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Abuse happens everywhere, in the Tibetan community and in every other community as well. In this interview, I talk with a woman from America. No matter where abuse happens, the impact on women’s lives is the same. Some men may feel like it’s not a big deal, they just do what they want, but they need to think about the consequences, which I believe are eloquently explained in this woman’s story.
Kunsang Dolma: Do you have any experience with sexual abuse?
Anonymous: Umm…yes. I had a very healthy relationship with my high school boyfriend, it was healthy. In college I had a very good relationship also that lasted four years, it naturally came to an end and when it came to an end I felt really determined and strong that I was going to live independently for awhile and travel the world. I wasn’t looking for a husband, I decided to be single for some time, you know? I think it was the day after I broke up with my college boyfriend, I was feeling so strong, I had no fear, I had no confidence problems, so I decided I would go for a little bit of a trip in car, like a road trip, by myself. In America this is normal, and my parents said, “Yeah.” That very night, the night I was trying to prove to myself that I could be independent, I was sleeping in a tent and a man came into my tent. I woke up, I was sleeping, he was raping me just like that. And I didn’t fight back, I was so scared I just layed there frozen. I always thought if something like that happened to me I would fight, I would scream and kick, because I’m strong and I could fight, but in that moment I just layed there completely still. When it was over I just got up and packed my things, I acted completely normal. I wasn’t crying or anything, I just got back in my car and drove straight home and at the time I didn’t get upset. I was very quiet for some days. I told my mother…
KD: How did she feel?
A: She was very upset, she starting calling psycologists, and all this stuff, like “we need to call the police.” I just said, “no, no, no I want to forget about it, I don’t know who it was, I don’t want to tell the police, maybe I’ll talk to a psycologist if you want to me but I really just want to forget.” I actually forgot very quickly, but what I didn’t realize was that it was still inside me. So I never cried, I think the tears came many years later. So that was a really big turning point in my life because just when I was about to be a strong, confident, independent woman this thing happened that made me so afraid, and from that point on I was scared to be alone. And that led to some bad decisions later. Actually after that I was again traveling alone, this time with a girlfriend, it was girlfriends actually, I wasn’t alone but there was no man with us. We were in a restaurant that had a bar, it wasn’t a really bad place or anything, it was just a normal place and we were drinking some kind of cocktails and suddenly the bartender who was a woman came to us and she told us very quietly, “I think somebody put something inside your drink, a drug inside your drink…I think.” But by the time she warned us it was already too late, we already drank it, and then I don’t know what happened after that. I blacked out, I don’t remember a single thing that happened that night, all I remember is that me and another friend we woke up the next morning in a hotel room and we didn’t know where we were. We didn’t know what happened, but we knew that we were raped.
KD: You both?
A: Both, but we couldn’t remember anything, so we don’t know who it was. We think maybe we could guess who it was, but there is no evidence, and again, we felt so sick still from the drugs. We felt sick for two or three days, and we just wanted to forget about it, we didn’t tell the police, we didn’t go to the hospital, we didn’t do anything because that’s almost more difficult. I really understand why women don’t want to go to the police or don’t want to go to a hospital because that makes it even more painful somehow. It’s easier to forget.
KD: Yeah, just try not to remember…
A: So now, it’s probably been not more than three months and I’d been raped twice, and I was a single woman. From that point on I think I was just looking for a man because I was too scared to be alone. I was deperate for a man then from that point on. I got lucky, soon after that, I was married before, I met a really good man and I was with him a long time. I was pretty happy during that time and it was stable. But then it naturally came to an end and I was scared when we broke up, I didn’t want to be alone again. The last time I broke up with my boyfriend I was raped twice, so this time I wanted to jump straight into a relationship. I didn’t want to stay single even for one month, so… I met a guy. You know? Even though I knew from the first day he was no good for me, and I really did know it, I jumped straight into a relationship, moved in with him and started planning to get married and live a whole life together. I couldn’t imagine to be alone, I was too scared. That’s what, those rapes are what made me be with a man who was abusive, because I was scared to leave him, scared to be alone.
KD: After that, was it hard for you to trust…how did you feel about men?
A: I don’t hate all men or distrust all men, and I think that’s because I have a very good father, a very good brother, and I have male friends who I really trust. I have lots of good men in my life. That helps me a lot, you know? But I seem to have a hard time finding a good man to be in a relationship with, maybe I trust too easily actually. I can’t imagine that these men in my life would do these things to me but they did, I couldn’t believe that they would do it to me, but they did. But I know that there are good men out there, I know I will find the right one, I won’t give up.
