I was going to just put this on Instagram. But it got long.
Real talk about life in Djibouti.
Last night, while walking with a friend, we were assaulted not once, but TWICE, by boys. Using the word “assault” feels extreme, but what else do you call being followed, surrounded, insulted, and ass-pinched by 8-10 people?
I have developed the ability, out of sad and infuriating necessity, to shout and shame like you might not believe. I can turn it on and off, because I have to, on a regular basis. It doesn’t make a difference. I, and other women both local and foreign, continue to be assaulted.
It does not matter where we are, who are with, or what we are wearing. It has happened to me in all manner of scenarios. It has happened to me while with my husband.
I feel angry enough when this happens to me. But when it happens to one of my kids or to one of the people we have brought here to work, I rage.
Here is what I mean. If you’ve followed me long, you’ve heard it before:
Rock thrown and hit me in the head.
Rocks thrown and hit me in the back, legs, ankles, arms, scatter at my feet.
Cars and motorcycles and bikers swerve at me, intentionally.
Breast squeezed through an open car window.
Blocked on my bicycle.
Butt punched by two man on a motorcycle. Hard.
Breast grazed by man on bicycle reaching out sideways.
Hair pulled by girls in market.
My daughter’s butt pinched.
My butt pinched. How many times? I’ve lost count.
Insulted with hand gestures, facial gestures, and words.
Words like: whore, slut, prostitute, sex, talk about my underwear and what movements various body parts are doing. I understand it. I wish I didn’t.
Bottle of liquid dumped on me at a stoplight.
Chased by men and boys.
Heard people tell other people to chase me.
Told my uterus would fall out.
Told I belonged in the kitchen.
Birthday presents snatched out of my daughter’s hands while walking literally around the corner from our house.
My daughter’s bike being pushed and chased and surrounded.
This is a partial list.
Many of these things have happened multiple times.
These are things that happen on regular days, while I do regular things. I refuse to cower in my house, that’s not a life. So I refuse to be kept down by this. But also? It sucks.
Assault and harassment feel like shame to women. It makes us feel ashamed and gross and vulnerable. But you know what? No.
Shame on the assaulters, the harassers. Shame on the people who see it or hear it and do nothing. Shame on the educators and parents and elders and friends who don’t model or teach better behavior.
I mostly enjoy living in Djibouti. When people hear how long we’ve been here, they say, “Oh! You must really love it.” And I do, most of the time. But this is a long list and it wears on a person. We actually moved out of our last house because I had developed so much anxiety about simply going outside the front door.
At that time, we involved our landlord, the police, the school director of the school across the street. Nothing changed.
Look, I know worse things happen. Bad shit does not make this stuff less bad. One bad thing does not erase another bad thing. I know it isn’t everyone. I know it happens in other countries too. Great. Fine. Still. Whatever. All of it needs to stop. I know rape and violent assault happen. I don’t hear people talk about it here, but we live in the world. And the world is violent toward women.
So maybe raising a stink about the bad stuff that happens to me will someday encourage someone to raise a stink about the worse stuff happening to them.
If someone says, “This list is nothing compared to the rapes that occur,” then I will respond with, “Oh really? Let’s talk about the rapes, then.” And the conversation will start.
Enough. I’m not asking for anything radical. I’m asking to be treated like a human. I’m asking to be freaking left alone.
Writing about it feels satisfying and dissatisfying. My little angry posts aren’t going to make someone say, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t reach for that breast.” I don’t expect this to change a thing. I even get told to shut up when I talk about this, so the opposite of what I would hope.
I’m taking it up a notch. Next time? I’ll snap a photo and go to the nearest police officer. I am going to report. Report. Report. Maybe no one else does. Maybe no one else talks about it. Well, I will. Probably, the reports will lead to nothing. Fine. I’ll still report it and maybe, after years, there will be some action.
Yeah, I’m angry. I should be.
Here are my other public posts about this. I also wrote one exclusive essay in a past newsletter about the most violent incident that happened to me. Maybe I will make that one public later this week.