17 January 2012

The “Creating Safe Spaces for Girls and Women” Writing Project

An Invitation for Women from all over the World

This is an open invitation for women from all over the world to take part in a unique project of “Creating Safe Spaces for Girls and Women.”

Most of us have experienced some kind of a sexual molestation/ assault/ abuse/ attack/ harassment at one point or another in our lives. It could have been a single incident or an ongoing molestation. It happened on the street, at the pool, at a relative’s house, or in our homes. It was a family member, a family friend, someone from school, or a stranger. There are so many stories, and many of us carry them within ourselves. Many of us share our stories so that we could prevent these assaults from happening to other girls and women. But still many of us remain silent.

Yes, there are probably many websites, books, lectures, workshops on this issue. But still, we need more. In order to create safe spaces for girls and women, we need to tell our personal stories over and over, in all available forms.

I am inviting you to share your own personal story in any way you wish – it could be sharing a specific incident, describing your feelings of helplessness, fear, pain or guilt, how you cope with it in the present, how has it affected your life, how to transfer this knowledge to young girls, or any other thoughts you wish to share with other girls and women around the world. It can be as short as one paragraph or as long as several pages. You can focus on only one aspect of sexual molestation, or on several. It can be written in any style you wish: facts, poem, creative writing. You can remain anonymous if you wish, or you can tell us about yourself as little or as much as you wish.

What will be the final product? I still don’t know exactly, it will depend on the contents of the stories received. At the moment, I see it as a collage of stories from all over the world, women sharing their experiences in order to create safe spaces for us. In what form it will be? My initial thought is to have it all on an internet platform that will be accessible to girls and women all over the world.

Deadline? There’s no deadline for submissions. Right now, I think this will be an ongoing, long-term project.

Where to send your story: khulud.kh@gmail.com

Please help spread the word and pass this on to as many women as possible. To receive the invitation in a PDF form, please email me at the address above.

© this is an independent project initiated by khulud kh, January 2012

12 January 2012

we refuse to be victims

(c) photo by khulud kh, 2012

She was maybe 27 or 28 when it happened. Right in the middle of having sex. She was high on marihuana and wine and it was all blurred in her mind. She only remembers the last moments of it. N was on top of her, and she was crying, “rape me, rape me.” He stopped in the midst of action and stared at her in horror. “Asmahan! Asmahan! Wake up! It’s me.” She stared at him with eyes full of fear. She covered herself with the blanket, and wept silently, her body contracted into a ball.

That was when she connected the dots. Her inability to enjoy physical contact without being high or drunk. And even then!

She can’t remember exactly when it all started. She can only guess that it lasted maybe two maybe three years. Maybe more maybe less. Maybe from the age of 9 or 10 somewhere around there. Because when her grandfather died, she was 11 and it was going on for a while already. She doesn’t remember how it started, or even why.

He was older by two years. Two years is a lot at the age of 9 or 10 or even 11. To her, he seemed almost grown up. What she remembers is an amalgamation of hands forcing their way into places she knew were forbidden to him. Her hands resisting, failing. The weight of his body on top of hers. His breath – always garlic – when he forced his tongue inside her mouth. The bruises that stayed for days on those parts of body that resisted the most. The pain. The disgust.

She also remembers the day when she gathered some extraordinary courage – from where she doesn’t know – and stood up to him. “Enough! I am going outside to wait for my father, and if you touch me again, I will tell him.” He just laughed at her. But he never again touched her.

For years, she walked with this pain inside of her. She was sure that it was her own fault. That somehow it was her who was guilty of his acts. Then, slowly, the pain receded, was pushed into some forgotten corner. Psychologists call it repression.

Then, on that night, it all flushed her. All the memories of his hands tongue touch weight garlic breath. She didn’t tell N about it, but he somehow felt. He knew he couldn’t hold her to comfort her. So he gave her enough space – physical – to feel the pain all the way, with all its intensity.

Our mothers didn’t teach us. Anything that had to do with any touch between a girl and a boy or man and woman was taboo. We were never told that our bodies belong to us. That we have full rights over our bodies. That no man, woman, girl, boy can touch any part of our body without our full consent.

Yet, our mothers are not to blame. No. We can never judge our mothers for what they could or could not do. We live in a society with such twisted grasp over anything that has to do with bodies. They think that if we don’t talk about it, if they act as if it doesn’t exist, then it will never happen. Not in their family.

But the fact is – and I don’t need to quote from any research – that the more a community represses these things and sweeps them under the carpet, the more sexual assaults happen in those very communities. Within the family – usually by cousins and uncles. Less often by brothers.

Looking back at the terrifying ease with which he molested her, she knows – without the need to quote from any research – that it happens at least to 80% of the girls. In one way or another.

Today she also knows what she didn’t know then. Back then, she walked with the pain all alone. She was sure that this was something very private, happening only to her, because of her. Today, she knows her pain is just a drop in a big, collective vessel, containing the collective pain of more than 80% of the girls around the world.

What to do with this pain? She’s working on it. Not with any psychologist, no. Her partner doesn’t know. But he knows she has an issue with sex. She still can’t be with him in bed without being drunk. But she’s working on it.

But more important, we need to channel this pain into something positive. Talk to our girls about sexual assault. Teach them that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. That nobody – not a man, not a woman, not a boy, not a girl – has the right to touch any part of their body without full consent. That they have full rights over their own bodies. Because we don’t need any more collective pain. Enough is enough. We refuse to be victims.

