You didn’t know my story.

What?

My prayer shawl? You stole my prayer shawl? Who are you? How dare you do this? I leave work and approach my car only to discover a crowbar was used to get inside — and steal.

Oh, you didn’t know?

You didn’t know that I sleep with the shawl every night — that in the fear and terror of the dark I wrap it around me and pray. I pray for light, pray that I can close my eyes without seeing those images.

You didn’t know my story. You didn’t know that two years ago I was raped, repeatedly, and my horizon was shattered. You didn’t know that the fear and pain caused by my sexual assault put me into depression. That it kept my body tense and rigid, flinching at every touch. It kept my senses high and my tolerance low. It took away my voice of laughter, of signing. It took away my trust.

Oh, but you didn’t know?

You didn’t know about the men who waited outside my door, with their penis exposed, ready for the moment I left my home. You didn’t know about the groups of young men on the street, pushing me up against the wall, grabbing my hair, breasts, crotch. You don’t know about the day I screamed for help, only to have three police officers turn their heads away from my cry and walk away, with passerby women glaring at me with scorn. You don’t know about the day I ran down the street, chasing after the man who grabbed my crotch from behind, only to have a gathering of men tell me, “Ma’alish!”

“Ma’alish”.

“Forget about it?” “Don’t worry about it?” “It does not matter?” “Let it go.”

How do you let that go?

Oh, but you didn’t know?

You didn’t know that there was nothing I could do; that if I spoke out against the men, it would come back to haunt me. My anger swelled, my bitterness grew, and still I could do nothing but pray. My once bright light was slowly being shadowed by darkness. The once flaming fire became so small that even a whisper was enough to blow it out. Oh, how fragile the flame.

Oh, but you didn’t know?

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