In the spirit of #MeToo, a global movement that raises awareness to any form of sexual harassment that women face everyday around the world, I shall share the story of a woman who has faced a heart-wrenching ordeal, an event that any person should not be able to experience no matter who, what, where they are. Yet, this amazing woman stood up and faced this unfortunate event with grace.
Her name is Jess (not her real name). She is free-spirited, clumsy, unorganized, but with a big heart that she wears on her sleeves. She laughs big, she cries hard. She is independent. She is a dreamer. She breaks norms. She travels the world solo to prove that even as a woman, you can do so many things on your own. But her main goal is for the world to know that there is more good than evil out there.
But Jess is not only that. Like me, she works in the health industry. Along the way, she volunteers in medical missions to help people around the world. Her dream of combining her dream of helping people and traveling the globe is finally coming true.
Despite all her achievements, Jess is like many other women in the world. She is told many times to stay home and focus on her career, get a husband, build a house, and have children. Her friends would tell her to stay in her country to help the people there instead. She was told that traveling solo to places beyond her own is dangerous. Jess is often caught with guilt and confusion. Is she being selfish? Should she listen to other people before her own heart?
Jess chose to follow her dreams. However, no matter how happy she is fulfilling the life she’s always wanted, solo traveling doesn’t come easy. There are plenty of times when you have to eat alone, do things alone. While you travel solo, making friends along the way is a major charm of it. This leaves Jess lonely sometimes.
In one of her lonely days, Jess turned on Tinder. Tinder is an app that let’s you connect to people nearby. It’s always been on her phone, checking on it from time to time; chatting with boys but only met very few of them who became her life long friends. “Why not use it this time again?” She thought.
It was dinnertime. She was supposed to meet up with her newlyfound friends but they ended up staying in. Disappointed, she grabbed a beer at the local taco store. Suddenly, she heard that ring in her phone: a message from her tinder match asking her to meet up for dinner. She thought, “cool! I’ve got someone to dine with.” She scrolled for his photos and he looked decent –he’s a French guy practicing yoga and his photos look fun with him having a wide smile on his first photo. He’s got the perfect body with perfect abs and muscles on the right places, too.
In a few minutes, the guy drove up to her place. He looks older than his profile in tinder. But he looked hot still; his hard biceps showing underneath his sleeves. His English was with a very hard French accent. He didn’t smile so much. He seemed serious. At that moment, Jess thought it might not be a good idea. But oh well, she was hungry and needing of a conversation.
And so they did. She had a burrito while he had pizza. Then he started to talk about signs. He asked, “ What’s your zodiac sign?” She answered, “I’m a cancer. How is this relevant?”
“It is important to me. We have to match. You’re a perfect match to me.” He said this all in a straight tone. No smile, no excitement.
It was getting awkward for Jess. She’s met a lot of different personalities in her life and she thought this is just one of those difficult ones. Probably the only thing that she enjoyed talking about was traveling. She couldn’t wait for the dinner to end.
Finally it was time to go. He asked her to go to a bar with him. She said she was tired. He pleaded. She considered. She finally said yes. She thought, never again after that night.
She hopped on to his motorbike. He said he has to pass by his place to get something. She thought why not. They arrived. It was an apartment close to a party hostel with loud banging music. He asked her is she wants anything. She said she wanted water. She went inside. When she was about to go out again, the guy bolted to the door and locked it.
“What are you doing?” the guy said in angry tone.
Jess couldn’t believe what just happened but remained calm, “I want to leave. Let me out.”
“You can’t leave. Don’t you get it? We’re a match. I won’t hurt you if you let me kiss you.” He grabbed Jess’s face and planted his mouth onto her. She pushed him hard but he only tightened his grip. He then cupped his hand on her mouth. “If you scream, I’ll be forced to hurt you. There’s no one around to hear you anyway. This is just one night. I don’t get why you don’t like me.”
Jess’ thoughts raced fast. What can she do? He’s more than 6 feet tall with powerful muscles built in his body. If she screams, he’d probably choke her. “I don’t want to die” was all she could think of.
Jess cried in silence as the guy did to her the despicable. At that moment she felt he was stripping her off of her dignity, her self-respect, of everything that she believed in herself and in other people. She felt low as he forced himself inside her.
Finally, the ordeal was over. He kissed her tenderly this time. “See, it’s not so bad? I don’t get why you resist. You can go now if you want to.”
Jess grabbed her stuff and ran for the door, tears streaming out her eyes.
“What to do now?” She thought she should go to the police. “Then what?” Her thoughts couldn’t comprehend what just happened and what she should do with it. They’re both in a foreign country where having sex among travelers is a norm and where the police couldn’t care less.
She made it to her place. She felt defeated. What has become of the world she had loved to explore? She believed in the good of all people. She trusted so much. She cried her heart out in despair.
Three days after the ordeal, I met her at a bar on the same island. We talked. We had the same passion for traveling and we hit off right away. Somehow, we came to discuss #metoo. I was surprised by her strength to tell the story to me despite of the fact that it only happened a few days ago.
“I just have to learn to be strong. There’s nowhere to go but up. I cannot nurture this negative feeling, I have a mission to complete” she said with conviction.
Was there anything that should have been done differently? Should she have gone to dinner alone? Shouldn’t she have used tinder at all? Should she have walked out from the restaurant the moment she felt weird about him? Should she have screamed at all even under threat of being hurt, or worse, death?
I have used tinder a couple of times and I’ve met several awesome people there. I am also fond of meeting strangers especially those that love to travel. Fortunately for me, I haven’t been in any situation as what had Jess had to deal with.
I asked her if she’s still keen to travel solo and meet people along the way. Her beaming answer was a big YES. No evil man can ever stop her from pursuing her passion. She still believes that there are more good than evil people in the world and she’s still out to prove that.
Jess reconciled with herself. After days of blaming her self, she finally understood that it wasn’t her fault. There are things that she can learn from her experience but nothing will stop her from doing what she loves and neither should any woman stop herself from pursuing their passion.