Episode 36 – #MeToo
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In this weeks episode Rachel joins the #MeToo movement and shares her own stories of sexual harassment and abuse. She journeys back to the first moment she every felt objectified as a young girl and retells a few experiences with varying degrees of intensity where she felt violated, taken advantage of or abused. She also dives into the challenging topic of victim blaming and how speaking up and shedding light on our experiences can lead toward empowerment.
[001:30] Hi and welcome to another episode of From The Heart: Conversations with Yoga Girl. So, I’m sitting in my office right now and I have kind of a funky feeling in my body. The theme of this week’s podcast is a really heavy one, and I’m about to dive into some storytelling that I know is going to be really, really hard, and really challenging. This week’s topic is the #MeToo movement.
[002:00] So, unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, I’m sure you have seen the #MeToo hashtag trending on every single social media platform out there. So, it’s about voicing our own stories that we have in our past, in terms of sexual abuse, harassment, and rape. This hashtag, actually, it’s not a brand new hashtag. It was started, I think, a lot of years ago. But it’s trending now through Hollywood and a lot of actresses there that have been sharing their accounts of sexual abuse in the film industry. Now it’s kind of taking the world by storm, and so many women in so many different countries and cultures and industries are coming forward, sharing their own accounts of abuse.
[002:41] It’s a beautiful movement. You know, this is such a heavy, heavy difficult thing to talk about. But, the more I read, the more I think about my own stories in my own life, the more insane it becomes that we’ve never spoken about this before. Like, now, I can look at these points, these moments I’m going to share in a moment, and I think about them, and I go, “How have I never told anyone about this? How have I deemed all of this normal and mundane?” I think, as a woman, it’s just been something that it’s totally normal to be degraded or demeaned or harassed by men. It’s just something that we grew up with really early on. So, the fact that now, I think for the first time, this is really rising to surface, and people feel brave enough to share their stories. I believe this is much bigger than just a hashtag. It’s much bigger than the social media or an online movement, I really believe that this is changing something. And I can see it in my own community. I can see it in my friendships and the girlfriends that I have, and how we are talking about these things. I see it in my sisters, who are teens, kind of how their approach to being a woman, how different it is already now then from what it was when I grew up. So, I’m not just hopping aboard this kind of social media trend, I really believe that by sharing these stories, we are all contributing to making a change.
[004:04] For me, specifically right now, this topic has been ongoing for a long time, and I shared on Instagram a couple weeks ago just a very … I mean, Instagram is so limiting, it doesn’t allow you to really speak deeply about things, but I shared just tiny little bits of accounts of things that have happened to me in my past. I thought I’d take a moment just to read through that right now. So, this was October 16, so yeah, already a month and a half ago. Time flies. And it goes like this: “I almost posted a #MeToo last night, but I changed my mind. I’ve never been brutally raped, I told myself. Nothing horrible, nothing bad ever happened to me. I’m so lucky. Well, I spent the day thinking, and it seems I forgot a couple of things. I forgot about that time I was on the beach with my dogs, when I guy approached me, openly masturbating, looking me in the eye as he ejaculated. I forgot about the three times in my life, three, that I was drugged while out dancing, probably with the intent of rape. All three times I was lucky enough to be found by a friend before something awful happened … more awful than having an unknown substance slipped in your drink that left you vomiting and unconscious, that is. I forgot about the time I was waiting for my turn in the bathroom line and I guy walked by and casually shoved his hand up my skirt and tried to pry his fingers up my vagina. I forgot about the time I was out with a friend in Spain, and two proper looking guys bought us a beer. While talking, they turned to each other and discussed, in detail, in between polite questions about our vacation, which one of us they would take turn raping first. They didn’t know I was fluent in Spanish. I forgot about the time I ran for my life to escape a large, scary group of guys who groped me and chased me down the street after I declined their offer to “get some.” A cab stopped at a light as I turned the corner, and even though it was occupied, I jumped in. I’d lost my purse running, but I didn’t care. I don’t remember ever being so scared. But, I forgot. I forgot about a lot of things.”
[006:00] “What I’ll never forget is the time an acquaintance called to tell me he’d found one of my best friends passed out in the gutter, naked. Her clothes were ripped to shreds in a pile by her side. Bruises covered her legs. At the hospital they told us, ‘This happens a lot. She shouldn’t have been walking home on her own.’ And I won’t forget that. Or the myriad accounts of rape and sexual abuse shared with me by girlfriends, each more awful than what I went through. After all, I know that all so common, so mundane, it wasn’t even worth remembering. This happens a lot. Yeah, we know.”
[006:35] (sigh) So, just reading this, reading my own words … I mean, I wrote this. And how Instagram works, for me, is I generally only share … I mean, I share pictures of my baby, or a sunset, or, you know, little things here and there. Whenever I share a deep caption or something that’s, you know, really thought through, something that’s serious and real that I’m moving through in my life, it’s always a spur of the moment thing, like, I’m feeling something intensely and I just write about it until I run out of space on Instagram, and I post whatever. It’s always those posts that I get the biggest response from. What was hard for me about sharing that post is I had literally spent a day or two walking around, kind of talking to some friends and saying, “Oh, you know, nothing ever happened to me. I’m so lucky. Like, isn’t it crazy nothing ever happened to me?” And I said that sentence, like a hundred times. Nothing ever happened to me. Nothing happened to me, and I traveled the world my whole life, and I was always a party girl, I was always out doing things. Nothing ever happened to me.
[007:30] Then it started sounding, like, a little off, that sentence. “Nothing ever happened to me.” And I realized, oh, I hadn’t even opened that door. Like, it was so terrifying for me just to open that door of looking at the abuse or the harassment that I have been through in my own life, because it’s a fucking rabbit hole. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box. I don’t even know what’s in there, and a part of me is even worried, like, are there worse things in my past that I’ve repressed or suppressed or kind of pushed away that I don’t even want to touch on? Because these things, like, the things I just shared, like, this is really heavy, horrible stuff. Like, really heavy, really really horrible things. Like, I was drugged with intent to rape. I was fourteen the first time that happened. I mean, it’s insane. I ran for my life to escape rape. That’s happened to me, and several times. And the fact that somehow, in my mind, I’ve made this into, “Oh, nothing ever happened to me,” that’s really scary! That’s really scary, this idea of just, you know, trying to make it normal. I’ve lived my whole life thinking that, yeah, it’s normal to feel terrified walking home from, whatever. If you’re walking home from a bar late at night, or walking home from a yoga class late at night, like, it’s totally normal, as a woman, to feel afraid. To not walk down and alleyway, or to always have your phone in your hand prepared, you know, if something were to happen. We’re taught that these things are just common and normal.
[008:57] And it’s, well first, it pisses me off that this is what we’re taught growing up, because it automatically puts the blame on the victim, or on the survivor. So, I have an amazing podcast that I did a couple months ago. It was a while ago, with Thordis Elva, who is a friend of mine who wrote an amazing book about surviving rape. And we spoke about that a lot. She’d dedicated her whole life to kind of really bringing this conversation forward, and specifically the part about how common it is, as a rape survivor or abuse survivor, to feel like it’s your fault. And that’s why, you know, women don’t talk about it. And we’re taught that since we’re little. “Well, you shouldn’t wear short skirts, and you shouldn’t be out drinking, and you shouldn’t walk home alone at night,” and etc., etc. If something, god forbid, was to happen, we’re conditioned to believe that it’s our own fault.
[009:51] All of these things that happened to me, I had to really dig into them, and really sit with them for a while, and kind of force myself into remembering, because I don’t want to remember this stuff. This stuff is horrible. I don’t want to remember this, at all. But that also means that there’s a part of me sitting with this pain, right? There’s this dark part inside of me somewhere where I have this pain and this fear that I never share with anyone ever, and it’s also fear that I’ve been conditioned to believe is just normal, and you know, I’m not special, nothing is unique about me, it’s just normal to be fearful and to have these things happen to you, if you’re woman.
