Content warning: I will be touching on sensitive topics that might precipitate strong reactions in you. Please take care of yourself if you choose to continue reading.
I contemplated for a long time whether to open up about being sexually abused growing up. Men that were involved were much too closely related, stepdads, brothers, cousins, and uncles I grew up with. I worried about my siblings who would then have to learn the dads whom they dearly love violated their sister. I feared being told by my female relatives, “It’s your fault. That is my man.” It’s a sight many of us are accustomed to in the Marshall Islands.
In the end, I decided, to protect my siblings, to teach them to reach out for help, to fight back I will weather the brunt of the storm for them. I reached out to a peer on Impolitikal whom I had worked previously with. They asked continuously whether I was really sure about this. Them being from the Pacific Islands as well knew what I was trying to do but they warned, “I don’t think our people are ready for this discussion.” Meaning even if I did this, the change I want and need, won’t be as swift.
Regardless, my mind was already set. I looked to great beings of throughout history and saw the great resistance they faced, wanting them to conform, but they persevered. Now I see privileges I have now that they in their time would have been scorned for. Plant the seeds, the quote came to mind.
My piece was then published. After posting it all over my social media, I stayed away for a couple of days. I was mentally fortifying myself for whatever was to come. Eventually, I went back on. The comments that came were loving, kind, supportive, and empathetic. I was receiving private messages from individuals of all ages sharing their story with me. The safe space I never had growing up, it has now been created for these people who opened up to me. At the same time, I wondered if I was deserving of it all.
Going back to my house, mother’s partner waited for me. People went to him, asking if the things I wrote about were true. He felt ashamed, worried about the shame that would come upon the family. We argued and I said no matter, it is the truth and predators needed to be taken more seriously and not shoved under the rug. My baby sibling, his child, will know better than me were they to encounter such situations. Would he want his child to hide it from him and suffer? I ask him.
He called mother and after talking with her, she seemed to accept my answers. Strange, I thought, coming from a woman whose reaction to me being kissed by another partner of hers was, “Was that it?” or trying to set me up with that partner’s much older friend. At the same time I was grateful because it meant my siblings were in much better hand. She then asked whom my assaulters were. I told her I will not say any names. What is she going to do, beat them up? I abhor violence. I was already overwhelmed. I did not want to think of anything else.
Later, I sent the link to my dad. Explicitly telling him I want no violent reaction. I will go to his house immediately so he must wait until I am there as he reads it. I arrived at his house, sat next to him as he opened the link and started reading. He was stoic the entire time. When he was done, all he said was, “Emman.” “Good.”
A part of me expected, wanted some sort of reaction besides his controlled face. Especially as I wrote in the article that he too failed to protect me. After my conversation with mother and her partner, I craved love and support from my closest kin. Even if they had been toxic towards me. I asked him if there was anything he wanted to say, ask? He said no.
So I left. Afterwards, I learned he had posted my story on his socials. That conveyed to me what his monosyllable answers could not. In such a conservative society, what dad would outrageously share their daughter’s story on being sexually abused so publicly? Once again, I was grateful for his open-mindedness.
I remembered crying as a child after having my breasts groped in front of my friends, the church, as we crossed the street by the guy who was deported back from the US. I saw dad come out of his house and I sobbed as I walked straight to his arms. He calmly asks me what happened and I told him and said, “Please no fighting. I do not want to cause trouble.”
Ignoring my words, he called over to some boys and his friends to look for this person. In fear, I gave vague description of the assaulter. I did not want a dead body on my conscious, or gravely injured. God forbid, should any of my male relatives learn about it as well. Our people, if you wrong one of them, they do not come one by one, they come in pack. You wrong one, you wrong all.
The assaulter ran away and with the description I gave, they could not find him.