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Today I exist /Story III/

I came to live my dream of studying at a music-oriented institution. I was preparing to create a happy life, free of worry.

He was the closest friend of our family when we lost my father. We needed him, not only to support my mother, but also to provide fatherly love.

I trusted him. He became my teacher, providing knowledge and fatherly affection. But that did not last long. It later became clear to me that his support and friendship had other intentions.

Until that day I did not see any problems with his touches. We would embrace when we met and talk for hours.

Convinced of our trust of this man, who had become so close and provided so much support, my mother did not believe that such a “kind” person could do such a thing. But he did it.

I did not know what to do. My whole world was turned upside-down. How could he do that, now that I loved him, trusted him, admired him? That did not stop him.

The only outlet I saw was suicide. I realized I would not be able to live like this.

For a long time, I was searching for something. I don’t know what I was looking for, maybe I was looking for myself.

My emotions affected my relationship with my family, and impacted my work and studies. I stopped creating.

Then I found an organization that supports individuals who have been sexually abused. My recovery process took one year and six months.

Today, I have found myself again. I am creating, I am teaching a music school, and I am happy.

 

 

The smell of Gugarq /Story II/

It was dark when I came home, they were playing chess in the candle light on the veranda in totally serene atmosphere...I came shocked,wet and dirty. Detached from the world. The events which I had just experienced were the kind one would rather forget. I was trying to wake up from the nightmare..I knew that I had to write down everything I remembered before all the details would disappear…My flatmate knew that something horrible had happened, but I was not ready to talk, I wanted to sit down and breathe. And to go over the situation in my head and make notes before my brain deleted this traumatic experience. I already felt the clouds setting on my forehead. As they were on sky. It was raining, but I didn't realize it, until the moment when I came home and started to feel my wet clothes.Than I remembered it was hard rain in one moment. I went to shower, to splash out the feelings and than I entered palisandr smoke to clear my thoughts.

On my lap, there is now purring a black three-legged cat. So I know that I still have two legs and two hands and the life continues...The smile in the darkness.

After work I felt that I needed movement and air, so I went for a ride on my bike. Smell of cold, fresh air awaked me and I felt full of energy and happiness. How I love the twilight, the transition,the moment of calming and long shadows in soft warm light painting the landscape. But making planned circular journey was interrupted. I lost the way...I had picked the bigger road hoping that it would lead me to the main road back to Vanadzor. I see the muddy road ending in t-junction. My mind is protesting and doesn't want to continue the story. Like pushing a reverse button of my memory, in my mental recording I'm back nearby the local school in Gugarq with tableaux of soldiers and a monument commemorating Second World War.  These fainting faces of men are something creepy and bizarre. I remember these photos consumed by time and disappearing. I left them staring on mountains and biked away. I remember the idea of coming back to take their picture. And in deed, we met again, because I appeared again in that exact spot during investigation.

I am jumping, as my thoughts are trying to avoid this spot in memory about which I want to tell you, it is like opposite magnetic poles, as you get closer, it slips away.

Going back on the road, where houses are getting less dense, I still had hope that the road will lead me out of the village. I turned left and somebody entered the doors of a farm, pausing for a moment before entering and the road became trail in deep mud so I could not really move..I turned back and I saw the city lights over Vanadzor further on the right than I had expected. I decided to come back and turn on the other side. And the other side of the Moon is always dark...

Horses in range stampeded when I rode close to them. Big and small one. I continued and heard somebody shouting, It was a male voice and I thought he wanted to calm down horses. The voice was getting closer and I was slow in the mud. Then I realized he is shouting to me. I didn't want to encounter anybody, so I continued and didn't pay attention.

But somebody caught me and stopped.

I have told it so many times. It has become boring and very far away. I have to fight with myself to repeat. I want to leave this memory to sleep forever as Snow White. But every day walking in the streets, they don't let it sleep, facing harassment and inappropriate comments digging out this event.

He smelled like horse.

He told me that he will show me the way, I replied that I don't need it, because I see the lights. We had difficulties to communicate, because he spoke only Armenien. I tried to bike away, but he grabbed my bike and didn't let me go. I saw his eyes full of hunger. And he forced me down from bike and tried to catch me.

