I was having dinner with my friends. Laughter resounded in our kitchen in the university campus – my typical student meal, cooked with the only two things I found in the fridge – endless chats.

Everything was okay until – after the question, “So, how was Istanbul?” – you broke in. And in that moment, after almost one month in which I had tried to push you out of my mind, I realized how you broke me. How something inside me fell to pieces that night alongside the Bosphorus.

I perfectly remember how you approached me. I was wandering around Sultanahmet Square, waiting for the praying time to end to be able to visit the Blue Mosque. I was looking for my lighter, the cigarette already between my lips. You came and lit my cigarette and started talking. Typical small talk. Where are you from? Do you like the city? Where do you plan to go? You offered to help me choose the most important places in Istanbul to visit and to help me plan my to-do list for the next day.

You seemed nice. You were also a tourist but had been in Istanbul several times. I was alone in the city, honestly a bit lost and extremely tired, and I thought – why not? Many times before I had casually bumped into someone while travelling and such encounters had made some of my recent trips unforgettable and full of good memories. We had something to drink and you showed me what not to miss on my map, planning my movements for the day after as I had only two days in Istanbul.

Then we crossed the bridge to reach the other side of the city and Galata tower. On the way back, I wanted to stop alongside the water – overlooking the Bosphorus at sunset, enjoying the breeze, the vapurs crossing from the Asian to the European side, the minarets springing up on the skyline.

Let’s go a bit further, there are too many people here,” you said and you started walking away from the crowd. And I started to feel something was about to go wrong. I insisted that we stay close to other people and we stopped beside some fishermen.

And then you changed. You started saying you were feeling alone and started coming closer and closer. “You know, I haven’t had sex for eight months.” That sentence and the look on your face gave me goosebumps. I tried to change the topic and stepped back, centimetre by centimetre. “That beer is killing me, I need to pee now. It will only take a minute, don’t leave”. And in that moment my first thought was “leave”. And this urge became even stronger when I realized that you were not peeing but masturbating.

I didn’t even have time to realize what was really happening, that you were back, the zip of your trousers open. You started to come closer, to touch me, tried to kiss me on my neck, pressing against my body. Nobody seemed to notice anything. I had the feeling of floating above myself and seeing myself from the outside. “If you don’t stop, I’ll start to scream,” I said. “If you scream, I’ll like it better. And you will like it too.” That was your answer. I will like it.

I tried to push you away and you became angry. “What did you expect? I need this! I can even just watch you but you have to stay here, I need to do it.” I was scared and almost paralyzed. I remember thinking: you’re going to rape me or you’re going to hit me.

I don’t even remember clearly how I got out of that situation. I kept talking and trying to change the subject, trying to be calm, not wanting to annoy you. I wanted to leave. And suddenly you changed again and looked sorry. And in that moment, I started to walk away and you followed me again, repeating that the square was in the other direction.

I kept following the Blue Mosque’s minaret, trusting for once my non-existent sense of orientation with your arms around me. “Just let me hug you and I’ll do nothing more to you.” So I did. I let your arm rest on my shoulders, your body close to mine as we got to the square. I still feel guilty and dirty for that. I waved my hand pretending to have seen some friends and you finally left, saying how horny I made you and how rude I had been to you. I waited in Sultanahmet Square for ten minutes, constantly looking around me, and then I went back to my hostel, directly to my room.

I just went to my bed and started deleting all the pictures I had taken from that point alongside the Bosphorus before everything happened. I just wanted to forget. I felt dirty and contaminated by something extremely wrong and a part of me wanted to take off my body like it was a piece of clothing and leave it.

But the desire to forget was stronger, so I didn’t take a shower. I didn’t even change my clothes. I just lay in my bed like that. The guilt started to hunt me down. Was it my fault? Could I have done something different?

Was it me? It took me time to understand that it was not me. I was not the cause of the situation, but the victim. It was all on you.

I was not ready to tell my parents, family and friends what had happened. If I had told them, I would have seen the fear and panic on their faces and my fear and guilt would have been greater, so I just kept pretending the whole thing wasn’t real. It was not me and it was not you. But on that evening with my friends, when they asked me about my time in Istanbul, I realized that I had somehow belittled what you had done to me.

I was afraid of people saying that I was asking for it, travelling alone; I was afraid of others blaming me as I did at the beginning. “I was almost raped but I’m okay, it’s fine.” The point is that it’s not fine and it’s not my fault.

We were like those car accidents you read on the news. You hit me and broke me like you can do with a car. And no, I’m pretty sure, no car enjoys being hit. And I’m pretty sure that car was not looking for someone to hit it.

You took away something from me. My energy, my safety, my confidence and, in the end, my own voice. I found myself avoiding guys I had been seeing before leaving for Turkey just because the idea of someone touching me was killing me. The idea of someone touching my neck became my worst nightmare. You took away my independence and how proud I was of it. You even made me feel guilty because you did not actually rape me, because my damage was more internal than external. You made me feel like I didn’t have the right to suffer.

Sometimes I think that if I hadn’t gone alone to Istanbul, then this would never have happened. But then I realize it would have happened, just to somebody else. You would have found some other girl.

You said to me, “What did you expect?”, as if having a beer with you and chatting gave you a free pass for everything else. It’s not. You’re not entitled to any girl’s body. And that night was the first time in my life that I felt somebody else was entitled to my body.

If you look for the definition of “sexual assault”, you’ll find out that it’s “any type of sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient”. And if you look for “street harassment”, you’ll know that it is “a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, wolf whistling, “catcalling”, and other actions by strangers in public areas.” Congrats, you did both.

You should never have done this to me.

Women are more than just a sum of their parts. They are not some body to arouse you. They are somebody.

To all the girls that have experienced rape, sexual assault or  street harassment.

Remember you are important, untouchable and beautiful. And nobody can take that from you.

Remember you are to be respected and valued.

Remember you are powerful.

And no, it’s not your fault.

To girls everywhere, I am with you.

From #metoo to #wetoogether.


Image Title Author License
#metoo #metoo Sara Marzorati CC BY-SA 4.0