[010:24] So, a lot of things have moved within me, personally, just on my own, working through healing these accounts of abuse that I have been through by myself, but when I started really going through them, one by one, for each one, there was a little noise in the back of my head that said, “Oh, well you shouldn’t have done that.” Like, I shouldn’t have done that. So, for instance, one of the things that happened that was … and this was even, oh god, it’s hard to talk about because it’s so gross. Um … I’m going to make sure that there’s a little disclaimer at the beginning of this podcast, and when I share it on social media, of course. This is going to be a graphic podcast, if you haven’t already caught that. If you’re sensitive to that stuff, you might want to tune into another episode instead of this one.
[011:07] But yeah, so, one of the things that happened to me was, and this was just a couple of years ago … I was with my dogs on the beach, Dennis was working, and it’s a beach I used to go to all the time. One of my favorite beaches. I was just, you know, in my bikini, as I am on the beach, hanging out with the dogs, like, reading a book. And I saw this guy at the corner of my eye, and there was a palm tree, and he was kind of sitting next to it, and he was looking at me. Staring at me. But, of course, I’m used to that, being a woman and being stared at by guys, so I didn’t even pay a lot of attention. I was like, “Okay, I notice that there’s a guy there, he’s looking at me. Okay.” And then I remember that I turned around a little bit, so I had my back more toward him, so that he wouldn’t feel like there was an invitation for him to come talk to me, or something. And then, a couple of minutes later, like, I could sense someone coming closer, so I look up, and it’s this guy, and he has his hands down his pants, penis out in the open, and he’s just masturbating. Like, standing so close to me. Like, there was basically a disgusting penis in my face.
[012:13] My reaction, I mean, it was very, very fast. It was a pretty empty beach. On the other side of the beach there was more people, so I just grabbed the towel I was sitting on, and I just walked away. Like, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even address it. I just like … [gasp!] you know? But I was terrified, and I walked for a little bit until I realized, okay, he didn’t follow me, and then I ran. Because I was super, super, super scared. And now that I thought about this incident, like, this is fucked up. This is … this is abuse, you know? This is so not okay. I never went back to that beach. Never. I never went back to that beach. I’ve never been to that beach with the baby. We never go to that beach anymore, and it’s not until now that I’m thinking about these things, that, yeah, I stopped going to one of my favorite beaches because that happened to me. And I didn’t even tell anybody about it! I didn’t do anything. I just kind of … I remember I told Dennis and I was kind of like, “I had this icky thing happen today.” And that was that. You know, this is like a huge thing! Are you insane? And I never went back there because I was super fearful to have that happen again, or worse! If there’s a guy that’s sitting there, openly approaching women, waving his penis is their face, like, what else is he doing? I never went back there because of fear.
[013:28] I don’t want to live my life that way. I really, really don’t, and I believe that voicing these things, at least for me, it’s a practice of surrendering. It’s a practice of letting shit go. Bringing things out into the open. So, I’m going to touch on a couple of these stories, so if already what I’m sharing now is heavy and not fun for you to listen to, don’t force yourself. Don’t force it. Just sign out of this podcast and choose any other episode. There’s lots of really positive, fun, happy ones.
[015:28] But something that’s been going on this week, and this is really interesting … So, I’m choosing to record this podcast episode now because I am getting hundreds, and I kid you not, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of accounts of #MeToo stories emailed to me right now. It started off, and it’s all from the yoga world. Most of it is stories from within the yoga world. So, people that have been abused or harassed or sometimes even raped by their yoga teachers or people that are prominent in the yoga community or the yoga industry. This whole thing started, I mean, I’ve invited this now … I’ve shared through social media if you have stories within the yoga world, send them my way because I want to publish them. If you want your voice to be heard, I have a big platform.
[016:14] This goes on in every industry. It’s not just Hollywood or whatever. This goes on. And it happens in the yoga world, and it happens a lot! There’s a part of me that feels like it’s worse – I mean, it’s horrible wherever it happens – but it’s worse in the yoga world because there’s supposed to be rust here. This is supposed to be a place of healing, where people come to heal, right? So the fact that these predators exist in this community, and that they prey on young women, sometimes men. I did … I mean, from the hundreds of stories I received, I’ve had two come in from men. So, yes, it does happen to men too, but just not a lot, or not as much.
[016:55] I had heard a really crappy #MeToo story about a guy who is really prominent in the yoga industry. Not a teacher, but in the industry. He’s related to this big brand or whatever, and then I saw an ad pop up for this brand, and I felt super triggered, because I just know what goes on behind closed doors at this brand. This guy is like a super wealthy, non-yoga person who is just making millions of dollars off of the backs of young women. And it bugs me, right? I normally don’t … I share this a lot. I like to share the lesson of a challenging thing that I’m going through. I like to share the epiphany or the wisdom of the challenge, but I don’t usually share things in the moment, because it usually means there’s a lot of drama there. So, I try to stay away from the drama. I wait for it to blow over and for the challenge to kind of integrate. And then when I have a learning, then I share. So, it’s always very, very different. That’s why I normally never talk about other people. Like, I never say, “He said this,” or, “She said that,” or “They did this.” You very rarely, if ever, see any type of negativity or drama in my social media platforms.
[018:03] But for this thing, specifically, because I was already in that mindset of like I forking hate this forking company. Like, they’re just the worst. And, okay, this is another thing, but their sizing for women goes from XXS to Large. There’s nothing above that. But for men it goes to Extra Extra Large. And it’s just such a … it’s not equal company. It’s just a shitty company. But whatever. So, I was feeling triggered by seeing this ad pop up over and over in my feed, so I shared it on Instagram, which was now, in hindsight, probably not a great thing to do, because it made a lot of people that were associated to this brand feel lesser than, it made a lot of teachers that promote this brand feel like I was attacking them, and I really wasn’t. At all. For anyone listening, if you perceived it that way, I’m super sorry. I’m 100% in support of every yoga teacher out there. If you have good intentions. We should all support each other, and I have no problem with anyone promoting anything. If you want to add to your paycheck by supporting a yoga company or wearing their leggings or whatever, like, that’s totally up to you. I have no problem with that at all. I do it too sometimes. The problem I had was specifically with this brand, what the brand stand for at the owner of that company.
[019:14] Anyway, it turned into a messy thing. So, if you want to have a field day, you can go through a couple of Instagram … a couple of posts ago, there is a whole little tornado of crap, because people get really triggered that I was talking about this, but I also have a yoga company and I also sell things, so what’s the difference, and yada-yada-yada. All of this came up.
[019:34] But through this, because I shared in my Instagram story that, okay, I was triggered because I had heard this #MeToo story, and then all of this other stuff came up. And then people started sending me their own, and it started off with direct messaging on Instagram, people saying, “Oh my god, I also had a run-in with someone from that brand.” Or it was, “Actually, I had something happen, but with this company. It was this company that you meant.” So it started off with yoga brands and the industry in that way. People sharing that they had felt taken advantage of, first in business, and then some sexual accounts came in. And then I shared in my Instagram story, like, “Hey, if you’re out there and you have a #MeToo story revolving the yoga world, whether it’s a yoga brand, a yoga teacher, a guru of some sort, like, anything at all, email me.”