I ran away. But he grabbed me from the back and squeezed my breasts. He put me on the ground and tried to kiss me. I was trying to stand up again and kick him away from me. He tried to open my jacket but I didn't let him. I started calling for help, but he just laughed and said that nobody could hear me there. On the side were just abandoned houses and an orchard. We were rolling on the side road, as I was trying to get rid of him. Twisting out my wrist from his grab. I managed to stand up. My heart beat was speeding, but I was hoping that it is over, that he understood that I will not let him. He tried to calm me down and said that it's over that we will go, he will just accompany me.

I told him again that I don't need his help, but he took my bike. I was keeping distance from him, but he grabbed my hand and held me. He turned towards the fruit tree orchard. I was protesting that it's the wrong way. But he dragged me. I tried to make it the most difficult for him to move me. I put all my weight down, so he could not move me with only one hand anymore.  He threw the bike on the ground and forced me with both hands. He was pulling me towards the abandoned house. I tried to nail myself to the ground, pushing with all my weight to the ground. But he took me from back, grabbing my arms and carrying me closer to the building. There he threw me on the ground and laid on me. His breath was shaking with excitement. Before I had thought that I will manage to escape. But he pushed me with all his power to the ground, trying to pull my trousers down. I was pushing him away with my legs, in which most of my physical power is concentrated. He was pushing my arm against the ground, holding me in place. He was fighting with me trying to take of my trousers, he managed once, but I kicked him out and put them back. I started crying for help. But he cut his hand on my mouth, but I bit and tried to free my voice. He caught my throat and started to suffocate me. I was scared by the proximity of death.

He managed to take of my trousers again and dragged me by legs closer to house again, then he managed to pull down also his trousers, while holding me and laid on me. I could not move my legs, but one of my hands was free. When I saw his penis getting closer, I took it and twisted it. He loosened the power of holding me.

I put my trousers on. When I have managed to stand up, he also stood up quickly and grabbed my hair and pushed my face against his naked penis and kept shaking my head  towards his organ. It was disgusting.

Humiliating.

Than he said again, that it is over and that I should shut up, because we will walk through the village. I was shivering and keeping distance, I didn't try to escape again. He tried to put me on the ground  and kiss me again. He was playing with me, as cat with a mouse. We walked towards my bike. I was hoping to ask for help when we approached houses. In the village I calm down little bit, because I was feeling more safe. I thought that if he will try again, somebody will come to help me…

Then I ran into the open yard and asked for help, but people were suspicious and denied to shelter me and said that it's not true, because these things are not happening in Armenia.

I was back in the street filled up with noise from my squealing brakes. I tried to ask for help for the second time.

But old man said me aggressively that I should go to the police if I have problem. When I told him that I do not know where it is, he told me to call. I plead him to call, because I didn’t have a phone. But he just told me to go away immediately. So I went. And I met him again, driving my bike and shouting insults to me.

Than he called his friends to come by car. I knew that I have to everything to manage escape before his friends will come. We walked on the big road and I stopped the first car passing by. Youngsters from inside where greeting the rapist by his name and he sent them away. I have tried to hitch another car, I got inside while another car- his friends stopped.

I was asking the driver to help me and drive me away from these people, while another person entered the car.

They made me leave the car and a friend of perpetrator promised to give back my bike which he was holding.

He did and I biked home. It was dark when I came home, they were playing chess in the candle light on the veranda, not knowing which horror I just go through. I went to sleep, hoping that I will wake up without this experience.

Next day I didn't wake up from that nightmare and I went to police station to announce attempt of rape. Investigation started. Since I described the person well and I remembered the name by which his friends called him and pointed out the place, where it had happened, they brought him to police station the same day for identification. He had the same clothes as previous day. He is waiting in detention for the final decision of court.

In my home country there are laws about protection of victim and especially of sexual violence, so testimony is said just once and recorded and then the victim doesn't have to be directly confronted with the rapist.

I know I am strong and I protect myself, but I didn't manage to protect my dignity. I allowed myself to cry a lot. It was not crying  just for my personality, but it was the last drop in the jar before it started to overleak...

All the sexual harassment, which I have experienced for these last months. All the blindness of society against inequality. I cried for all women who have to experience the same and for happiness that it was me and not someone else who could not find enough power to speak up and liberate herself from this experience.

I was full of anger and power to fight for justice and a fair just society for women.