This is a continuation from last week’s post. Be sure to read part one first.
KD: You said you had three hundred rupees a month from the Women’s Association, was that enough to pay for food and rent?
A: My apartment was four hundred rupees a month. It was very small, probably the cheapest apartment. I met another woman who’d been dumped by her husband while pregnant, she used to be in a bad situation, pretty much like mine, but she was lucky to meet a Western husband. Her Western husband helped her and later the two of them got married. Her first husband had left her for another woman. She helped me get the apartment and most of the food I ate was from her.
Once I had an apartment I went to a Tibetan government office to ask for help getting a job.
KD: Was there any kind of shelter for women?
A: No, there was nowhere to stay, but I got the three hundred rupees a month from the Women’s Association. That was nice.
I went to the office to ask for information because I needed help and had nowhere to go. They checked over my background then told me the only job available at the time was picking trash. I was seven months pregnant, when I picked the trash I made sure to cover my mouth to protect the baby from anything I was breathing. I did that job until the baby was born. The office paid the hospital fees for the baby’s birth, otherwise I didn’t have any money to pay. The office also sent a nurse to help after the baby was born, and my friend with the Western husband helped too. My body was too weak after the baby was born to produce milk for breastfeeding. It was so expensive to buy formula. The Tibetan office also let me borrow some kitchen supplies, some things they let me keep.
The baby was born at nine in the morning and stayed in the machine until after five o’clock at night. I woke up around five and didn’t see the baby, I looked around and was so afraid the baby died. I didn’t know anything, I hadn’t even seen the baby yet. I started to cry and yelled, “Where’s my baby? Where’s my baby?” A nurse came over to tell me it was okay, the baby was in the machine.
KD: Did you get a C-section?
A: The baby was born normally but I didn’t know what was going on. When the nurse told me the baby was in the machine I was worried, I thought the baby must be very unhealthy. I cried so much, the doctor and nurse tried to tell me not to worry the baby would be fine. I’d never heard of a baby being put in a machine before, I was worried in would have disabilities for it’s whole life, maybe it wouldn’t be able to walk, eat, or take care of itself. I was so sad and cried and cried. Late that night, the nurse brought the baby to me. The baby had hair everywhere and was so skinny and tiny. Only skin covered the bones.
For three days, the doctor fed the baby through tubes. There was no pee, the doctor was worried about that and checked all kinds of things. Eventually the baby slowly started to pee. He was so quiet, he didn’t cry at all at first. After some time, the baby cried a little during the night, during the day he slept. I was at the hospital for a week. The nurse showed me how to feed the baby but there was no milk in my breasts. The nurse tried to squeeze my breasts, she told me to calm down because my body couldn’t produce milk if I was too stressed. She said to be happy, my mind and body were connected, it was hard for my body to make milk.
The baby was very unhealthy, he needed a lot of medical attention and I didn’t have milk coming. I had to buy formula, it was so expensive. I also had to pay rent and spend all kinds of money, it was hard to take care of him. People told me I should take him to TCV (Tibetan Children’s Village). I went to the school to tell them I was having a hard time taking care of my son and gave an application. I tried many times until they eventually accepted him.
They took him when he was six months old. The day the daycare took my son I cried all that night when I got home, I was ashamed I couldn’t even take care of my own kid who was only six months. It was great they took him but I couldn’t believe I couldn’t do it, especially because he was unhealthy and needed extra attention. Early the next morning I went to the school to see my son. It was still dark on the way. There were a lot of taxis, the taxiwallahs must have slept in their taxis, I could hear them talking. I waited for the sun to rise before going. [implying she was worried about rape]
I started to walk to the school in the morning everyday to be with my son and went home at night. After a few days, a woman working at the daycare mentioned that everyone else who brought kids there went off, she couldn’t understand why I didn’t go out to make money too. She asked why I wanted to leave my son there if I wanted to come take care of him everyday. I told her it was because he wasn’t healthy, it was hard to leave him, I had to leave him there only because I had no money of my own to take care of him. I said I didn’t have a choice about having him there, but I couldn’t think about getting a job and being away from him.
I asked the office to let me stay at the school until my son got healthier, I offered to do anything they needed to help with other kids too. I asked to stay and for a little food, it would have been too much to ask for money. A woman at the office said usually people left the kids there and went back to Tibet or did their own stuff, it was sweet I wanted to stay and take care of my son so it was okay. I was so happy I started to do prostrations. The office woman said I didn’t need to do prostrations, it was good I wanted to take care of my son. She said in this situation she thought it was okay to give approval without asking superiors, and anyway, it looked like I wasn’t going to come and waste time.