[020:15] I wasn’t sure what to expect, because it was also, again, a spur of the moment thing. I just saw, okay, because I get so many direct messages on Instagram every day, I can’t see them all, I can’t … I felt like I was missing a lot, so it would just be easier to have them in email. It’s insane. I cannot even begin to tell you how many emails I have gone, so far. And they keep coming in. It’s horrible! It’s horrible! And it’d everything from women having been, you know, adjusted or assisted improperly in class. So, there’s lots of accounts of people having taken a class led by a man where he has touched their breasts in savasana, or had a really inappropriate adjustment in down dog where someone is pressing, like, an erect penis into their butt during a downward facing dog adjustment. Just a lot of stories like that of being adjusted inappropriately, and feeling really taken advantage of, but thinking that, “Oh, this is probably normal, I guess? Like it’s yoga, it’s intimate …”
[021:22] So, from things like that to … this is the worst … a lot of people that have been new to the practice, that have maybe never practiced yoga before, found a teacher, found yoga. Of course, yoga changes your life, so you’re really open to anything the practice is going to bring you, and feeling just, “Oh my god, I found this place of healing,” so you become so open, so trusting, right? You’re in a really vulnerable space. And then these stories usually begin with feeling singled out in classes, like the teacher starts bringing them up to do demonstrations for poses, or they get a lot of attention in class, and of course this teacher is on a huge pedestal, in a huge power position to do anything they want. Then from there, being lured into sex, or feeling pressured into sex, or there’s even stories from people that have had teachers say that they’re not spiritual enough, and that the only way for them to open up spiritually and receive the teaching is by sex with this teacher. So much of this is coming in, and it’s unbelievable!
[022:19] Almost every story begins with, “I don’t know if this one counts.” … And that just fucking breaks my heart! I just cried just saying that. Most of these stories begin with people saying, “I don’t know if this counts. I don’t know if it was that.” And then some of them say, “I don’t know. Did I invite this? Was it my fault?” Like … This is, oh god, my whole body is almost shaking right now because this is so hard to talk about.
[022:46] You know, like, sex, consenting sex between two consenting adults is totally fine, beautiful, great. There’s a whole other debate if people having sex with their students or beginning relationships with their students. Like, if you’re two consenting adults and you’re into each other, like go ahead! These are two very different things. But if you’re feeling pressured into doing something, if you say no, and that person is not taking that into consideration, if you’re not consenting to what’s happening, yeah, then it’s abuse. If you’re not willingly looking or longing for that to happen, if it’s not a yes, it’s a fucking no, right? And if it’s a no, it’s abuse, or it’s rape, or it’s harassment, or it’s something that just should not have happened to you in the first place, and it’s not your fucking fault. It’s not your fault. And it counts. If it feels icky, it counts.
[023:41] And that’s why I wanted to share my stories now, because I had that. I was telling myself that for such a long time. So many of those, like, “Well, it doesn’t count. That wasn’t a big deal, it was just a small thing.” Yeah, but it felt really icky. It didn’t feel good, it didn’t sit right. It made me change something about my own behavior. And then if I didn’t want it … You know, I didn’t invite that. That guy who jerked off in my face at the beach, I stopped going to that beach. I felt fearful. But never spoke about it. I didn’t tell anyone about it, at all. I didn’t even, you know, confront that person or say anything. It’s something that happened to me. It was out of my control. It wasn’t my fault. But I felt ashamed that this had happened to me, so I didn’t say anything, you know? Like I could have somehow prevented it, or like I shouldn’t have been on that beach alone, or, you know, I was in my bikini so … Like, of course I’m in a bikini! I’m on the beach! What am I supposed to wear? Like, I don’t know, I could just see how my mind starts making up reasons for why I could have prevented that from happening to me. And if I just, you know, I don’t go to that beach anymore, then I’ll be safe. But that’s not true! Like, this can happen anywhere at any time.
[024:39] So, I’ve written a couple of these stories down that I thought I would share, and also for me to process. They’re different in range of heaviness. Some of them were like, “Oh, but this wasn’t a big deal.” But I can kind of see how all of it is a big deal. And I hope by me sharing mine, if you’re sitting on any type of shame or blame or feeling like anything that’s happened to you was your fault, or like it wasn’t a big deal, if it feels off, I would love to invite you to go to that place and maybe speak about it or share it, or at least journal on it. Get it out of your system so you’re not sitting with that blame for something that wasn’t your fault, at all. For something that shouldn’t have happened to any of us, ever.
[025:24] I was trying to really journey back in my own life. When was the first time that I felt, like, sexualized by a person? You know? When was the first time that I had just a derogatory comment thrown my way? One was that kind of … One that I go from being a child to I guess being perceived as a woman, or as an object. And unfortunately, that moment, like, I can really pinpoint it. I was nine years old. Maybe even eight, like I hadn’t even turned nine. I was on vacation in Thailand with my dad and my little brother, and I remember we had been to the market in the day, and I had found this dress that I loved. I mean, I was a child, it was a Calvin Klein, but like a fake one… dress. It was just like a strappy little, like, white and black cotton dress that went down to my calves. It was just a dress that I really liked. And I asked my dad if I could have it, and then I got that dress.
[026:21] And then in the evening we were going to go out to dinner, and I went to the hotel gift shop and I wanted to buy lip balm. In Sweden we say [Swedish], which is like the one lip balm brand that we all used when we were little. And they had another type of brand, but it was cherry flavored, and I was so excited, I’m like, “Oh my god, I’m going to get a cherry a lip balm. That’s so cool.” And then it turns out that this cherry lip balm had a little bit of red tint in it, and I had never had, like, I’d never played with my mom’s makeup. I had never had … I was not into makeup and stuff like that when I was a child. But anyway, I was really excited to have this cherry lip balm that I liked, and I had this new dress that I loved, and we were going to go out for dinner with just the family.
[026:57] When we came out, there was a friend of my dad’s who was there who was going to meet us for some reason, and I … To this day, I mean, I was eight or nine years old. I was a child. I can remember him looking at me. I can remember how he looked at me, and how it made me feel really uncomfortable, like, how it made me feel like I wanted to go stand behind my dad and hide. But, he looked me up and down, and then he turned to my dad and he said, “Whoa! You’re going to have to watch out for this one. Damn.” Like, a very sexual comment in terms of like, you know, he’s going to have to watch out for me, because I’m going to be very attractive when I grow up. It was really, like, looking me up and down of like, “Wow.” You know? And I was a child! I had not gone through puberty. Absolutely a child. And I remember that feeling of being looked at in that way, and how awful it was! Awful, awful, awful. But then of course I didn’t know what it meant, I didn’t know how to address it, I was a kid. So, it wasn’t something that lingered with me, but to this day I can really remember it.
[027:57] The second time something like that happened to me and it was really clear, I think by then I was 11 or maybe 12, and I was walking down the street in Spain, where my dad lived at the time. Just walking down the street, just going … I don’t know where I was going. Going somewhere. And there was cars driving by, and they would kind of honk when they saw me in the street, and I didn’t understand why they were honking at me. Like, did I do something wrong? So, I was trying to cross the street to go to the other side, because I thought I was walking on the wrong side. Like, there wasn’t a proper sidewalk there, so maybe they were honking because they were almost going to hit me with a car. So, I got nervous. All of these cars are honking at me, what’s going on? Then I tried to cross the street, and then this car stopped, and this guy leans out the window and he puts up his fingers in a V, and he sticks his tongue out and he’s like, you know, this horrible tongue disgusting gross, fucking obnoxious thing that some men do where they pretend like they’re licking a vagina. And he does that through the window at me. Giving me that look, that same look that I had seen with my dad’s friend from those years ago. And I was just mortified. Like, I didn’t know what that means. That sign with the peace sign fingers with the tongue, I just knew this is horrible, whatever this is, this is not okay. And I felt like I had to run. So I ran back to where I came from, and I was terrified, really terrified.
[029:18] But I didn’t tell anyone. There was a feeling inside of me, like, “Oh, I wonder why he did that to me, and was that involved with why all of the cars were honking? What did I do? What was it that I did? Did I wear something wrong? Like, what did I do?” I remember thinking that. So I didn’t say anything to my mom or to anyone.
