So there was no bruising or any other evidence she had been raped. When I encouraged her to however go with me and ask for advice personally from one of our neighbours, a policeman, in his off work time, she agreed. First, she was deterred by being told that, considering her age, her parents would have to know. Then, without physical evidence or witnesses on her side, unfortunately there wasn’t much to be done. At most, the man would be accused of sex with an underaged girl, but her parents would have to be present in any investigation.
She gave up on doing anything about it. Our neighbour, the policeman, said he felt like giving a good beating to the rapist himself, but that would not help, in the end.

Most of these stories I know closely have one element in common: the perpetrators were not strangers, but in fact people the victims knew. I am thinking of the lady who went to stay in a shelter, and I do not know how long the abuse was going on in her house. Did she wait for years so their child could grow up and go to University before she did anything decisively? All I know was the husband did not abuse the child. She did not give me much more detail and I did not press on to find out.
I am thinking of my friend who did not proceed with reporting it to the police because she was afraid of her father.

From information I have read last year in Glamour , statistics in the UK show as well that most women are raped or sexually assaulted by someone they know: friend, family member, husband, boyfriend, neighbour. It only makes abuse so much uglier and scaring. Being treated like an object of violent sexuality against your will by somebody you trusted can leave your life in pieces never to be picked up again completely.

At the same time, British media reported on how it has been suggested that a person accused of rape would need to show they had the consent of their sexual partner. It does make sense. True, on one to one accounts, without physical evidence or any witness, a new regulations like this introduced in the law would not make much difference. However, it could make the case if somebody was deliberately given alcohol or drugs so that they could not object later to whatever was done to them. And this would be a
step forward.

A small step, which would leave a lot of work to be done: acknowledgement, awareness, education, solidarity. Still a long way to go to make this world better for women and, unfortunately, even children.

 

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

From a woman to another woman

It has been four years for me now in the UK and I have finally got a woman friend very close to me now. Ever since moving further away from both my mother and my grandmother, since I left the city which I once thought I would always live in, I did yearn for that joyful, tender and intuitive bond that a woman can only have with another woman.

I have always had great male friends, but there is nothing like a long chat over a cup of coffee, between two women who are good friends, while the daylight begins to dim and get a honey-like consistency, and the words flow from one to another like kitten bouncing softly over a bunch of velvety pillows.
And there is nothing like going for a walk in the nearby park, while your legs ache from the last Body Balance session, led by a woman (yes, don’t tell me I am biased, but I find the energy of a female trainer more beneficial to me in such a class), while you complain and laugh of your aches and make silly jokes, only so that a few minutes later both of you talk lively about how the sunlight falls over the trees crowns projected against a picturesque sky, then go sit on a bench and you find you need to take a photo of her hair shinning with cherry-like reflections in the sunset rays.

There are many, many great moments I have shared with male friends, and the first one to jump in my mind is having hours of discussions on literature and all sorts in a basement rock club, smoking a whole pack of 20 fags between the two of us and him having lots more beers than me (I am done at two, thank you), and one of these crazy intoxicating nights going for a stroll with him to the most beautiful square in the city only to start talking about climate change and maybe a possible new ice age, all on a freezing January night, and then parting there to go in different directions half frozen, half terrified (him) and half drunk (me), but completely relaxed and satisfied with the whole evening.

Today though it is all about women. It is the International Women’s Day and I should have sent cards back home to my mum and both my nans, but I forgot.
With my mum I have always had a strong emotional bond, and there was always great attachment between us. I can honestly say that I was my mum’s girl until about a few years ago, when I finally grew up and took the necessary step to independence. She has always been a strong active woman, despite being a housewife for many years now, or even due to it. Back home, she is the one who pulls all the strings and organizes everything in the family, and makes sure that everybody is somehow taken care of, fed and clean and sorted out, and not doing all sorts of stupid things.

It was my mum who named me Catalina after the name of a princess in a Romanian philosophical poem about the eternal love of an immortal soul, embodied by the Evening Star, and the mortal beautiful young lady. She used to chant it to me on an old classical Romanian romantic song, but with the verses of the poem, whenever I could not sleep, possibly due to illness, when I was about two-three years old. I do remember how it sounded and I do remember how I misunderstood a certain word in the verses, thinking it is the shade of a certain colour, when it was actually a verb.
It was my mum who was very strict with me doing all my homework to the highest standards, because I had the intelligence for it, and who ripped the page out of my homework notebook had I made too many mistakes on it and I would start all over again. This happened only during my first two years in school, as later on I moved over to my grandparents in the city, partly due to illness, partly to go to a better school, and there I did all my homework unsupervised. So her being demanding of me worked and helped me have high standards of myself later on.

