I haven’t really been able to write most of the week. I don’t exactly have time—daily life is more demanding—and my thoughts are not proceeding in an organized way. More importantly, it doesn’t seem to be necessary for healing at the moment to force them to be organized. It used to help me a lot to do that. I organized them for a reader. This organized them for me. It helped me to have organized thoughts. Now they drift quite a bit, and it seems to be beneficial to allow it to remain that way.
My thoughts have mostly been about feeling ashamed. It’s getting triggered a lot for me. There are two things that seem to be major triggers at the moment: car engines and any kind of high-pitched noise.
The car engines are an issue because one of my neighbours is a truck driver and these days, he seems to be making a run somewhere or other every day, and this necessitates him idling his engine for between 10 and 30 minutes immediately outside my house. This doesn’t seem to happen at a set time. He starts up anytime between 5:30 and 7:30. So it’s not like I can plan it so that I am not in the front room of my house or the toilet where I can hear it better. I just have to deal with.
It seems pretty clear I am triggered by car engines as a result of the trafficking. There was a lot of roadside soliciting involved, and the sound of an idling engine was the sound of a car pulled over with a potential john inside. The truck is very triggering because it’s loud. It matters how intense the trigger—how strong the sensory input is and how close it is. It’s loud and it’s right outside my house.
I can’t do anything much about it most of the time. Frequently, I am in the middle of taking a bucket bath or I urgently need to get dressed for school then and there or I will be late. I can’t just leave the room.
There are also quite a few taxis—these are mostly “Boleros,” which you have probably never seen if you haven’t spend a lot of time in Asia. So they are basically jeeps. They are also loud. I suppose they park and idle their engines, waiting for something or other, because people have hired them to pick them up from the shop downstairs. I mean, they are picking up a fare who is taking home a box full of 40 ouncers of beer and a 50 kg sack of rice and some other stuff. Or they have come here because there is a bit of a parking lot. In other words, there are quite a few vehicles idling outside my house throughout the day. The truck is the hardest to deal with because it is very sustained, but I find myself feeling suicidal and suddenly realize there’s a taxi outside. Oh. Yeah.
The other trigger comes mainly from the Holy Site. It’s some kind of festival, as I might have mentioned. It involves saying a prayer a certain number of times. There is a lot of stuff going on down there, including broadcasting of recorded music and chanting. One of them is what I think must be Tibetan singing bowls. It’s some very high-pitched noise that is kind of like a beep only different and it goes on for hours. It also starts up around maybe 5 and runs until around 10 or so. It is interspersed by chanting in a growly kind of voice we usually associate with men’s sexual flirtation.
The singing bowls probably sound lovely and soothing for a few minutes interspersed by mellow, instrumental music. For hours at a time, it’s painful. I guess everyone else likes it or they wouldn’t be playing it, but it terrifies me.
The good news, I guess, is that I am not totally shut down when they happen. I don’t get all flat and glass-like. I feel afraid. Terrified, actually. I eventually shut down when I get to school and can’t cope with both trying to be a normal, social or working person and also terrified, but for a few hours, I can still keep having feelings even if the feelings suck.
This was, I admit, a bit mysterious to me. Then I started to put it together: any high-pitched sound scares me. We have these voting machines they use for captain elections to teach students about voting and they make a beeping sound when the vote is cleared and ready for the next person. They terrify me too. I recall being terrified every year on captain election day for 3 years now. The Japanese PE teacher who was here the first two years I was here had this high-pitched whistle she used to teach and I would get so rattled I could barely teach.
Whistles are high-pitched.
When you are standing on a street corner soliciting men for sex, people whistle at you, and it’s scary.
It’s scary and it feels shameful.
There is something about being trafficked that hit me really only just now. Living out men’s sexual fantasies is no little girl’s dream. However you want to look at it, no 8-year-old wants an adult man touching her in sexual ways. No little girl wants to dress up in a way she is old enough to understand as being slutty and then pretend she wants to have sex with men. A little girl wants to imagine much kinder, gentler things for herself.
The fact that I was out there doing what I had to do and my school friends were playing with Barbies and putting on pretty dress-up clothes begged the question, “Why me?” What is so wrong with me that I have to do this? Being trafficked must be one of the lowest positions on the social ladder. “Why must I occupy it?”
I doubt I could have articulated it in that way, but I know I experienced it as the emotion of shame.
From about 2nd grade, they gave assemblies and presentations and showed videos on “safe touch.” The idea is that some adult will protect you from unsafe touch.
Why did no one else protect me? When you are standing on a street corner, everyone knows what is being done to you. I mean, not people who knew me personally—this happened in a different city than where I lived—but society at large is aware there is a small child being forced to have sex with men. It’s not rocket science. Anyone driving by can work that out for themselves. There is no need to shout no and run. Everyone can see. If they don’t do anything to act when they see it, telling them personally is probably not going to make much difference.
They kept driving. I was not worth protecting. Why?
It’s an unanswerable question. I couldn’t answer it then and I really can’t answer it now. As an adult, I can understand that my parents were primarily responsible for protecting me and they were too selfish to do that, for different reasons. The police didn’t perhaps because they had “larger investigations” to carry out and the welfare of a single child couldn’t be allowed to impinge on their success. Yuri was probably a small-time criminal compared to his other “associates.” He may not even have been a target. They might have been much more concerned with combatting Mexican drug lords.
But what about everyone else? What about the family driving to the grocery store? Did ordinary people never drive down that street? It must have been a major street. There is a particular street in that city with a long history of being used for soliciting. It wasn’t some side street decent people can avoid driving down because they don’t want to see.
I suppose even decent people don’t imagine how a child in that situation feels underneath the mask she needs to wear. I suppose they assume the child simply doesn’t know enough to feel ashamed of what she has to do or is so badly broken inside she no longer feels it.
But I did. I think every little girl in that situation does, whether she feels safe enough to share that feeling of vulnerability with others or not. She feels deeply ashamed.
Today, the singing bowls have stopped and there was no truck, but they are back full-tilt to using power tools. Why did my dad have to abuse me so horrifically that ordinary, daily life is always torture? Why did he have to make me terrified of everything? My life never needed to be like this. Why did he do it?
I know the answer, but it’s hard not to keep asking the question. He just really didn’t give a shit how his choices affected me or anyone. I am like this because my parents truly had little or no capacity to care, and I was too little to make them care.