[029:37] Then that same year was the first time, also in Spain, and I mean this is a little more prominent … Like, walking down the street in Sweden I wouldn’t have cars honking at me or people doing that. I think there’s certain cultures where this is more common, I guess? And this was also in Spain. Again, walking down the street someone was honking at me, and then this man stopped the car, and he leaned out the window, and he yelled, he said, “Oh, looking good baby! Just don’t put any more meat on those bones,” and then drove on. And I was, you know, maybe 12 years old. I was a child. I was so little, so young. I had never had sex. I didn’t have any boobs. I was pre-puberty, like, a child. And I remember this, like, oh my god, it was a compliment, like, looking good, okay, I was good looking. I could kind of objectively say, like, okay that was a compliment. But then he said don’t put any more meat on those bones. What does that mean? And I went home and I looked in the mirror, and I was really thinking, like, “What’s too much meat on my bones? Does that mean … am I fat? Could I get fat? And if I would get fat then I wouldn’t look good anymore?” And I so clearly remember staring at myself in the mirror, turning around, trying to figure out if I was fat or not, and whether or not that would mean that I wouldn’t be good looking in the eyes of a man anymore.
[030:56] And it just breaks my heart that these things happened to me so young, like, so young. So, already then, like at nine and then at eleven and then at twelve, I was being objectified by a man that I didn’t know at all, and I already had this kind of looking at, “Okay, what could I do different? What was it that I did to deserve those things?” So, already then, before anything really horrible had happened to me, I had that idea of okay well if people look at you that way or they talk to you that way, it’s because of something you did, or because of something that you wear.
[031:29] Then after that, I mean, at some point I reached puberty and I had sex for the first time, and this just became kind of a normal thing. I remember almost rebelling against it. We used to spend a lot of time in Spain, because my dad lived there for a long time in the south of Spain. I remember almost, like, I would flip people off if they honked a car when I walked on the street. I would wear shorter shorts, if I could, just to kind of … to not go along with, like, well I can wear whatever the fuck I want! I became really angry with this kind of stuff. And also, almost like, okay, if someone is cat-calling me, I have to stand up a little taller. I didn’t want to hide. I didn’t want to go hide behind my dad, like when I was little. I became angry, and I wanted to take up even more space, you know?
[032:13] So, in a way which was, you know, I started attracting more attention to myself. I started wearing tops that showed my belly button, and I started wearing makeup, and I started doing all of these things because I thought that … I was under the belief that I have to look good for a man to deem me worthy. Like, that’s what I thought I had to do. I had to be good looking, and I had to be good looking in the eyes of a man. So, I started attracting a lot of this attention, which just affirmed my belief that I was the one … you know, I thought I was in control, but I was not at all, at all. Like I had control whether or not people were talking to me in that way. I had no control, at all. But I tried to find it for a moment.
[032:52] Then, of course, I had a lot of fights with my dad about this. He didn’t want me to go outside if I had a shirt that showed anything of my belly. I wasn’t allowed to wear hoop earrings. I wasn’t allowed to wear short skirts. We fought about this a lot. And he would always say, “Well this is not safe! And what if you walk home, you can’t wear that, you don’t know people out there.” And of course I understand wanting to keep your kids safe. Everyone says this to their daughters out of wanting … out of love. Out of wanting them to not be raped. Out of not wanting them to be attacked or abused. But still, it’s that core idea that then returns to, like, I am the one to blame. Why aren’t we having these conversations with the men, or with the boys? Why is that just something we have to accept and move along with, but I should wear longer skirts so that people don’t rape me when I’m on my way home? This was a big thing, and I really remember, this was the number one thing that I fought with with my dad. And I could see it was from a place out of love, of course.
[033:49] Then those moments, or those times that I had in my life where I was actually drugged with the intention of rape all happened around the same time. Like 14, 15, around that time, because I was out a lot, I was drinking a lot of alcohol, it was totally my rebelling years. Smoking cigarettes, doing a lot of stupid stuff. Feel so blessed to say that nothing like that ever happened, that I was found by a friend and kind of saved or rescued every single time. The horrible thing is that this was just normal. So, after that happened a couple of times, and it happened to my friends, we became really, already at 15, we knew when we go out and we go to a bar, okay, I’m very young, I was very young and early with this stuff … I really pray to every god out there that this won’t be the case for my daughter. But I did do a lot of really stupid stuff when I was really really really really young. So I think maybe this is younger than most. But already, when I was 15, me and my friends, we were seasoned, we knew, when we go out, wherever we are, whatever country we’re in, you have to order from a bottle, always. You have to see the bartender opening the bottle. That way you knew that there’s not like a drink that they’ve slipped something in, because you couldn’t trust bartenders anywhere to just make you a proper drink without there being drugs in there for someone to rape you. So you had to order always from a bottle. Which meant that when I was in my teens I basically only drank Smirnoff Ice or Bacardi Breeze. Just saying these words kind of makes me want to throw up a little bit in my mouth. But yeah, really disgusting, like, alcoholic soda type beverages that I used to drink. You had to order from a bottle, and you had to hold the bottle the whole time and keep your thumb covering the opening of the bottle so that no one could ever slip something into your bottle. And if you ever left your bottle and turned around, it was bad. You couldn’t drink from it again. Because at any moment, at any point, someone could just put, like, something in your drink and you would get raped. And this was real! Right? This actually happened. There were so many women, young girls, getting drugged and abused and raped around this time in this area where we lived in Spain. It was so common that this was just … It’s insane! It’s insane that this was just the life that we led when I was partying in my teens. It was in my backbone that I would never leave a drink and turn around, because yeah, then something would happen to me, because it happened so many times before.
[036:08] But I’m really … Yeah, really happy in that horrible place that nothing like that actually did happen to me. But it did happen to a lot of my friends. And neither of those times did anyone ever file charges. And I don’t remember anything other than, you know, “Oh, well you shouldn’t have been walking home alone.” That was always the response. “That wouldn’t have happened if … She shouldn’t have been drinking. She shouldn’t have been out. She shouldn’t have been drinking, she shouldn’t have been walking home on her own.” So basically, you should just lock your daughters up in some closet, somewhere at home, so that they can sit there and knit and do things that good girls do, because then you won’t get raped. It just does not make any sense.
[036:49] Okay, I’m getting really fired up. I think I need to take a breath before I move on!
[038:10] So, of course, I can see … or I would think that going from this type of lifestyle, which is the lifestyle that I had up until I was around 18, where I was drinking a lot and partying a lot and I was clubbing, and doing all of these things that, of course, there’s more accounts of rape and abuse in a setting like that, in a more negative kind of setting. Then I found yoga at meditation, so you would think that, yeah, all of those things would just disappear, and that doesn’t happen in that type of community. But I’m really sad to say that it doesn’t really change, right? So, what changed was … I changed. I stopped wearing provocative clothing. Not want to say that … I mean I stopped wearing provocative clothing to provoke, I guess. That’s a better way of putting it. I started dressing for the way I wanted to dress, not because of something that I wanted to do to piss someone off or to attract attention to myself or whatever.
[039:03] And the fact that I just said that sentence kind of bugs me. I fully forking believe that we should be able to walk the streets naked. If I want to be naked walking down the street, if I want to go clubbing wearing a thong, like, my body is still my body and unless I have given you consent to touch me, like, that’s not okay. This belief that, yeah, we shouldn’t wear provocative clothing, it’s deeply instilled in me, that it just kind of slips out. But it shouldn’t be the case.
[039:32] But, transitioning into to yoga and meditation world, you know, I did find peace of mind. I changed my lifestyle, I stopped drinking like that, I stopped partying. But these things, they didn’t stop happening to me. And that’s what’s interesting. I’ve kind of divided these parts of my life into two very clear sections. So of course if you’re out partying and you’re clubbing and you’re doing stupid things, yeah, then rape and abuse and stuff, of course it happens over there. But in the yoga world, when we meditate, that stuff, that doesn’t exist.