(c) khulud kh, 2012

7 January 2012


(c) photo by khulud kh

Writing – what does this word mean to me. The breath of life, not less than that. For two years now I’ve been living two parallel lives. One – in the “real” world, as real as it could get, though I can argue about the character and quality and very essence of real. The other life – that of my novel. When I sit down at my large writing table – with the notebooks, pencils, fountain pen, colorful markers, computer, thesaurus, a pack of cigarettes, a cup of coffee and of course the complete works of Emily Dickinson – I leave the “real” world and enter the world of the novel. Completely and wholly. I become unaware of even my physical body. I cross the line, step beyond, step inside.

I can spend four hours sitting at my writing desk. Usually into the night. I feel I am stealing time when everyone else sleeps. I feel productive. I write. When I get real lucky – I don’t write, but rather let the character come through and let her or him write her or his own story. One at a time. Usually it’s Majid that succeeds in surprising me. The poetry he writes is beautiful. I love it. I read his poems often. Yet I always know that the poetry is not mine. I can never claim authorship of it. My poetry never dances like his. Isn’t as colorful as his. Doesn't come close to intensity of emotions like his.

I often get possessed with fear. What if I run out of words ideas metaphors story-lines. What if I never finish this novel. What if it will resist. What if I do finish it and then that would be the end of it. Questions always questions. Doubts. What if I’m not a good enough writer what if I’m wasting time what if – stop it!

What is good about writing – the process itself. Writing itself is what gives me satisfaction. Forming one word – then putting another word after it. Seeing my thoughts become physical. Become visible.

The stupidity of it – after all, everything has already been said in so many words and so many ways and so many forms. So what’s so unique about my writing. Stop it!

What’s unique about my writing – is that this is my way of saying what has already been said in so many words so many ways so many forms. My own way in my own words in my own form with my own distinguished style.

Nothing unique about what I just wrote here – but nevertheless, it’s mine and it’s what I think and how I feel and so why not. Not every piece of writing has to be so smart to knock the socks out of its readers’ feet.

Because – really, to be honest in the deepest way – I can’t imagine my life without writing. It did become the air I breath. Without writing – I will lose my sense of myself. I will lose a large part of my very being.

Writing is the one single thing that I can never give up on. It is the one single thing I will always do in my life – no matter what where how.

Enough now and go back to the novel.

(c) all rights reserved to khulud kh (2012)

6 January 2012

Friday night home alone

So I worked a full day yesterday – half a working day at one job, the other half working day at my other job. In between – take the dogs out go swimming help my daughter prepare for her two day workshop in Jerusalem answer emails in three different email accounts go out and buy milk read Rela’s book don’t forget to eat don’t forget to eat at ten at night start cleaning house am I crazy yes do the dishes fold the laundry sweep the floors take dogs out again before they scratch part of the door off! Take a shower continue to sweep the floors organize desktop answer more emails work on report call mother get the sock from the dog before he tears it wash the floors make sure dogs are out of the way don’t want paw-prints on the floor. Talk to daughter kiss her goodnight. Take a shower and go to sleep.

This morning – wake up at six in the morning make coffee for my father take him home take his car come back and take my daughter to the meeting point to Jerusalem go back home take dogs out go to my parents’ house for the whole day. Don’t forget to eat don’t forget to eat. At six in the evening come back home, turn on water heater take dogs out smoke a cigarette drink a cup of coffee change the sheets sweep the bedroom floor. Take a shower. Wait. Eight o’clock. No phone call no message nothing. Eight fifteen. My phone vibrates and I read the message: “I fell asleep I’m sorry I didn’t mean this to happen.”

Take the bottle of wine off the shelf and start drinking. Work on my novel.

(c) all rights reserved to khulud kh (2012)

3 January 2012

body image (or: my magic training pants)

So I was again in this same group which made me want to scream last time. But this time we had a really good session. We discussed body image – what we like about our appearance, how important is it to us, the stereotype that all feminist women neglect their appearance, what is beauty and by whom is it defined, the perfect body and by whom is it defined, culture and society in relation to body image, and what not.
Anyway, as we were concluding the session, moving from our own private bodies to the public sphere of society and how it perceives beauty, I thought of one microcosmic example for how much society puts emphasis on external appearances.

They’re doing some construction work in my neighborhood, so it is literally teeming with young men bursting with hormones. I take the dogs out in the morning in my training suit and in my black jacket. I walk past the working men. I am air. Invisible.

Later on, I leave the house for the office – dressed in skinny jeans and boots. The same black jacket. My face and hair are exactly the same as in the morning, as I don’t use any makeup. So – practically the only difference is the clothes on the lower part of my body: skinny jeans and boots instead of baggy training pants and crocs. All men stop working. All heads turned in my direction, their eyes following me down the street. I am amazed how a pair of skinny jeans and boots can turn me from completely invisible to the center of their attention – for a few moments, at least.

The next morning, I put on my training suit, black jacket and crocs – and head out with the dogs again. I walk past the working men. And I am invisible again. I smile to myself. My baggy training pants are magical, having the superpower of making me invisible – well, in certain situations at least and for certain individuals. But. Nevertheless.

(c) by khulud kh. all rights reserved (2012)