John Dominique once said,
“You cannot kill truth. You cannot kill justice.
You cannot kill what we are fighting for”
I begin peeling off a layer of the mask that once covered my wounds
Starting with the meticulously rehearsed smile hung high on my face
Revealing anger, torment, loneliness, vulnerability
I had ignored the brewing storm of frustration in my head
Just as they said to.
on moving on.
on healing yourself,
they told me.
What about working on justice?
What about having control over my own body?
That didn’t matter. Not to them.
Because somehow they had come to the conclusion
That rules could be broken
By the man who held her down by the neck and told her not to scream
By the friend who said she needed a reason to say no
By the boyfriend who never made her comfortable enough to say stop
The father who said sex was the only way to prove she really loved him
The teacher who pretended to care
And neighbor who threatened to tell
By the doctor who was only supposed to do a checkup
The brother who held a knife to her throat and told her the pain would be over soon
By the same man who others said
“would never do such a thing.”
Because somehow suffocating the cries of violated women
is the best way to solve a problem no one wants to hear about.
Because those I once trusted put a limit on the amount of pain I was allowed to feel.
They focused on the amount of skin I was showing
The way I had my hair up
The way I talked,
They asked me if I was drunk,
As if wearing a low-cut shirt was an invitation
A bottle of beer sign of consent
As if the way I walked made me deserve what he did
As if the amount of makeup I wore determined the amount of damage he was allowed to do
As if the time of day made any goddamn difference
As if teaching girls to hide themselves from the world gets rid of the problem.
Silencing the suppressed was easier for them than standing up for what was right.
Funny how it all works, isn’t it?
Funny, like a rape joke?
People with power play by the book as long as it’s written in their favor.
They fight only the battles they have no chance at losing
They practice hardening their hearts while preaching about compassion and persistence
They are afraid of risks that need to be taken to achieve justice
They have more interest in protecting their reputation than their people
But even a dog remains untamed until it is taught the word no.
So why are men any different?
Why do we not teach our boys
That women are not objects
That they have a right to their bodies
That relationships do not validate perverse actions
That “no” does not need a reason to follow behind it
That they can no longer hide behind excuses
That they cannot force someone to do something they do not want to.
The mask others forced onto my face
Was but a futile attempt to suppress the reality.
That is not who I am.
I will not stay silent.
I am not a coward.
I refuse to kill truth.
I peel away the last bit of my mask:
It’s about time I revealed my scars.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.