Eighteen Years Later

(This essay was commissioned and published by the Australia-Indonesia Centre: “leading writers and commentators from Indonesia and Australia each looking closely at their own society, cultures and political situations.” Please read the full essay here. Trigger warning for rape and assault.)


EVERY time anyone asks me how I came to Australia, I tell them I was adopted from China. It’s a story that doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable. It’s a story that doesn’t draw out pitying looks. It’s a story that doesn’t make me look like a freak. Or a victim.


THREE years after it happened. My friend and I were sitting in my room and she said, “One afternoon in middle school I was walking home from soccer practice and I passed an abandoned tunnel. Someone leaped out of it and dragged me inside…”

It took me several seconds to realize that she was telling me that she had been raped. I hugged her, but couldn’t share my story in return. Not without admitting that the life story that I’d told her, the person whom she thought she could trust, was a lie.


SIX years after it happened. “It’s so hard to read you,” my boyfriend said at a beer garden. “I’ve told you stories about my childhood and my family—you haven’t told me anything.”

He was right. He’d told me that if he could do anything in the world, he’d like to combine human rights education with football. He’d told me his secret fear was never being able to make his parents proud. Every time he asked me anything meaningful about myself, I simply kissed him.

Two weeks after that date, he left me.


TEN years after it happened. I saw a flyer for a discussion with survivors of the May ‘98 Jakarta riots. Somehow I went to the event. […]


(Please read the full article at the Australia-Indonesia Centre‘s website.)

(Versi bahasa Indonesia dapat dibaca di sini.)

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