Am I a Woman Now?
I had heard it from some of my friends, but had never experienced it. “It” stands here for sexual fondling.
In high school , I had to take a public bus; on my way to school and back home. A friend who lived in the flat below ours was always with me. We always stuck together for fear of what we knew from hearsay. That afternoon, we somehow got separated in the bus. It was packed. A man with a strong BO started getting close to me. It must have been either springtime or early autumn. So, I had no coat on; just my school uniform and my shoulder bag, filled with books. He managed to touch me inappropriately. I looked up and saw my friend intently examining my facial expressions and my overall body language. I held my tears back, but felt utterly dirty; all along thinking that I had caused him to do that to me.
When we exited the bus at our usual stop on the main road, I couldn’t say a single word to my friend. She too was silent. As soon as I went home, I ran to my room, locked it and bawled. I was hysterical, not knowing what to do with myself. Someone knocked on my door. “Leave me alone, please!” That someone knocked again. “Please, I don’t want to see anyone. Please, go!” Then I heard Mom and Uncle Tunç pleading with me to open the door. They didn’t give up; finally, I did. My aunt was also there. I had forgotten that they were going to come over for dinner that evening.
My aunt was a nurse. She wanted to talk with me in private. I let her. After I told her my story, all I could do was ask one question, again and again: “Am I a woman now?”
I was a late bloomer when it came to sexual matters. My description of the incident must have given my aunt all the details she needed to know. What that man subjected me to was not a sexual assault; hence, under no circumstances, would he have violated my virginity. It was a sexual fondling, for sure, but not anything beyond that.
I still kept crying for a while longer. My pride was hurt, to say the least. Also, I had now realized how naïvely I had lived to that age. My friend probably knew it all along. Perhaps that was why she seemed calm and collected on our way back home.
Long after my high school years, I noticed the news about a female-focused social movement: The Purple Needle Campaign. Whenever subjected to an unwanted treatment by men in public spaces, women all over Turkey had been poking those males with specifically designed purple needles. I remember shouting out loud: “ Yes! Thank you!”
The Purple Needle Campaign was launched on the 2nd of November, 1989. Its slogan read: “Our bodies are ours; stop sexual abuse!” Other similar initiatives have been materialized by the women of Turkey since. Not a moment too soon . . .
*From my upcoming book of short stories, Once upon a Time in Turkey . . .