I was having coffee with my best friend Liam; I was telling him how nervous I was feeling about my Toastmasters’ speech. I was never a big fan of standing up in front of the room and saying something personal to a bunch of strangers. Liam could tell I was nervous, so he reached out to touch my arm for comfort in his kind manner. Without warning, I saw his arm. I jerked back. I hate it when people touch me without being asked. I was never like this; my friends I used to hug all the time. Now times have changed.
A thousand meanings in a single touch. A sign of affection, to mean you are not alone. Perhaps it’s a friendly touch from a friend or a comforting one when you are sad. A touch could also bring up a bad feeling, making you feel uncomfortable, and put you in a frightened state. Those of you who have been in this position, please know you are not alone. Some of us have a hard time saying anything because the person who did us around is someone we know or someone our parents know. Here is my story of different experienced at different times in my life, which made me uncomfortable. The first time I was assaulted was on my 14th birthday. An old neighbour and friend of my parents called me up to say he wanted to take me to the movies. It sounded like it might be fun. There is nothing wrong with that right. My parents knew this person. So, it should have been no big deal. But of course, things took a different route than planned.
My birthday started off great, my parents had spoiled me with gifts and so had their friends who had come to visit our family for a week. The sun was shining, and I was hoping I would get a chance to go to the beach. I had just finished lunch, and my mothers were outside in the grading enjoying the sunshine; I went out and joined my sister, who was on the trampoline when the phone rang. My mother, Grace, was the one who went in to answer the phone. She talked to the person for a few minutes when she called me in.
“There is someone on the phone for you.”
“Coming, Mom!” I say as I jump off the trampoline and head inside. I was hoping it was one of my best friends calling to wish me a happy birthday.
“Hello,” I chirped as I did a quick twirl.
“Happy Birthday Maia! I want to take you to see a movie tonight. Two movies are playing: “Walle” and “Get Smart.” Think about it for a while,” Ron said, suddenly going quiet.
The smile vanished from my face. I knew who this guy was, and I didn’t like him. There was something that felt a bit off, but I could not quite grasp it. This guy used to be one of our neighbours in Cohousing, and back then, I never really liked him. Luckily for me, he did not pay too much attention since he was always with another young girl who liked me and didn’t have her dad living with her. I was glad when we finally sold our house and moved to another street with a new community. Of course, my mother thought I would like a father figure since I have two moms. A father figure to step in and take me out. I already had one. I found my father figure when I was younger. We would go camping as a family with my mother’s friends; he and his wife later came up with my last name Hannick.
His name was Dave, and we used to go to Pender Island, where we would have fun swimming, hiking, walking to the New To You thrift store and take our dogs for a walk. Dave is my real father figure, because unlike Ron, Dave is already part of the family, and I was comfortable with him. Whenever our families went camping, he always made sure he had stories to tell my sister and I. Dave never gave me a reason to feel uncomfortable. Dave's main gift was being able to spend time with my family and me. I was always excited to see him when he came over for dinner. Dave made me feel the daughter/ father experience, so I knew what it was like to have a father, even if it was only for a little while. Sadly, he and his wife moved to Ontario.
“What the hell. I might as well give him a chance,” I thought. “He is only trying to be a father figure.” A father, he knew I never had. Perhaps in his mind, he was just trying to make sure I had some father-daughter time like other children.
It didn’t take me long to figure out what movie I wanted to see since I was not interested in a story about a robot who fell in love “Walle.”
“I wouldn’t mind going to see “Get Smart,” I said into the phone.
“Great. I will pick you up around 6:30, and then we can go to Gibson.” Ron said as he ended the phone call.
I wasn’t worried at first. The other girl, who is younger than me, hangs out with Ron. They go horseback riding, have lunch go for walks and all. He was trying to be a father to all the other children and me; this is what he told my mom's when they first meet.
At six, Ron shows up being all happy and chirpy with my mother and her friends. As soon as I got in the car and we drove off I had started to feel a little uncomfortable, by then we were on the highway, and it was too late to change my mind. My mother, Grace, thought it was sweet to remember my birthday and wanted to take me out.