20150308_204027

20150308_203922

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20150308_204109

(photos:
Left: My nan with me, when I was 1 month and a half old. Right: With nan, probably 3-4 years old, at Govora resort. Centre: With nan on my 11th birthday)

My nan, my sweet old grandmother whom I then grew up with since I was eight and continued to live with in the old city flat until the second year of my University studies. My clashes with nan were very seldom and strictly in the first years of me living with her and with granddad, as at times I was not only feisty, but really naughty and speaking nastily to her. And once I did broke a boy’s teeth out in the street, with my foot, when I was actually just trying to scare him away, and that time I was harshly punished.

But then she was the one who always cooked for me, did my laundry, ironed, made sure I washed my hair right, rinsed it with a certain camomile concoction to make it strong and shiny and to preserve its blonde highlights. She was the one who woke me up in the morning and my glass of hot cocoa milk was ready on the table, together with the two pieces of bread, butter and jam or a few biscuits, or fried egg and sausage. The in the evenings she’d sometimes ask me if I fancied this or that for dinner, things which I actually had in my mind and she just seemed to have guessed them. It is since then that I strongly believe in telepathy.

From her I had learnt how to organise my day into sections, so that I planned for a time to study and a time to relax, and all the evening routine. Unfortunately, over the years I have kind of forgotten this precious lesson.
With her I shared a passion for music, as well as for knitting, doing tapestry and other crafts which she highly encouraged me with and even taught me a few tricks. And she was the one who’d play my student when I was the teacher, at times praising her, at times scolding her and making her laugh and telling her she needs to be serious for the game to work.

If I am to mention all the amazing women whom I have known over the years and whom I think fondly of and treasure as friends, or teachers, or inspiring people, I will turn this text, intended for my blog, into a book. Thinking of it, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea after all.
Some of the girl friends I had in the past I lost contact with and probably will never regain it. But that is life, sometimes you go different ways from the people you love and keep the lasting, shiny memory of them and the things you had together. With N. I used to spend chilly autumn evenings in the garden or in the front of my or her house, sometimes in the church yard (considering my father is a priest and we lived just next to it) and sing our favourite songs together to a bright full moon. In the summer days we’d go on a stroll to her nan’s house, taking my massive mongrel dog, who had some Schnauzer DNA in his blood and looked exactly like one, a gentle giant, and her nan will always have some goodies aside for us. When we grew into teenagers we’d always go to the local disco together and dance our shoes off, and then next morning would wake up to go to church for mass and we’d stay close together with our arms intertwined during the whole service. We loved each other like sisters and one summer afternoon decided we had to become blood sisters, so we made small cuts in our palms, in the church yard, held our hands together and swore eternal friendship. She would always listen to me reading her my poetry and we’d always talk for hours about boys, our favourite TV series and the stories from school.

But then I know all of you, ladies, have such stories which are most precious to you. Some of you might even have been blessed with sisters, or daughters, or granddaughters, I always wanted to have one, but it just did not happen.

My diploma work when I graduated University was centred around Virgin Mary as an inspiring motherly and womanly figure,  and the other feminine types which appeared predominantly on Middle Ages and Renaissance literature. I was particularly fascinated by the adored Lady of the Heart in the troubadours’ creations, as I had learnt in Anthropology that being a dedicated admirer of the beauty and virtues of a (generally) married lady was a wide practice for noble young men during those times.

Reaching this point I felt I needed some Bjork on the background, and I think I will conclude with posting one of her songs/videos. She is one of the women I admire and I have gradually discovered growing up, with her universe of surreal images, with her voice made for magic chants and with that air of a sorceress that both awes me and makes me love her. Bjork is, somehow, my good Snow Queen, whom my heart needs when it has to sink without fear into its own femininity and, at the same time, into the secret understanding which only a woman can have for another woman’s emotional inner dance, cry, jump and flight.  

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: