In the summer of 1997, I was thirteen. I was attending internet summer workshop, sponsored by the phone company, and I felt cool. I was in the city by myself, true independence. I would meet my dad at his office and sometimes I would ride home with him, but most times he would let me take the bus home with my friends. I knew all the words to Puff Daddy’s I’ll be missing you. I could be guaranteed that this song would play at least twice during the hour bus ride home. I would sing along with my friends hoping that I would never have to miss someone like they missed Biggie.
Then this girl named Gisele was raped and killed in her house. She was 16. Her parents came home to find her dead in their kitchen. People called my mom crazy for letting me go an hour away by myself. She said that I would be fine. I went to workshop and we all talked about how we were not scared but we would think about locking the doors when we were home alone.
Then another girl was raped, killed and buried in a shallow grave at 6 am in a completely different part of the island. She was going to buy bread just down the street. Things were getting crazy at this point. There was a national outcry. A march was organized.
Women, children and men came from across the island to march against sexual violence. My mom said I could go if my dad went with me. I went to his office after internet workshop and in one of those rare moments where he knew I needed this he dropped everything and went with me. We were late and joined the end of the march and the rally. I was scared but determined. My dad held my hand.
Then we ran into one of my dad’s friends. He asked if I was my dad’s girlfriend. My jaw dropped. My father said that I was his daughter and while he liked women young he wasn’t sick. To this day I am shocked that this man thought it was an appropriate joke to make in front of a young girl at an event protesting violence against young women. (To be clear at 13 I looked 10 at most. I always wore loose fitting clothes because I didn’t want anyone noticing my developing body.)
I grew up. I went away to college. I learned about zebras. I had to fend off drunk guys at parties. I learned the ways of the world. I became a yoga teacher.
Now I walk around all day in yoga clothes in a country where thousands of women parade in carnival costumes more revealing that a string bikini. Most times I feel safe to walk the streets. I do not take unnecessary risks. I do not go down empty streets alone, I lock my doors. I do not tell everyone where I live. I am careful about what I post on social media.
I get rude comments walking through town. Most are from men who do not know how to relate to women. One comment a few months ago got me really angry. As I was rushing from one yoga class to another one man just had to let me know that I “needed to be raped.” We went on to explain loudly to all who would listen that I would never learn to stop dressing so revealing unless one or more men held me and raped me. How dare he! But how many other people think along those lines. We hear all the time “she asked for it.”
When 13 year old me marched with my dad in 1997 I marched so my daughter would not have to march. I want to live in a world we we don’t need women’s rights advocates. I want to live in a world where everyone is free to love and be loved. I want to live in a world where relationships are about love and mutual understanding instead of a struggle for power and dominance over others. I want many things.
Yoga teaches us to get to where you want to go you have to first accept where you are. We live in a world where violence against women is real. The first step to preventing violence against women is awareness. My friend Laura Jayne Parson wants to raise awareness and I support her.
In the summer of 2015, 19 years after my first march, Laura will run across America to raise awareness for sexual violence prevention. She will start in San Diego and Run to New York. She will try to break the record and do the entire thing in 68 days. I think she can do it. In the perfect world I would take 3 months away from my life and drive with her the entire way. At night we would do yoga together and I would massage her tired legs. I would make her ice baths, smoothies and anything else she wants. I cannot do all these things but I can blog. I can tell you about it and you can help. Then you can tell your friends and they can help.
Why? Because in 2014 we are still talking about this. We are still talking about it because we have to. When Laura started planning the run and looking for sponsors she got companies who were very interested in supporting the run until they found out it was to raise awareness for sexual violence prevention, then they were not ashamed to say that their company could not be affiliated with this cause. Because there are people would rather not talk about this and pretend that sexual violence does not exist. Because in 2014 we still need people Laura to stand for what they believe in. Because the statistics are shocking. Look them up for yourself. Because sexual violence is real. Because…..
Laura is awesome and I support her. If you want to know what this has to do with yoga or healthy lifestyle, let me try to explain. To be healthy we have to take care of our emotional as well as our physical body. Often our emotional issues will manifest as tightness in the body. By dealing with the emotions we can rid our body of this tightness and progress in our physical practice.
So there you have it. Help Laura in her quest. If you would like to help you can do one of the following:
- Buy my yoga for runners video. All proceeds go to the run.
- Donate to the run, by visiting the GoFundMe site.
- Buy something from #2015RunAcrossAmerica Amazon wishlist
- Volunteer to run with Laura, drive a support vehicle, or volunteer a place to stay,by completing the volunteer form
- Donate to RAINN here.
How will you help my friends Laura?