Monday, July 30, 2012

Only in America

I attended a women’s college.

In fact Stephens is the second oldest women’s college in the Nation. By nation, I of course mean the United States of America. I will openly admit that the main reason I am so adamant about sharing my beliefs and opinions with others is a direct result of the education I received in college. It was a thousand times more liberal and supportive than the one I received in my hick-town high school.

Some people call me obnoxious, others opinionated and I myself prefer the term honest. I’m not saying that every belief I have is right. (Who could possibly know everything?) I am simply saying that I have been well educated and it has encouraged me to share my voice with others in any way possible.

My favorite mediums have been writing, as well as photography. Two things that I have been blessed enough not only to enjoy, but to practice publicly. If I have something to say, I say it. If I want to post a photo, I do. I often find myself forgetting to step back and assess the world that I live in, because many people are not as fortunate as I have been. Even people right here in the U.S are being silenced, but let’s look further than that.

A year ago, a story came out about a young woman in Morocco named Amina Filali. I am sharing her name with you, because I believe that it’s important that NO ONE ever forgets that name. If you haven’t heard it before, please listen carefully.

This young woman was raped by a stranger. He forced himself on her, stealing away her innocence, and then instead of being punished was awarded her hand in marriage. If you are anything like myself, all you can think right now is “What the hell?!?”

Never in America, The Land of the Free, would this ever happen. There are a lot of things wrong with our government, and many poor decisions are made by our judicial system, but this isn’t one of them. Women were still considered property of their husbands in America You see, in Morocco it is shameful for a woman to have intercourse before she is wed, even if it wasn’t of her own accord. While her father was not in support of this wedding, her mother was fearful that she might not find a suitor since she had been publicly deemed “unclean”. The thing I’ve failed to mention so far is that this young woman was merely sixteen years old.

Even though her father was hesitant of this union, he gave in when the court called him and “strongly suggested” that he comply. After all it was a win-win situation for both parties… Right?

Wrong. This young woman married her rapist and was turned over to his family as their responsibility. He abused her, starved her and made every day of her life a living hell. She told her mother multiple times, “I want to kill myself.” But there was nothing to be done. It was the law. She was his wife.

Now until around the late 70’s, interracial marriage was still illegal in the U.S. Even now we’re still fighting for LGBTQ equality, but there are resources we can call for help if we feel suicidal. We’re not forced to remain in situations that are harmful to us mentally or physically. If a woman is raped in the U.S she can prosecute her rapist, and upon the instance that she were to be pregnant, she can choose whether or not to keep the child growing within her. As American’s, these are our rights.

In Morocco women are still considered property. Could you imagine what it would be like to be gay in this country? What if I, as a lesbian was not only forced to be with a man, but with the one who raped me? I weep silently for this young woman. For all young women who have ever felt as hopeless as she did.

After nearly a year of her hell on earth, Amina consumed a large amount of rat poisoning, and fell to her knees in the street in front of her rapist/husbands house. Vomiting and shaking, she found peace under the great big sky. Now hear me out. I do not condone suicide. I don’t think that there is ever a reason to harm yourself, because there is always hope. Well… at least here in America.

I can’t imagine what I would do in that situation. I can’t imagine the way she must have felt. She was publicly ridiculed for being attacked, forced to live with her attacker and became his slave, then even though she cried daily for help, none came.

I am so thankful to live in America. I am so thankful for the life that I live. The ability to speak freely and to love whomever I want. I am so thankful for my family and friends who support me wholly, and for a government, that although is still lacking in many areas, is more supportive than most.

When I find myself angry with the way our country is run, I have to remind myself how far we’ve come. Civil rights, women’s rights, and now LGBTQ equality. We fight every day with a voice that rings from Maine to California, and people hear us.

When you feel as if there is no hope. Start with me. Reach out to me. I will do everything I can to get you the help that you need and deserve. Don’t think that there is no other answer. Don’t give in to the pain. We have the ability here in this country to find happiness. You just have to keep looking. You are incredible. You are not alone.

Remember me,

I’m Tennessee.

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