I was so happy I didn’t have to go back to my apartment. I could stay at the school, eat there, and see my baby all the time. There was a mattress for my son to sleep on, at night I slowly went over to pick up my son and hold him in my arms. Even at that age, it seemed like the baby knew, he looked so comfortable in my arms. In the morning I slowly put him back in his bed. I did that everyday for two years. At two years, he could eat by himself, but his feet weren’t straight and his walking wasn’t stable. I think his feet were damaged when I was beat while pregnant. A woman from the daycare asked a Western women to come and do therapy for my son. The woman did therapy with his feet everyday for four or five months. After a few months, his feet slowly got better, his walking got much better. Over time, he got healthier than he used to be. I started thinking that he was getting better and could eat by himself, it was time for me to get a job to make some money. He needed clothes and shoes and a treat once in awhile. I went back to McLeod Ganj to find a job and found work at another restaurant.
If a woman can’t find a good husband, life is very difficult. After what happened, I couldn’t trust any man. Even though we’ve been separate a long time, I still can’t trust any man. It’s kind of nice having no husband. Nobody makes my life difficult. Some people say not all husbands are bad, not everyone is the same. I don’t know if every man is bad, I only know I had a very bad experience. It was almost enough to make me crazy. If a woman doesn’t have a good husband of course her life isn’t good, and the kids can’t have a good life either. People say that it makes kids unhealthy if the mother is unhappy during pregnancy. Now my son’s teachers tell me he can’t focus at school, he’s not like the other kids.
KD: Before you told me you used to sell momos? When was that?
A: That was after I worked at the restaurant. I worked at lots of restaurants, eventually I got a problem with my kidney. It hurt a lot. I went to see a doctor, after examining me he said I only had one kidney, and asked if I’d ever had surgery in Tibet. I told him no, I never had any kind of surgery. “Then what happened to your kidney?,” he asked, “Did anything hit you in that area?” Although I’d had pain there for a long time, I ignored it because I was more focused on my son’s problems. I ignored it, but it got worse and worse. The doctor thought maybe I’d fallen off something or been in a crash. I never fell off anything, but my husband used to beat me a lot in that area. After that I slowly started to get the pain, it must have been from that. I can’t think of anything else that might have caused it. The doctor said that sounded right, if someone hits the kidney in the same place too much it can burst.
It was hard to work in restaurants with my kidney pain, and people said it wasn’t good for my kidney for me to have my hand in cold water a lot. Other people told me that if I sold momos in the street I could make money that way too. It was hard, I went to a lot of places and got kicked out a lot. I found a place to stay but I still got pushed around from one place to another in that area. I sold momos, making about forty or fifty rupees in my hand at the end of the day. I didn’t exactly know how much I making, it was enough. I was happy to be able to stand on my own feet.
At first it was really difficult, I didn’t know how to use the little burners used in India. Sometimes people I knew saw me, I was embarrassed to be selling momos in the street. It looked very poor, I was sad and embarrassed for people to see me. I had a big hat I pulled it down over my face. Sometimes people I knew a little went around to avoid talking to me. That made me sad. I didn’t steal or cheat anyone, I shouldn’t have been embarrassed. If you’re hungry what are you supposed to do? At times I cried when the burners didn’t work. If a woman doesn’t get a good husband, her whole life is difficult.
KD: Did you still get money every month from the Women’s Association?
A: No, not after my son started TCV. I told them my son was at TCV and thanked them.
KD: Did you find a new boyfriend eventually?
A: People asked but I couldn’t trust them. I was worried about being cheated again. I always didn’t trust men. I’d see girls and boys together, and it looked like they were happy, but I couldn’t believe it. Maybe they went out like that even though they weren’t really happy together.
KD: You told me before that you saw somebody beat his wife…
A: One time I was coming home from selling momos, it was difficult for only one person to make momos because there’s always so much to get at the end of the day, sometimes I needed veggies or flour from the market to make the momos for the next day. One day I was so tired coming home but I needed to get flour to make momos for the next day. I laid down thinking for awhile about how complicated my life was, in my neighborhood other people appeared to be a lot more successful, they had nice places to stay and nice clothes, everybody else around there had a better life than mine. I needed the flour but I was too tired to go. If I didn’t go get the flour I’d have no momos the next day, if I had no momos I’d make no money, so I decided I better go, I had a kid to take care of.