[040:04] But now that I’m looking at my life, most of my things have happened after that. Most of the things that were really bad, that actually left me feeling completely violated didn’t happen at the club. It happened in the yoga setting. It happened in a setting where I felt trusting, or where I felt safe, where I felt like this was a place for healing, so I’m okay here. And I guess because there’s trust there in the first place, the violation is so much greater, right? I mean, if some douchebag that you’ve never met slips something in your drink when you’re out dancing, it’s really hard to get personally attached to that, I guess. But if you have a teacher that you trust, that you’ve kind of left your life in their hands to help you and to help you find tools for healing and to teach you about yoga … There’s a lot of trust there. Then having that be violated, I think, it cuts a lot deeper. At least it does for me.
[040:56] So, one of the first things … And this is when it starts getting tricky, because I don’t want to name any names. I’m not going to name any names. Why am I not naming any names? So, the blogs, or the #MeToo yoga stories that I’m going to be publishing, with consent from all of the women that have sent in their own stories, I won’t be able to share any names, because it opens me up to too big of a liability. There’s too much risk for me. Of course some people have said, “How can you even believe these emails coming in? How can you trust these stories?” First of all, like, I believe them. I believe every single one. We’ve been conditioned to not believe, living in this patriarchal society. I believe. But most, even bigger than that is there are so many stories coming in about the same man. So many. Independent women from different places providing different stories, but they kind of have a similar tone about how this man has acted. So, if I get two emails, just two stories from different women about the same man, yeah, chances are that that guy is a mother fucking asshole, and that those stories are both true. And some of these accounts have come in a bunch. But, until someone is convicted, I can’t share their name without opening myself up to the risk of being sued, or worse. Maybe I’ll get harassed by these people. So, I won’t be sharing any names.
[042:15] One of the first things within the yoga world that happened to me that were just not at all okay was I was living in Costa Rica at the time. I had just kind of found yoga in a big way. I was having one of my first big yoga moments. You all know what it’s like to have that first big super yoga epiphany. You feel so excited. It’s like a new door has opened to a new life. I was just so excited about everything yoga. And I had met this Kundalini teacher that I had been practicing with a lot that I was really, really excited about. Kundalini, for me, was a really really nice in between, because I was meditating a lot before I found Asana, so Kundalini for me was a really nice merge of the two, because I still felt fairly unsure. Like, I didn’t know if I was doing a chataranga right. I had never really gone into vinyasa so much. So, I was really into kundalini.
[043:05] Then after practicing for a while, there was this teacher who I trusted. Okay, I didn’t know, he wasn’t my super friend or anything, but he was a teacher teaching, and I trusted him because of that. Just being in the yoga community, being a yoga teacher, I trusted him. And he told me, you know, “I see that you’re new in this practice and that you’re just kind of beginning to open up to it, and I think you have something very, very special. I think you’re going to be a teacher one day. There’s something so special about you. But you know, you’re very closed. I can see you’re very controlling. I can see it in your body. You could really benefit from having a massage, from having some deeper kundalini energy work on your body. It would help you greatly to open up to spirit.” And I said, “Oh my god, of course. Okay, I’m closed? Okay, okay, okay. I understand. I’m controlling? Okay, I understand. Of course, yes, I would love that. How does that work?” He said, “Oh, it’s okay, I’ll just give it myself, and it’s okay, you know, I’m very spiritual, so I won’t even charge you for that.” Of course, this should have been my one, like, first major red flag. Like, someone offering body work or a massage of any type not charging? Yeah, that’s really bad. But it didn’t even occur to me to think that it wasn’t just 100% amazing, because I trusted so much, right?
[044:18] I go in to get this massage, and I didn’t have to take all my clothes off, I remember. I had to take my shirt off, and I could keep my underwear. And in the beginning it felt kind of normal, and I was just very grateful and felt really excited that I was going to get this energy, bodywork from this big kundalini teacher. Then as it progressed he started getting more and more intimate. In fact, he was kind of touching my breasts, but he wasn’t touching my nipples, so I was confused, like, okay wait, maybe he needs to massage the area right around my breasts because there’s … You know, I didn’t know. I just had that feeling of like, okay, this doesn’t feel great. But, the feeling is, I was trying to explain to Dennis, because we were talking about this so much now, and it’s been … I’ve been sharing all of these stories with him, and he’s just mind blown. Like, mind blown. I was trying to explain, and he was like, “Well why wouldn’t you say something? Why wouldn’t you just leave? Just sit up and go!” And now that I think of it, yeah, why didn’t I just run away? And I tried to explain, and I said, “You know when you’re getting a haircut and the hairdresser, like, isn’t doing a good job, but it’s too awkward. Like, you know, you don’t want to hurt their feelings, and it’s kind of awkward, so you just sit there and you smile and you say, ‘Yeah it’s great,’ and then you go home and cry. The feeling is very similar.”
[045:40] So yeah, the feeling is very similar to kind of getting a shitty haircut in that this was someone who I thought was a professional, who was providing me with a service, and the service was free. Right? So one, I didn’t want to be ungrateful, and two, I felt like, “Well he’s the one who knows,” right? So if I feel uncomfortable, it must be that there’s something wrong with me, because he’s the one who knows all of this.” And I was afraid to, you know … What if it wasn’t at all sexual? He was just getting really close to my breast. What if it wasn’t sexual? He was just massaging something that needs to be massaged there, you know? I kept telling myself these things, but I was feeling really tense, like really couldn’t relax. It was really not fun.
[046:19] Then he started getting, like, right in between my breasts. Still not touching the nipples. I was telling myself, “Okay, wait, if he gets to my nipple area, I’m going to say something.” Then I was like, “Okay, well if he gets there I’m going to say something. If he goes closer to my crotch, I’m going to say something.” But I didn’t! At the end of this massage, it was the worst thing ever. It was like, you know, he was chanting and doing a lot of other things that also made it look more like it was a spiritual experience, which it wasn’t at all. Trust me, if it’s a spiritual experience, you feel good. If it’s a spiritual experience, you’re going to click with that. This just was not … The shitty part of having something sexual or abuse masquerading as something spiritual or something higher than whatever. So, at the end of this massage he got really close to my crotch area, put his hands on my vagina and like started moving his hands and kind of, like, I still had my underwear on, and that lasted for a very short time, and I just squeezed my legs together and just, you know … But I didn’t stand up, I didn’t walk out. I squeezed my legs together, and I was still there with my eyes closed. And then he stopped and kind of stepped aside. He was like, “Okay, you are very, very tense. Very tense. Wow, I can really see how you’re going to have a hard time spiritually and really opening up to the depths of this practice. But now I have taught you, and …” What did he say … “I have given you this clear energy now, so you should be able to find much greater depths in your practice now.” Some bull shit like that.
[047:54] I was just mortified. I was mortified. I felt so violated, so sad, but I was still … I didn’t say anything! I didn’t say anything. I still felt like, okay, well I guess I’m just the one who doesn’t know what it means to be spiritual. I guess if I was more spiritual, this would have felt like a spiritual thing, you know? But it wasn’t! It wasn’t. It was abuse. It wasn’t a spiritual thing at all. And now I wish I could just turn back time and go back to that place and stood up and smacked him in the fucking face and told the studio owner what was going on. I didn’t say anything, you know? I just, for a really long time, felt like that was my fault. And then I kind of pushed it away and I didn’t think about it again. I didn’t think about this as at all something that had happened to me. No, it was just kind of a weird massage I had once. No, like, that was not okay. That was abuse. There was no consent there. That was horrible! Oh, and in case I didn’t say, this guy was maybe in his 60s. It was just no, no, no.
[048:54] The second thing that happened … So this was a couple years ago, and I had just started teaching yoga, and I was so into the practice and into wanting to be a teacher. And I’m going to try to keep as many of these details anonymous because, yeah, I don’t want to get into a drama with this person at all. I don’t want to start a he said/she said thing. I just want to tell my story without it kind of becoming a thing.