If people will be silent the things will never change. Now people of Armenia understood that their voice can be heard. But we need to hear the women voices. Woman, you are not alone! Մենակ չես․․․

On a Wednesday evening after the protests /Story I/

On a Wednesday evening after the protests against Sargsyan, I walked home from Republic Square. My way was not far, only ten minutes. I decided to walk alone, because I didn’t want the guy I’ve been with to the protests to take me home. I didn’t want to get into an awkward situation with him in front of my door, him trying to kiss me or something. I chose a way I didn’t know because I like wandering around in the streets at night. I was not sure if this was a dead-end road or would bring me home, but a guy pointed at the street and was nodding in approval, so I went there. I thought he only wanted to show me the way, but then he followed me. I felt that this was a strange situation, and I don’t know why I went on. Maybe because I want to feel safe everywhere, not wanting to accept that any person could make me feel insecure.

Obviously not being Armenian with my blond hair, he tried to ask me where I’m from. I don’t speak Armenian, but he said some country names. I told him that I’m from Germany, but in a repellent way. We got into a darker part of the street, which was actually only a small path for pedestrians. There were no lights and no people anymore. He came closer. I turned around, trying to keep him away with my hands. I yelled at him to keep his hands off. Suddenly he was behind me, closing my mouth with his hands to prevent me from screaming. My whole body was under tension and I bit his hand as strong as I could. Then he came in front of me, still trying to hold me. But I could scream and pushed on his throat. His hands were under my pants. Suddenly he let me go, kicking me in the ass while I was running away. Probably he was afraid that someone would come to help me, but no one did. Maybe he also felt that I’m too strong to easily rape me. With my 50 kilos I look like a weak girl, but I climb a lot which gave me enough strength to resist in this situation.

On the first drinking fountain I found I washed my face, to get rid of the salty taste of his sweaty hands. I couldn’t wash away the feeling his hand left on my face, it hurt for some days.

For the next hours I still felt the adrenaline. It was confusing that I felt so good. Usually you only feel your body when anything hurts, but I felt my whole intact body, that no one harmed it, and that I – all by myself – was strong enough to defend it.

My closest friends and family are far away, and to not make them worry, I told them that I’m fine, that it only made me stronger. In some respect it did, in some it didn’t. Anyways, in the beginning I believed my own words. But a few days afterwards, my feet took me back to this place. I had to sit there for some time, to realize what happened. That my feeling, that I’m safe everywhere, is not true anymore. I returned in the evening with a friend. Usually being a non-smoker, I smoked one cigarette after another until the package was empty, to keep the stress level down.

Now every staring man scares me. At night, I still walk home alone sometimes, but now I choose the crowded streets. One evening, a guy approached me, asked me if I need help. I told him that I was just on my way home and he asked if he could accompany me. When I said no he started discussing. We were only a few meters away from the spot where I had to turn into my dark backyard. I wanted to tell him that it’s disrespectful not accepting my opinion. That it’s stupid to talk to a girl in the middle of the night, expecting her to be nice. That I never found anyone attractive, talking to me like this on the street. But I couldn’t, I hardly couldn’t breathe because I panicked. Maybe this was the guy from the other night? Maybe he would also try to rape me? When he saw my fear, he stopped following me.

I know that it’s very unlikely to experience such a situation again. And this guy didn’t make it, he didn’t rape me. But still, he took away my peace, my feeling of security, my beautiful walks through dark, empty streets. And since I don’t remember his face, I’m afraid of meeting him again without noticing it.

Most people were surprised when I told them, telling me that these situations are very rare and unusual in Armenia. I received a lot of support. On the other hand, my grandpa just told me that girls shouldn’t be on the streets alone at night, suggesting that it was kind of my fault. At the police station, after describing the incident at least ten times, they honestly asked me if I was sure he wanted to rape me. “Maybe he just wanted to steal something?” As if they didn’t listen at all. He didn’t try to grab my backpack or my pockets. The only thing he touched was my body, the only thing his hands entered were my pants. What did they think he wanted to steal, my ass?!

This incident made me think a lot. Why do mainly women have to be afraid of rape? Why are mainly women sexually harassed? Of course, the patriarchate with all its ugly implications. This was the first time I physically felt on my own body what this abstract word means. But I won’t simply accept it, going on as if nothing happened. I won’t accept being an object, reduced to its appearance; ascribed with traits like weakness or dependency. We as women are subjects, we can act, think, feel, live independently. We don’t need a man to tell us that we’re attractive, capable, worth something. And no man can take away our dignity.

16:53 May 16, 2016