In the US, what happened to me in India is rape. In some other countries rape is defined by penis/vagina contact and this is another form of sexual assault. Either way, it’s hurtful and wrong.
My confidence is completely shattered. I feel so violated. I keep having nightmares; I just know that it hit me like a speeding truck. I thought I had put it to the darkest and farthest part of my memory, but that’s the funny thing about your mind. It plays tricks on you. It makes you believe that you’re this fully functioning human being until one day it all comes rushing back and there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop it.
Let me tell you about the night I was very sexually assaulted.
It was winter, Feb 9th, 2017, my 25th birthday, and it happened in India. I travel alone. I’ve never been nervous about the Bad Things that might happen to a woman who does. I’ve never carried pepper spray, or a safety whistle. I get into cars with people I’ve just met, even if I’m uncertain of the destination. I’ve been called brave, or maybe I’m just reckless. All I know is that Bad Things might happen anywhere.
As a young female traveler, I am well attuned to the worries of my family and friends. Before each trip, I repeatedly received the same pieces of advice, telling me not to walk alone in the dark, always watch my drink, and not to place too much trust in men I didn’t know.
I was with some new friends that time, building a fort for the neighborhood kids in this wooded area. Suddenly one of the hotel guests (45-50 year-old man) asked if I can take a picture of him; he found a great photography spot around the area but its 10-15 minutes walk away from the hotel. He was being very sincere and kind so I agreed. We walked out of the woods and into these back fields that had paths. We were talking about Indian culture, future travel destination, etc. Then mid conversation he stopped and pulled me over to a secluded area of the paths. He asked if I wanted to have sex. I got mad and was going to say no, but I never even had the chance. He put this hand over my mouth and held me down with a gun to my neck. Knowing what was about to happen I froze. My whole body went numb. I couldn’t move. I screamed. I tried to push him off of me but he wouldn’t move. He told me that he just couldn’t handle himself around me. I was wearing shorts so my knees were being burned from being dragged and I was crying in pain, because of it.
I was absolutely frozen, because it was so out of my understanding that anyone could do anything like that. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t know what was going to happen next, or what he would do next. I felt completely at his mercy.
Next thing I knew, his hand was under my dress and looked at me with fully unemotional eyes and an expressionless face. When he started to unzipped his pants and pulled his penis out —I begged him to let me go. He no longer seemed to care.
He forced me to my knees, stuck his penis in my mouth and made me suck him. My jaw was locking, I was on the verge of vomiting, it was 11:30pm and I was exhausted. I wanted to bite him so bad, but I was completely dissociated and terrified and my body would not respond. And he put a gun to my head, so if I pissed him off, it would have been easy for him to pull the trigger. A few minutes later he held my head still, thrust his hips back and forth and came in my mouth and I gagged and he forced me to swallow it all.
After he was done, he got dressed and walked out like nothing happened. He left me there with my tears. I lay there completely motionless and dissociated for about half an hour, before coming back to my senses and feeling something sticky on my face. For a while, I lost sight of him, and laid down in an overgrown patch of grass where he couldn’t see me. I laid there shaking and silently crying for what felt like an eternity, praying that God would help me. At some point I had grabbed a large rock, and gripped it in my hand in case he found me. But after forever, he seemed to have left, and I peeked up past the bushes.
I tried to walk through my life as if nothing happened. I felt nothing. I stayed hiding in my room and slept in my closet at night. I kept thinking that he would come back and get me. I felt nothing, I was numb.
I was in a foreign place and didn’t know where to go or who to trust. I’m a foreigner and he’s a very powerful business man in India. It would have been his word against mine. Who would they believe? How was I going to explain it? Would I be interrogated? I didn’t have the words at that time to speak about it; I would have died of embarrassment and shame.
I saw him in the hotel the following day. I didn’t say a word. I just wanted to get away from him. I put it to the back of my mind and never spoke about it again. I told no one. Not my parents. Not my friends. Not a counselor. No one. I don’t want to encounter all those who had only reluctantly supported me, embracing me with pity but harboring thoughts of “I told you so”.
I thought I was doing fine. My mind tricked me into thinking I was okay. I never acknowledged the damage this caused when it happened. It’s getting harder and harder to push this to the deepest, farthest part of my mind. My mind is tricking me less and less these days. It’s forcing me to deal with the reality that this happened. This was real and it was wrong and it wasn’t my fault. It was unwanted. It was unprovoked. It was rape. And it was real. The guilt is real. The pain is real. The emotional scars are real. I keep getting nightmares and panic attacks and I can’t be in the same room with someone who smells like him without crying my eyes out and running away. I’m not sure where I go from here, but I thought this might be a good start.
So here I’am, listening to music, and writing about my experience in India. I am certain that there are many other girls who have had similar experiences that don’t conform to the stereotype of “girl attacked in dark alley”. I wanted to share mine because I’m choosing to own it, to not be ashamed about speaking out about this very taboo subject, and to make others aware that this happens much more often than what people may think. I don’t want to feel like a victim.
Jackie Vargas, 25, Philippines