[049:20] I wanted to teach somewhere new. It was in a new place that I wanted to teach, and the owner of this space was really excited and had approached me and taken my class and said, “Oh, your class, it’s so amazing.” And he’s also, like, this was an older man. And said, “I would love for you to start teaching here full-time. Can I take you out to dinner and discuss and give you a proposal and discuss what this would mean, and how this employment would work?” And I didn’t think twice about anything, being worried about that. I was just like, “Oh my god, how great!” And I told Dennis, “Oh my god, I have this work interview, but it’s like a work interview/dinner. Do you want to come?” And I just asked if Dennis wanted to come, and he was like, “No no, I think you should do that on your own. I don’t want to interfere. If you get the job then I can go there, but just see if you get it.” So, I didn’t even think twice that this wasn’t just like a proper, uh … like a business thing. Just a business dinner. Like, I wanted to get a job.
[050:08] And then we go out to dinner, everything is totally professional and totally normal and we talk about this and really narrowed down how many classes a week I’d be teaching, and what the pay would be. Just details about stuff. And he was very nice and normal, we had a very normal time. Nothing was weird, at all. And at the end of it, you know, I had gotten the job, I was so excited, and then I went to give him a hug as I was going to my car, he was going to his car, and said goodbye and I thanked for dinner, and okay I’ll start Monday or whatever. And then I gave him a hug and like a little tap on the back, and then he grabbed my face with both of his hands, turned my head toward his, and kissed me on the lips. And it wasn’t a French kiss, it was just kind of an open mouth, gross, icky kiss. Like a mouth kiss. And then he turned around and got in his car and left.
[051:00] And I stood there … I stood there, like, frozen. Frozen! It was just a complete shock! There had been no sort of energy that could have been misinterpreted there, at all. This person was three times my age. And this was just like a work thing! I was so in shock. And then I got back into my car and I just sat there. My heart was pounding. Pounding. And I started thinking, like, oh my god, what did I do to invite this? And I started thinking, oh my god, I must have led him on somehow. Did I mistakenly make him think that I was interested in something else? What did I do? And I started questioning everything I had said during the dinner. I had made a joke where we both laugh. Oh my god I shouldn’t have done that. I looked at what I was wearing, I was wearing like a normal blouse and jeans. But I had high heels on. Oh my god, wait, did it look like I had dressed up for this? And I just started second guessing myself over and over and over and over again. And then it hit me … Wait, what if he only wanted to hire me because he thinks that there is going to be something here? What if he only wants to hire me because of my looks or something? And my heart just dropped. It just killed me. I was so excited, feeling like I was becoming a really good teacher. And then I started thinking, oh my god, I’m just getting this job because … not because of my skills, it’s because of what I look like. And I just … I cried. I cried in the car the whole way home. I was supposed to be so happy and so excited about having this new job, and I just cried.
[052:27] When I got home I felt so embarrassed to share … Like, I felt so embarrassed that this had happened to me. I didn’t tell Dennis. I didn’t tell him. I didn’t say anything at all. I didn’t tell him until just now, a couple of weeks ago. And he was like, “Ew.” Like, shrugged his shoulders, like, why didn’t you tell me then? And I was like, “I don’t know. I felt ashamed. I felt like I had done something wrong.” I didn’t do anything wrong! He grabbed my face and kissed my lips, and I felt ashamed! Like, where is the shame in that for me? He should feel ashamed! Oh my god.
[052:56] Anyway, fast forward, so Monday came and then I had this big new job that I was so excited about, but I was debating, like, okay, is it even real? What is happening? What if this person, he thinks that there’s going to be something here? No no no, I have to go and just kind of shut this down right away. And then I got there, and everything was fine! Everything was normal! There was nothing weird, nothing at all. And then that person didn’t even, like, live in the same area, so I didn’t see him again for months. So, I wasn’t going to be working directly for him, but directly for someone else. So he was like the bosses boss or whatever. So I just told myself, okay, like I’m not going to be spending a lot of time with this person anyway, so it’s okay. He’s like an older man. Maybe he was just kind of kissing me on the lips like the way you ki- … Maybe he kisses everyone like that? Maybe he’s one of those weird people that just, you know, they kiss their grandkids and their kids. Everyone, they kiss on the lips? I was trying to make excuses, like it wasn’t weird, it was okay, it was normal, because I really wanted the job.
[053:57] Then things went really well there. I did super well for myself, and I actually ended up teaching there for a lot of years, which was super great. Then there were a couple of other moments where I had a weird feeling. Nothing bad happened. I never had something like that happen again, where he touched me or tried to kiss me. That was the only time. And it was the first time I met him. So I just kind of shrugged it off. There was a couple of other times where he kind of made a remark about me being good looking, or something that felt a little inappropriate, but no touching. So I just, well, every man is like this. So I just shrugged it off.
[054:26] Then a couple of years later … This is, yeah. I should have taken all of these things as signs to not engage with this person, at all. Clearly. But I didn’t. I thought he was harmless. I don’t know, yeah. Fast forward and there was a work trip. So, going to another country to research yoga programs, yoga retreats, and how to grow this yoga business. So we were going to go to Costa Rica, and it was supposed to be three of us. Two other people from the company, and then him. Then in the end, things shifted, and it became just me and him going to meet a third person over in that other country. So, it was still more people, but it was like me and him traveling there together. Which I felt really uneasy about, but I was also very excited that someone was … you know, I had the company pay for me to fly somewhere, and I wanted to learn, and I got to go somewhere … I think I let the excitement just kind of silence this worried voice that I had. We were going to stay in some big house there, because they had a mutual friend or something that lived there, and then we could stay … It’s supposed to be a beautiful big house and whatever, and we’re going to do all of this research for retreats, and visit other centers and see if we could make connections there.
[055:43] So, I get there. Everything is normal, nothing is weird. We get there pretty late in the afternoon or it was pretty close to night. Then this person who owned the house who was a friend of his kind of looks at me and then looks at him, and then he’s like, “Um, okay.” He just seems a little awkward. And I was just trying to be very professional. “So where do I put my bag and where do I put my things?” And then the older man goes, “Yeah, you and I are going to sleep in here,” and then he just opened the door and there was a bedroom there with one bed. “You and I are going to sleep in here. You should just put your stuff in there.” And I said, “Excuse me?” “Yeah, we’re going to sleep in there, so you leave your things there.” And then he walked on and like, “Oh, is there any wine in here?” And just continued. And I looked at this other guy who owned the house and I was like, “What did he say? That we were going to… Where am I going to sleep? Where’s my room?” And he said, “Oh. I was under the impression that you two would be sharing a bed.” And I said, “What? Why would you get that impression?” And he said, “Well, he told me. There’s only two bedrooms in this house, so I said that maybe this is not appropriate for this type of trip, and he said that it’s okay because you two will be sharing a bed anyway.”
[056:52] And the panic in my eyes. I was in a foreign country, in a place that I didn’t no anyone, with this boss of mine, and another random person that I didn’t know. The panic … I didn’t have any money. And he looked at me, he says, “Oh my god, this is … I’m so sorry, I’m going to take care of this.” And then he disappeared and he started having a conversation with this old boss of mine, and I could hear them kind of yelling and shouting at each other, and it was a whole thing, and then he got super pissed and he took his suitcase out of the room, didn’t look at me, and just went into the second bedroom and closed the door. So, he was trying to get me to sleep in the same bed as him, and when I said, “No, that’s never going to happen,” got super, super pissed. Spent the whole day afterwards not talking to me. We had meeting setup with hotels and places there. Didn’t come along for anything. Was really, visibly upset. And I was just so awkward, I didn’t know what to do, if I should leave or what to do. It was the worst, the worst thing.
