Most of my life I traveled un public transportation in Mexico and walked alone in the streets during the day or night. My first trip alone in the public bus was when I was 12 y/o. I needed to do it if I want to be a middle school student. My parents did not have a car or even the time to go with me everywhere. My father did picked me up during evenings even though this means two extra hours of work for his long days of work. He did that also when my mom wanted to go somewhere during evenings. My mother or father would walk me to the bus in the mornings every time they could. There was a community effort as well, neighbors joined efforts in providing companion to young women. However, there was dark mornings and nights when I needed to do it by myself.
Now, at this point you may ask protection from what? Well, being a young woman traveling alone back then (and probably is still happening), was an opportunity to be sexually harassed. Older women were scared to say anything, honorable men who disagreed, were also afraid to get in trouble because it could and up in a public fight with weapons involved. Pretty much, my body was public domain from age 12 to 25. I felt angry, disempowered and frustrated. It did not matter how I was dressed. Actually the more conservative I was in my clothing the more trouble I was in. One day before my period at age 13, some guy in the bus just had his hand for long time in my underwear not matter how I yelled and screamed in front of everybody.
Many days I arrived to my school or work in tears and full of frustration. I remember one day, at age of 25, as I walked to my office in the morning, a biker just touched my butt as he passed by. Behind him, a police car was coming. I knew the police officers saw that and the guy saw that the police did not bother him. The police officer stopped and asked me if I was ok. In the car were like 5 police officers, all of them men. I was in tears. I asked them to do something. One of them said: “There is no reason” Then he almost apologized and said “You know miss, if we do something every time we see that behavior, we will not have time for other things, we are glad that you are ok”. Of course now, I was even more furious. Let me tell you that they stopped only because I was the psychologist in the same building and they knew me. I am pretty sure that other wise they would even laugh at the incident as happen before several times. As I shared this with my boss and asked him for support (a male lawyer), he said. “I am glad that nothing happen to you Carmen”. That was it, I knew that official help will not come.
At age of 25, I got the courage to speak for myself. I was not afraid to get hurt or get into a fight. I was dumb tired of being sexually harassed even in work places. I had men who touched me with hands, with their genitals, or whatever they could. Some days I would be wet in my blouse or skirt of unwanted semen. Those things were never spoken at home. I did not want my mom to suffer. This was a big social embarrassing secret in the entire community.
One day, as I was reading in a public bus at noon, the bus was almost empty and one guy in his early twenties sat next to me. He put his jacket on his lap. (Very typical behavior of those who want to hide their intentions and of course the erection). He slowly got his hand into my lap and touched my legs walking to my genitals. I asked the driver to stop immediately. I yelled so hard that everybody was in shock. The driver opened the door and I asked the guy to leave. I was aware the he might be armed, I did not care I was not in the mood to be harassed anymore. Nobody did anything as always. The guy leaved the door, and the bus driver was still in shock. I ordered him to close the door and keep driving. From this day on I became a fighter for myself and other young women. I learned pretty quickly the secret of older women. The secret was the way they see the abuser. They seem to tell them in silence “Don’t you dare, this body is mine”. It is like an unspoken way to deal with it.
That was it, this was the last time some stranger dare to harassed me.
I hope that my nieces, who soon will be in the public transportation by themselves, have the confidence to talk to us. As far as I am concern, this will not be a secret in in my family.