Hitting the Mark

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A Story on Date Rape by Ma. Doreen Era E. Murata of FORUM

Exactly after a year after the tragedy hit, I met again with my long-time friend. I didn’t know what to expect in our meeting. The last time we talked before I left for a tour, she was still hurting and the bitterness and resentment was clear. So, I sort of expected her to be bitter and angry. I wasn’t ready to see her almost back to her warm, vibrant and cheerful self.

Cherry is a survivor of date rape.

She was actively engaged in various youth empowerment programs, especially in young women’s reproductive and sexual rights. In one of the youth leadership training seminars, she met Tom*, an active male community leader. Theirs was a whirlwind romance, of which her parents and the majority of her friends disapproved. Her father even said, “Walang magandang ibibigay sa iyo ang lalaking yan.” Cherry, however, was a victim of misguided love. Regardless of the many seminars and workshops that she underwent regarding life skills and personal relationships, she refused to neither acknowledge nor heed their lessons. Her fairy-tale story turned into a nightmare when one night, she brought Tom to his place because he was dead drunk from a party and he could no longer drive his car.

The moment they got inside his place, Tom pinned her against the wall with his arms and legs while ripping apart her blouse and skirt. She struggled while begging him to stop. He hit her face, cursing her and saying, “You teach young people how to use condoms yet you don’t want to have sex with me?! What the hell do you want?” When she stood up to leave his house, he hit her many times in the stomach and in the face. She blacked out.

She never told anyone what happened that night. Never. Not even when she got pregnant because of it. Not even when Tom abandoned her for another girl. She remained firm that she would give life to the baby inside her womb and prove to the world that she could still stand after everything. But things didn’t turn out the way she wanted.

Two weeks before she was due to give birth, the baby died inside her womb. And that’s when her world fell apart. She was ready to have the baby. She was not ready to lose it.

When I met up with her, I could see that Cherry was almost okay. I say almost, because there were times when she would suddenly be lost in her thoughts during our conversation, especially when we saw couples and little girls passing by.

She held my hand and said, “You know how it feels to be violated by someone you deeply loved and trusted, sis? It makes you wonder if you really can trust people around you. It feels like everything has been taken away from you, like you were standing naked and alone in the middle of the storm. It feels like everything you worked for was taken away from you.”

I looked at her and said, “But you were able to stand, see? You are strong. You are the epitome of the empowerment you wish every woman to be.”

She smiled and said, “It’s because my family stayed with me. They picked me up and helped me put myself together. It’s because you are there, a good friend. It’s because God didn’t leave my side.”

She added, “People often asked me if I would still love again. Again and again, they hit a vulnerable mark in my heart. You know what, sis? I realized that my happy ending is not with a guy. It’s by myself, being able to move on. And perhaps, letting more people know that violence can be survived.”

I looked at her and wished that the tragedy never happened to her. I hated seeing her being so vulnerable and sad. Yet, I knew that I, too, had hit the mark when I stood up for her during the most trying times of her life.

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