[057:50] The second night, I think we had two or three nights there total, the second night, so what happened was that I got this master bedroom by myself, and then these two other people, guys, men, were sharing the second smaller room where there was two beds, because I wasn’t going to share with any of them. Like, please. The second night, I go to bed, we say goodnight, I go to change, I’m in my underwear, brushing my teeth, and when I come out of the bathroom, he’s lying in my bed. I come out of the bathroom, which was in the room where I was sleeping. He’s lying in my bed. This older man, like, in his sixties or older, wearing tighty-whities, underwear, lying in my bed, and kind of patting the bed. He says, “Ah, now that we’re not fighting anymore, why don’t you come here and lie with me.” And he had locked the door. The door was closed.
[058:43] The fact that I didn’t yell or scream or make a thing, the only thing that was going trough my mind was, “How am I going to get out of this situation without making him feel embarrassed?” That’s what I was thinking about. How am I going to get out of this without making him feel embarrassed that he’s doing this right now? I was concerned that I was going to offend him. He was, not just my boss, but my boss’s boss, visibly taking advantage. Visibly doing something really, really inappropriate. Trying to … Oh god! I feel nauseous just sharing this because of how violated I felt. And I kind of walk around and I stay really close to the door, and I said, “I think you should leave now?” And he says, “No, come lie here. Come lie here, now.” And then I go to the door, like I have to get out, and I try to laugh, I was like, “Haha, you’re so funny. You know, I think you’re a little drunk? Did you have more wine?” You know, I tried to make a joke that he was drunk, and this is not who you are, this is not appropriate, you should leave. And he grabs my hand and pulls me toward the bed and tries to get me to lie down, to kiss me. And then I had to push him off, like, fully push him off, and open the door, and I just ran out. Then I knocked on a door and this other person, the guy who owned the house, I said, “I think you need to help me now.” Then he took him from that room. And again, they were fighting. For some reason he got super upset and then went into the other bedroom.
[060:08] I stayed, at night, I packed all my things, called Dennis, said I’m having like a major panic, you need to help me, I need to be flown out of here. I need some sort of help, some sort of support, I’m all alone, and I stayed on the bed just staring at the door, awake, the whole fucking night. And when the next day came, he wasn’t there. I had breakfast and I went to the airport and I left, and we didn’t talk about it anymore. I didn’t tell any- … I didn’t tell my other boss, I didn’t tell anyone I worked with. I didn’t say anything, because I felt like he would be embarrassed, like I was going to offend him if I told someone that he was trying to force me into having sex with him in what I thought was a work trip. I don’t know.
[060:54] Just sharing this story now, I’m still like … Of course I stopped working for that company really shortly after that, but I told myself it was because of other reasons and whatever, and my other things that I was doing had grown, but yeah, no, this was at the core of everything. And I was still thinking, like, “How did I invite for this to happen? How is it my fault that he thought that this was appropriate, and that he could do this.” It was just such a massive violation in a place that I should be able to trust as a safe space. It’s fucking forked up.
[061:31] The last thing that I’m going to share is my least … yeah. I don’t know, they’re all shitty for different reasons. This one was particularly shitty because it involved a work relationship that just kind of messed me up for a long time. This last one was, and the reason this one is, for me at least, really shitty to share is because I never said anything, and I don’t know if this person continued doing this to other people in the community. It was during a retreat that I was leading, and there was a spa there, and I went to have a massage, and we had taken up the whole hotel, and everyone was really excited that we were there. I go check in to my massage, and there was a woman there behind the desk, she says, “Oh, you’re the yoga girl!” And I said, “Yes! I’m here for my massage.” “Ah! You have a change of therapists, sorry. Someone has requested you.” And I said, “Oh!” and then she smiled and she … “Just sit down and wait, and then they’ll be right there.” And I thought, “Someone has requested? That’s a weird thing to say. What does that mean? Someone has requested …” and I started feeling uneasy, like, “Wait, is there someone who follows me on Instagram or something? That’s weird. I don’t want someone massaging me, like … ugh.” It felt weird, but I didn’t say anything. Story of my life! I didn’t say anything.
[062:41] Then this man comes and gets me. He says, “Rachel?” Looks around, like he doesn’t know who I am, which clearly he already did. “Please come with me.” He takes me to the treatment room and he says, “Okay, well your towels are on the table, so just cover yourself with a towel, and I’ll be right back.” And you know how in a proper massage they will leave the room, close the door, give you X amount of minutes, enough time to take your robe off, lie down, cover yourself with a towel, and then they knock, normally, and then you say, “Yes it’s okay,” and then they come in and they begin the massage. Well, I was naked under my robe. I hung the robe, I go to the table, and I see there’s no towel there. There’s two tiny little, like, washcloth like towels. There’s no big towel. There’s nothing for me to cover myself with, like, at all.
[063:27] So I’m about to go and lie and my belly, and I’m guessing, I’m like, okay, I guess I’m going to put both of these towels over my butt so that my butt is covered, I guess? And as I’m, like, about to step onto the table, I mean, climb onto the table, I’m full naked, the guy just barges in and opens the door. And then he looks at me, and I’m naked. Like, naked naked. He says, “Don’t be so silly, you have to lie on your back. Turn around!” And I’m naked! And he’s just looking at me. But he wasn’t, you know, he made it such a breezy thing. “Just turn around.” And I thought, oh my god, okay? Yeah? Okay.
[064:01] So I lay on my back, he takes the two towels, lifts them up so that I’m just full frontal naked on the table and then puts one over my breast area and one over my crotch area. And then he has this kind of massage voice, says, “How’s the temperature of the room? Is it good?” And I was, like, nodding like, “Uh, yeah.” You know, it was so uncomfortable. “Okay. Here we go, we’re going to commence the massage,” and he said something about the oil he was going to use, or whatever. And I just knew, from the moment that he barged in like that, like, this was not an okay place. I just knew. I should have immediately just said I was uncomfortable. I could have blamed it on anything else, but I didn’t! Again, I just laid there kind of knowing that this is a person I cannot trust, this is a person who knew who I was, who had requested to massage me, who just barged in on me naked, lifted the towel, saw me naked, you know, in a clearly unprofessional manner. Like, I knew it was going to be bad. But I stayed! I felt so self-conscious, so insecure, and I was thinking, like, “Oh my god, I’m the only one not comfortable with this nudity. If I was more spiritual I would just be comfortable with nudity.” Because this guy, he was wearing a mala bead. My mind was making these excuses, like, “Oh, if I was more open or whatever … He’s not thinking of this as a sexual thing. It’s just being naked, just being natural.” So, I was making these excuses up for this guy.
[065:11] He starts giving me the creepiest massage of all time. Like it’s reaaaally, really, really, really bad. Getting really close to my crotch area and thigh area, and I was just there, like I could feel my tears burning behind my eyelids. It was just, you know, the worst. But I didn’t leave! I was frozen. I felt paralyzed, actually. That’s the word. I felt paralyzed. Like I couldn’t move, like I was just frozen. And I was on my back the whole time, which is also strange for what was supposed to be, like, a normal, deep tissue massage. I was on my back the whole time. And then he starts massaging my chest, and then in between my breasts, and I’m just lying there, and my shoulders are shrugging forward because I just want to die, but I just felt completely unable to move a single limb. And then he goes, he smirks and he goes, “Ugh, this thing is just in the way! Let’s just remove it.” And he removes the towel that I had covering my breasts, and continues to give me, like, a chest massage. Then, abruptly, really abruptly just says, “Oh, okay, uh, I think we’re out of time now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this.” And then left the room and closed the door.
[066:17] And when he left it was like … I don’t know. It was like … like something, the fear that I was holding onto, feeling just completely paralyzed in that really vulnerable, horrible hour that felt like a year, I start hyperventilating, like, hyperventilating, I couldn’t breathe, I felt like I was going to choke, like I was having a complete panic attack. I take my robe, I cover myself up, and I just want to run. And I open the door, and he’s standing there, smiling. Smiling, like a big, big, big smile, like, a nasty smile on his face. And he says, “I hope you’ve enjoyed this. I sure did.”