I cannot remember what we talk about while driving to the theatre. Ron made me feel even more uncomfortable when he reached over placed his hand on my upper thigh, giving me a couple of pats. I took a deep breath in and out, trying to calm my mind, this worked a little. I was able to smile on my face to make him think I was enjoying myself. Ron assumed his touch had not affected me in any way. Inside I was dying, a crazy thought crossed my mind: Did he want to touch me again? This made me wanted to run and keep running, but I couldn’t jump out of a moving vehicle. We went to the movie, which I could have enjoyed more if I was relaxed. I made sure to laugh at parts other people were laughing at, I kept my hands crossed in my lap, but my body could not relax, and I was worried Ron might do something again. “He could easily get away with anything right now,” I thought since no one was paying attention, and the movie theatre was dark, the only light coming from the film. When I finally went home, my mom asked how it went. I didn’t tell her the whole truth, just that Ron had made me feel uncomfortable, and she said to me that I never had to do anything with Ron again.
Everything was fine; I hardly saw Ron. Time went by, and as graduation came closer, I was excited. I got accepted into the General Arts and Science at Capilano University. I had no idea what I was going to be studying yet, but I still had lots of time. Everything changed when I got accepted into Canada World Youth exchange program. I will be going to Honduras, the excitement of going out of the country without my parents made me feel happy. I was finally growing up, and I was allowed to go and help in any way I can in another country. It was an adventure all to me, and the best part I was going to away from home for six months.
Closer to my departure, I found out we will be going to Nicaragua instead. Due to political events going on in Honduras, it was not safe for us to travel. I got on the plane feeling excited to meet the other Canadian girls, I was hoping that out of the eight, at least, one would like me. I landed in Ontario at night. I started to feel a little nervous about meeting the other woman from BC tonight since we were going to be sharing a room. Kristen is kind, and she ended up being a good friend right from the start.
A week later, we were off to Nicaragua, where we would meet our Honduras partner, who we will be with for the next six months. I had so much to learn from my counter partner, and she had so much to learn from me. The flight was long, and we had to stop in México, where the heat hit me. It was so hot I had started sweating just by standing outside.
A young lady named Raquel was paired up with me. Raquel and I got placed with a lovely woman who has three sons, her sister and her daughter live with them as well as a German shepherd named Clifford. I was overwhelmed that I would have younger brothers for the next while. I was kind of hoping to go to parks with them and chill out.
Our host mother had a big family; this is where I meet Nico. Nico was a great guy, and the only downside is he wanted to speak English, to practice. Over the next few weeks, I got to know my host family and Nico. He was 24, and I was 19 just four years’ difference, but as I told him, I was not looking for a relationship. He said it was ok since he had a son who was four, who he needed to focus on. Little did I know that soon I would start to shut off people and push them all always because of fear.
I had just got back to my host mother’s place after a long day at the market with my new friend Cree (Cree is from Saskatoon). As soon as I walked through the door, my brothers greeted me with a hug and a hello.
“Hey, partner,” Raquel said.
“Hi,” I replied. Our host mother was doing Raquel’s hair.
“It’s Nico’s 25th birthday, and I am going dancing. Did you want to come?”
I did not want to go, I was not comfortable going to a club, but I ignored this gut feeling and said. “But, I do not have anything to wear.”
Within minutes, I was wearing a pair of jeans, and a red top, as my host mother did my hair. Later Raquel did my makeup, and we were off. As soon as I got out of the cab and saw the club, I wanted to turn and head back home.
Once inside, I was happy to see Cree, who was sitting down at a table. I quickly went over and joined her. She said hi and ordered me water. I was just about to start talking to her when Nico and his older brother joined us. After singing happy birthday, I found myself staring at a beer in front of me. I took a sip and pretended I liked it. The taste was something I knew I would never like ever again. Cree and I decided to try a different drink. I enjoyed ice Smirnoff better than the beer.
Nico looked bored, so he took my hand and dragged me onto the dance floor.
Two hours later, after a few drinks, I started to relax. “Or maybe it was the alcohol,” I thought as I walked back to the dance floor with Nico. After a while, he dragged me outside to grab some air, he ended up touching my breasts, I wanted to push him off, but I could not get my mind to control my body. I stupidly kissed him, and he kissed me back.
Once we got back inside, the others were talking about another club nearby, and they wanted to go and check it out. I wanted to go home and sleep, but I was told it was not safe to grab a cab. It felt like I had no choice, I wanted to be reliable, and that meant to go to the club with the others.
