It was late at night. I was in Lyon, France, waiting for my 2am bus to come. I chose to wait inside a nearby station because I felt it would be safer than waiting in the dark, cold lot outside for those hours. However, I quickly learned that I wouldn’t find much safety there either. Those few hours of my life quickly turned into the longest, most fearful night of my life.
I hadn’t even been sitting for long before an old French guy approached me. I couldn’t tell what he was asking due to the language barrier. For all I know, it could have been a simple question. But despite my obvious inability to respond, he persisted. I quickly grew frustrated as he stood close to me and wouldn’t leave, no matter how much discomfort and disinterest I showed in the conversation. The fact that he kept going told me I was in a very unsafe situation.
I stormed away and tried to find another place to sit, somewhere surrounded by more people. But every time I found a place, either another man would approach me or I would be told to leave as things closed for the night. I was growing tired and frustrated as I failed to find a safe place to wait.
I’d say about three or four men approached me in total that night. All very creepy, all a lot older. Every encounter with these men was the same. They were too close, too persistent, too unwilling to leave when I told them to. Even as I was waiting in a public area with people around me, one guy sat down uncomfortably close to me. He didn’t hesitate to ask for a kiss, and he began to lean in to get one.
I was so disgusted and infuriated by that situation. I just threw a bunch of assertive “no’s” at him and stormed off, not really having a place to avoid him altogether if he came after me. I remember feeling strongly frustrated for not knowing what was happening. I hated myself for not even knowing French, for not even knowing what they were saying to me specifically. If I had just known the language, maybe I could have avoided these situations or I could have told them off.
I felt completely defeated and powerless. I grasped any bit of safety I could find, and every time, it let me down. To top it off, I was kicked out of the building as it closed, and I didn’t have reliable wifi to stay connected to people. It was a terrifying and long night, and I just desperately wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere else.
After having so many men put me in uncomfortable situations that night, I couldn’t even look at a man without feeling complete hurt, mistrust, and anger. It’s like I assumed every man to be a dirty person with bad intentions. And even though I don’t hate these men or think of them specifically, I can’t help but feel utterly disgusted that people on this planet go around hurting and sexually assaulting women, directly attacking their worth and beauty. I hate that these men, with just a few words or one touch, can make a woman fearful towards things that she has never feared before and should never have to fear. That they completely destroy a person with their own selfish and dirty desires.
I think back on this night, and I realize that it could have been a lot worse for me. Thankfully, it was mainly words that I experienced. These men didn’t physically hurt me or chase after me when I ran. I was a foreign girl all alone in another country late at night. It was a situation that I don’t think I’ll be in again any time soon.
But it does make me think. There are so many other women in this world who have experienced similar things, who know the same feelings of fear and anger that I felt. Many have experienced things that are much worse than what I experienced that night, and they still carry that damage to this day. And that is what hurts the most about all of this.
My heart breaks for the other women who have experienced these things in worse ways, whose bodies have been wrongly touched and hurt by men. I feel deeply saddened that these things happen even outside of foreign countries with foreign men. They happen right here in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our communities. So many people live their everyday lives having to see the person who assaulted them or fearing that something may happen, literally so close to home.
Sexual assault disgusts me. Sexual harassment angers me. Any action that one does to another against their consent or comforts is so deeply wrong to me. We all deserve to feel safe in our own communities. We deserved to see our bodies as cherished and valuable, not just a thing to be disrespected by others. No one should have to live with shame and confusion from something that they have no control over, and no one should have to carry an overall hatred and fear of men.
My situation may not have been completely devastating, but it did impact how I see myself and those around me. Even the little things can do great damage to a person, and that is important to be aware of. We live in a very broken world, but thankfully, the story does not end there. We also have a Savior and Creator who gives us hope and healing.
1 Peter 5:10 says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” Oh how beautiful it is to know that we serve a God who is there with us in our sufferings. He knows our hurts and our fears, and He is here to restore us. He gives us strength when the world tries to break us.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.” -Isaiah 65:17. We are beautiful creations in Christ, and we find our identity and worth in Him, not in the awful words and actions of sinful men. Jesus completely adores us and loves us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we have all the reason to celebrate that and give thanks to God.
I am thankful that I have the Lord to lean on as I process these things, as I work past whatever anger I feel towards men and the shame I’ve felt about myself. My story, although a simple one, has allowed me to better understand the complexities that so many other women are experiencing today. My heart breaks for them, and I feel a deeper love and understanding towards these women who have been hurt by other men. As I see this broken world, I see a greater beauty in our perfect God. I lean on Him for my strength and healing, and I rejoice that we have His Good News to meet us in our circumstances in life.
If anything I say here resonates with you or you would like to talk about your own experiences, please reach out to me. I would love to talk to you or hear you out. You are not alone in this. You are so precious and so loved and so beautiful.
Thanks for reading.
Much love, Mara
(Oh and as usual, this featured image was taken by the incredible Young Blossom Photography. Please give him a like because he’s incredible talented and amazing!)