[066:54] And I ran. I mean, I ran, and I came back to the room, and I don’t remember this a lot, and then I spoke to Dennis about this yesterday, Dennis is like, “I remember so clearly, you came back, I thought you had a near death experience. I thought something insane happened, because you couldn’t breathe, you couldn’t talk, you were just crying. I couldn’t get you to calm down at all. It was horrible.”
[067:18] And then he wanted to go tell the spa manager what had happened, and I didn’t want him to. I felt like this was just … I don’t know why … Why? Even I had his support that we could have gone and said something, and we didn’t! And then for a really long time, from time to time I would think, like, I wonder about that guy. Is he still giving women treatments? Is he still out there doing these things? And I never said anything! And I can see now the reason that I never said anything about any of these instances is because I felt so disempowered. I felt so disempowered, like I had no voice. Like, I am not the one who is going to be believed here. Or, I felt like they were in a place of power, I should just be grateful, or I should just be grateful that I had that job, or I should just be grateful that I got a free treatment, or I should be grateful that … whatever. I was afraid that they would be offended.
[068:07] Then, most of all, I was afraid that, what if it wasn’t real? What if this is just normal? It’s normal to be treated by a man this way. It’s normal to … like, this type of abuse, it’s not even abuse, it’s just normal. So, I shouldn’t even talk about it because it’s not something that I should even be reacting to. Like, this is just what it’s supposed to be. I felt so disempowered, like, what would it change if I said anything? Like, it’s not even a big deal.
[068:29] And now that I’m going through all of this, like, all of these things are a big deal. All of this! Every single time that something like this has happened, even though, I don’t know if you guys … Like, even now I feel like there’s a voice, that same voice that tells me that none of this is a big deal, I need to explain myself more, what if you guys listening to this now are going to think that work situation I had, like, it was my fault, or it wasn’t a big deal, why am I mentioning this here? You know? There’s still that voice inside my head that kind of things I should shut the fuck up and not talk about this at all.
[069:00] Well, the reason I’m sharing these stories is because these are the ones that feel the ickiest for me. These are the ones that I feel the most violated! Like, I feel more violated about the ex-boss that I had than I did from the guy who actually drugged me with intent to rape. I felt less violated by that, because I didn’t know that person, right? I wasn’t in a vulnerable space. I wasn’t in this power position where I trusted someone else. That has just lingered with me for so long with this really disgusting feeling in my mouth of just … what did I do to invite that? The answer is I did nothing! I did nothing to invite any of this shit. Like, nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing!
[069:50] Even if, like, consent is consent, right? So, even if you’re about to be intimate with a person, and you can be all in, all the way, and then right before you’re about to have sex, you change your mind, you have the fucking right to stand up and walk away! Like, everything is yours. All that power is yours. Somehow we’re conditioned to believe that it’s not, like, we don’t have the ultimate power over our own body, and what a man says is right and if you were leading him on, if you were into it in the beginning but then you weren’t, so it was your fault. Or, you shouldn’t have gone on a trip with a man. Like, I should be able to do whatever the fuck I want without someone else feeling like they have the right to touch my body. That’s just the truth of where we are.
[070:39] The fact that this isn’t an obvious thing, the fact that we even have to have these conversations today (sigh) … No! No, no, no, no.
[070:51] Okay, I’m feeling really hot and bothered and sweaty and kind of disgusted just sharing these stories, but I also feel … I feel really empowered right now. Right now I feel if any of these men were in front of me, I would tell them to fork the fork off. I feel like, as it is right now, I would be able to really … To really speak up, and to really share the fact that this was not okay, and the fact that I have been violated this many times. And my story, compared to so many other women’s stories where there’s actually, real rape, sexual abuse … I’ve never had anyone touch me in that way. I was never raped. I was never physically sexually abused. I’m super lucky. And I know so many women out there are not, you know?
[071:35] And I guess what I’m trying to end this with is if there’s even a shred of you that feels like you are the one to blame, or that you should have done something different, I hope these words help you find solace in the fact that it wasn’t your fault, right? Nothing you did is to blame. If it didn’t feel right, it wasn’t right. It wasn’t your fault. And, also, important: I Believe You. If you have a story of your own and you want to voice it, I believe you. No one is going to have to … yeah. Anyone telling me, like, “Oh, I should verify these stories, and why would you believe these women.” Why would I not believe these women? What do we have to gain from lying about these things? Like, I have a hundred more of these things that I could share, and I’m not just because that’s what we think. We think it’s normal.
[072:30] Something that was kind of beautiful, in the midst of all of this, I was sharing with one of my sisters, my sisters are all teenagers now, and we were talking about this, and I just mentioned, “You know, if you ever have anything questionable happen with a guy, know that you have the power. You have the power to end it at any moment. You have the power to really say no.” And she was like, “What? Why are you even saying that? Of course I know that!” (laugh) She was kind of like … she thought it was weird that I was stating such an obvious thing!
[073:00] And I really hope that that’s a sign of the fact that the younger generations, you know, that it’s different, for them. That now no means no. Of course it does. And that there is, already, automatically more power in the teens of today, in that voice. Also in coming forward and speaking up and sharing these stories. I hope that this power balance is shifting, and that it continues shifting so that when my baby girl is this age, that she won’t have to suffer through this shit. That she won’t ever have to look herself in the mirror and think, “Well maybe if I hadn’t been drunk,” or, “Maybe if I’d worn a longer skirt this wouldn’t have happened to me.” Like, fucking pray to every god out there that the reality will be different, and that it’s already changing now. And I hope by listening and speaking, that we are part of that change. And I really, really believe that we are.
[074:00] So, thank you for listening. Thank you for sticking with me throughout this very challenging podcast. Thanks for giving me space to open up about these things. If you have a yoga-related #MeToo that you would like to share, I’m still, the submissions are coming in by the hour. You can email email@example.com. I will publish everything anonymously, and I’m removing name of both predator and survivor. In the cases where there are multiple stories coming in about the same man, I’m connecting the survivors of the abuse together, if they are open to it, to see if, together, they want to connect to file charges, or to speak up, and to out the person’s name. I think knowing that we are not alone in this makes us feel more empowered and like we actually have the ability to do something and to change something. Because if we suffer in silence and we let this shit continue, right? If we suffer in silence, it just means that … it just means that next time it happens, we’re going to be silent too.
[075:01] So I want us to get together now and fucking war, so the next time this comes our way, that silent, disempowered voice doesn’t even have to be there. I want to be the roaring, fiery Rachel the next time something like this comes my way, not the silent person feeling paralyzed, or like I did something to invite that.
[075:25] So, I really, at least I feel it in my bones now, I’m kind of like, “Come at me, man.” Not that I want any of this to happen, but it’s going to be interesting, at least for me, the next time I am in a situation even remotely close to anything like this, because there is more fire in my voice now. Knowing that all of this is not okay, and knowing that I’m not alone. So, you are not alone. If you are suffering through trauma right now, or you’ve been something immensely painful that you want help with, please wait no longer, but look for that help right now! There’s a really beautiful organization called RAINN, it exists in the U.S., you can look them up for help if you’re in the USA. If you’re in Europe, there is a Rape Crisis Network Europe. It’s RCNE.com. So, wherever you’re at, make sure that you find the support that you need to find feeling. So, make sure that, you know, we can use the online world as a source of inspiration, we can share our stories, we can get together as a community. But know that true healing needs to happen in the hands of a professional. So, if you need any help, please find it! Find it find it find it. The path to healing begins right now.
[076:42] Loving you so much, you are so held, so supported, so safe. And you’re not alone. Thank you for listening.
[End of Episode]
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