This was a better club then the last one we were at. It had a real dance floor, and the music was so loud that I could barely hear myself think. In the beginning, I was on the dance floor with Raquel, Cree, and Nico. Nico and I were at the table talking for the rest of the night as he kept buying my drinks. I do not remember how I got to his house or what happened next.
All I remember was waking up feeling pain all over my body, especially my vagina. I remember waking up in a large bed and what looked like a house. I looked around the room for my clothes, I found them scattered all over the place. I picked them up and quickly got dressed. Which was not easy to do with pain on my legs and thighs, plus out of nowhere, I had a pounding headache. As soon as I got dressed, I opened the door and blinked as the sunlight hit my eyes.
The first thing I saw was the familiar-looking yard. Cree was staying here, and this was her host families’ back yard.
I grabbed some shoes hoping they mine and headed for the front door. I spotted Nico sleeping on the couch with his shirt off.
A feeling crept up, and I knew I had to get out of here very fast. I walked all the way back to my house, where Raquel was still sleeping, and my host mother was up.
“Did you go for an early morning run?” She asked me sleepily.
“Oh yes,” I lied as I sneaked into the room to change my clothes.
Three days later, it finally clued in what happened that night.
I was RAPED. Nico had sex with me without my consent. OMG, he had been inside me. He left burses on my body. The pain was real. I tried to deny what he had done to me, he is a father, a brother and a good friend to me for the time being. I ended up having a pregnancy scare, I woke up one morning, and my breasts were sore, I had to tell my counter partner, I ended up telling her that I was stupid had sex and did not use anything. We walked to a pharmacy and bought two pregnancy tests. I used one, confusing, so Raquel used the other one, and we figured I was not pregnant. Instead of showing the strips like I have seen in movies, it said C. Canceled Raquel told me, it did not make any sense to me. I felt relieved knowing I was not growing a human inside me. I do not know what I would have done if I was.
For me, it did not end there. “Out of the oven and into the frying pan,” It was for me.
The Nicaraguan end of the journey ended, I was glad to be going back to Ontario, Canada. I was sick for a little while due to the sudden change in weather.
I was paired up with Nancy (from Honduras) for our work placement. We had to help at the food bank, preparing the food boxes and delivering them to the customers upstairs. For the rest of the day, we had to help with the after-school program and engage with the children. Then for Thursdays and Friday, we had to work in a thrift store. In the back, Nancy and I were putting price tags on the clothing and putting them at the front for the costumers.
Here I meet another guy; He never told me his real name just by the name he goes by Bags the Mags. At first, we were all having fun, talking and laughing while we worked. Sadly, Nancy suddenly left to join her family, who became refugees in Quebec, Canada. It was just mostly Bags and me. One day it was excellent, and the next things started getting a little creepy.
There were a couple of times when Bags would pick up items and say, I would look good in them. The tops he picked up were great; one afternoon, things got a little weird. A lady came and donated her clothes to us. I was left to sort everything out and getting it all ready to be put out for the public. Then Bags walked in and helped me, again he told me that some of the items would look good on me. I smiled a little and focused on the work.
“Here Maria, your body would look great in this,” he said, holding a leopard thong and bar.
I let out a fake laugh and nodded my head.
At least, it was only at work. No, he found me on Facebook and was able to talk to me there. On Facebook, he kept telling me how beautiful I was. Then he kept saying he wanted to take me out for lunch. Picnic lunch at the park, he said where he would lay down a blanket and feed me food and kiss my lips. He also told me that he wanted to lay down on top of me and do “things.”
At first, I was like I am busy with the group. When he could not leave me alone, I did tell my supervisor about it. She said she would keep a close look and make sure that he didn’t get anywhere close to me. Since work was finished, I didn’t see him again. I blocked him from Facebook.
I put a mask on my face, so people won’t know how I am truly feeling. Every time I see Ron, I bite my lip, smile and pretend I am not afraid of him. When deep down, I feel like I have been traumatized. As for Nico, he still haunts me from time to time. When I finally told my mother (here we are nearly four years later). She wasn’t too happy, but as she pointed out that Ron is a creep, you cannot lock up a guy for being a creep. If I did take Ron to court, I felt like it would be his words against mine. He could easily say he was just trying to comfort me, and he meant no harming. As for making a report on Nico, I am not even sure what I can get out of this. Nico does not live in Canada; nothing can be done about it. My mother wanted me to report it right away, but I told her in time this will all be forgotten, a story I can share with others.
A single touch holds a thousand meanings.