I’m afraid of even having to speak about this. Because I know so many people will shake their heads and call me crazy. They’ll say that none of this is really happening or happened to me.
I’m afraid that what I have to say will go unnoticed by the ones who don’t care, while the ones who understand will nod their head at my words with tears streaming down their face. Because they know how it feels.
I’m afraid, I’m so afraid.
I’m afraid of going through my closet and picking the wrong outfit. Not the tight dress, unless you’re going to wear tights or a long sweater to cover yourself up. We don’t want men to get the wrong idea. Even though you were only thinking how that brown dress with white polka dots matches your eyes in the sunlight. But you put it away because it’s on the shorter side and settle for the loose jeans and black turtleneck.
I’m afraid of the voice my mom makes on the other side of the phone. When I tell her how I’m going on a date with a boy I met online and we’ve been talking for a couple weeks. She hesitates as I hear her catch a breath, trying to come up with the right words to say. She tells me to have fun, but to text her as soon as I get home no matter the time. I’ve kept her up a lot of nights from this.
I’m afraid of walking alone on the streets of my town listening to music. That something I love to do and is therapeutic for me has to be tainted by men with flirtatious eyes and dangerous thoughts running through their head. I’ve been stopped on the street by cars more than once; I walked faster. My head is used to turning every few moments, sometimes seconds, to make sure no one is behind me. It’s a habit I’ve acquired not by choice.
I’m afraid of walking alone at night through the city streets. I hug my purse to my chest and dangle my keys in my hand, ready to run to my car when a flashing light from a car starts going a little too slow for comfort.
I’m afraid to drink too much at the bar. I can’t enjoy a night out with friends because I need to chaperone my drink and not let it out of my sight. Because anyone can put something in it, even though I feel ridiculous for even thinking something like that could happen. It has happened—have you watched the news in the last couple of years?
I’m afraid of walking down my driveway in the summertime in a pair of shorts and a tank top to retrieve the recycling bins. Because the construction workers on the other side of the street gawk at me like I’m a slab of meat getting tenderized at the butcher shop, ready to be served to its customer. Their whistles and remarks still haunt me to this day.
I’m afraid I’ll never hear anything good coming from the news anymore. Because each day is another report of a girl going missing, or a girl who has been sexually abused, or a girl who has been raped, or a girl who has been murdered.
I’m afraid I’ll never be able to fully trust a guy to see me as not just a body but as a soul with a beating heart.
I’m afraid the last words I say to my mom will be something stupid instead of “I love you” when something bad happens to me. Because all the girls that went missing or got murdered didn’t expect it to happen to them either.
I’m afraid that everything I’ve just said will go unheard, like with most girls who report their sexual assault or rapes. Because they were told to be silent as their assaulters and rapists kept on going forward with smirks on their guilty faces. I would know.