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Society Enables Men To Hurt Indigenous Women With Impunity

01/26/2017 01:41 EST | Updated 01/26/2017 01:41 EST
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Today I realized some men around me are hurtful, including the love of my life. After tonight I'm going to provide myself a safe space to be happy, unhurt and in peace. I can't seem to find that, and I think part of it is because these men don't believe indigenous women feel pain the way others do, that we can handle pain, and we're not valued as much as others.

I don't timeline the abuses against me because I've chosen to count the moments that take away that pain. Although, today I found myself made anxious by what can transpire in a single day -- how careless men can be.

A man I work with made a casual remark about my breasts. He thought they were small, a statement I could barely say to my husband. This man had always said slightly troublesome things, and often called me "sweetie" or equivalent terms. He's native and an activist, who is also very kind and giving.

It's easier to blame myself than it is to admit even "good" men can objectify me.

I search for redeeming characteristics in the men who hurt me because it's easier to blame myself than it is to admit even "good" men can objectify me. When men hurt me, my first reaction is to wonder if it was something I said or something I was wearing, which goes against my principles.

As I was running through this man's redeeming characteristics, I became anxious and turned to my husband. I told him a man had said something inappropriate, and then I was able to say a few more words.

My husband said a sentence or two about it being unfortunate, and then fell asleep. I had seen him more concerned when his grandmother tried hot wax on her hands. I sat in the dark for a while wondering why he didn't really seem concerned.

dark woman

(Photo: Tetra Images via Getty Images)

I don't think he understood that when these things happen I can't see straight. I can't sleep because I've been triggered into a memory of my past. I can't think of a reason to press forward, because I believe it's only a matter of time before I'm hurt again. Indigenous women face staggering realities -- the knowledge that we will be hurt more than the average person, and the fact that many don't value our lives enough to give us justice or remember our names.

Marriage has lulls, but he's always been this way -- he steps on my feet often, not noticing I'm near him. Nobody has done that to me more than once. When I walk past him he doesn't accommodate my space and make room. Valentine's Day, Christmases and birthdays are typically hard for me because of some of my memories and the people I've lost, and he hasn't been able to cope well with my mental illness.

He has redeeming qualities. He's a better person than I am, and he's a generous person. In my heart and mind, my impulse is to say the man I work with, my husband and several other men hurt indigenous women with impunity. Because if the government, the police, the media and the majority don't care for indigenous women's lives, why should these men?

If the government, the police, the media and the majority don't care for indigenous women's lives, why should these men?

I've decided to free myself from their words and inaction. I won't work with the man anymore. If I ever get an opportunity to work with a native organization again, I will see if they have more than a few indigenous women in positions of power.

And I'm going to celebrate Valentine's Day alone. I used to be romantic, and I loved to go on trips with my partner. But he came up short, and I don't blame him because I'm too much, and I have obsessive thoughts that can be productive or spiraling and unmanageable.

The thing is, I'm not too complicated for myself. I'm committed to my marriage, but I believe we must protect ourselves when we're in pain, and anyone who can't stand next to you doesn't need to be around when you cry.

I have no intention of crying on a day of love. I'm going to drink wine and watch bad cable, and dance, and write, and buy myself roses, and I believe that's somehow a sign that I'm the strongest I've ever been.

If there are any women feeling alone reading this, I want you to know that I believe you, I respect you, and you deserve a night off. There are too many brilliant, creative and loving women trying to do it all and experiencing the truth that, no matter what we do, we can't stop fighting or taking care of ourselves, because nobody else will.

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