I left Amdo village to go buy flour in the market. On the way back, I took a break for a little while. Just in front of me was a house, all the windows were open, I could see that inside someone was beating his wife. He grabbed her hair and he kicked and punched her on the floor, he was very seriously beating her. The kicks were pretty bad. Meanwhile, someone else was in there watching tv. He was completely ignoring what was happening, he didn’t even try to tell the other man to stop beating her, he kept on watching the tv. Watching all this happen made me very angry and frustrated, a man was beating a woman and someone was just sitting there watching tv. I was angry and scared. I got up to leave. Usually carrying the flour home from the market was very heavy, this time I couldn’t feel it at all, it felt like I got home so quickly. Usually I didn’t eat lunch and came home hungry, this time I didn’t feel hungry at all. I tried to eat something, but it was hard to get it down. I wasn’t tired anymore, I didn’t want to go to bed. I don’t know what time it was, it was very dark. I stayed up to chop the veggies for the next day. I was up all night, I was anxious for my dough to rise so I’d have something to do. I tried to sleep and couldn’t, my eyes stayed wide open and my back started to hurt. I made the momos very early in the morning, it was still dark when I finished. Finally the sun came up and I went out to sell momos near the temple. I began to calm down after chatting with other people for awhile.
This is the end for now, hopefully more of the story will come out in the future.
The last interview with a Tibetan woman posted here caused more trouble than expected, so this time the identity of the woman is being kept anonymous. Although I believe this woman has nothing to be ashamed of I also recognize that she needs to live in this community. My hope is that her story provokes thought on the issues she faced and her strength inspires us all.
Kunsang Dolma: How did you meet your husband?
Anonymous: After I finished school I didn’t have a permanent resident book. It was hard to live without being a permanent resident, but I always planned on going home when I finished school. When school ended I wasn’t sure what to do, I wanted to go home but I had no money. In the meantime someone I knew introduced me to my husband. I didn’t have any boyfriends in school, I didn’t trust anyone, I thought they might just use me then go away. I trusted my husband in part because my friend said he was a good man, and because he seemed like he really was a nice person. I went to ask a lama if he was a good person to be my husband, the lama threw moh and said yes he was. Even though the lama said he was good I still didn’t feel totally comfortable, I was still worried I couldn’t trust him. On the other hand, I had to live somehow, so I decided it was best to get married.
He was nice for awhile once we started to live together. He was nice for awhile, but he slowly changed, he started to beat me and frequently brought another woman back to his restaurant. He’d let this woman eat for free and take money out of his pocket. She’d say she needed a little money for meat or something and he let her take it. I suspected he didn’t tell her I was his wife, it looked like he told her I was his employee, that’s the way she treated me. I was worried about what was going on. He said she was just his best friend.
After I got pregnant I asked him again why she kept coming, and why she got so much money and free food. He told me it was none of my business, to focus on work at the restaurant. The next time I asked, he got angry and severely beat me, complaining that we were both treating him like a servant. I began to get seriously worried. His behavior was already bad before I got pregnant and I didn’t want to have a baby with him anyway, but I didn’t know anything about birth control and ended up pregnant.
KD: Did you try to find birth control?
A: I didn’t know anything about birth control. The only thing I did was wish I didn’t get a baby. After I got pregnant, he changed a lot from the way he used to be. His actions and the way he talked both changed. He started to beat me over every small thing. Working in the restaurant so much made me tired and I didn’t feel well. He didn’t care. He continued to beat me for small things and had me work all the time. He said it was too early for us to have a baby, we didn’t need a baby yet, and there would be time for that later. He wanted me to get an abortion. I was shocked he said that, we weren’t young anymore and I couldn’t understand what kind of husband didn’t even want his own baby. Now what could I do? I was already pregnant and he didn’t want to take care of us.
I wanted to leave him, he wasn’t taking care of me the baby anyway, but I didn’t have anywhere to go. I stayed until I was seven months pregnant. One day he beat me again, he beat me many times, he got angry so easily. Whenever he got angry his hands were always ready to beat me. This time I could see that he was angry and coming for me, I said, “Hey! What are you doing? I have the baby, be careful!” That made him more angry, he grabbed a Coca-Cola bottle to hit me with and said “So what? I want to kill you both.” He hit me in the stomach with the bottle as much and as hard as he could. He kicked and stomped on me too, I couldn’t get up from the ground. He also hit my face, my whole face got swollen.
The next morning, I couldn’t feel any movement from the baby in my stomach. The baby was all the way over to the left side, I didn’t feel any movement all night, and my stomach was so uncomfortable, it felt painful. Of course he didn’t want to take me to a doctor. I got ready to see a doctor anyway as soon as I could. I walked to lower Dharamsala to find a doctor. I met a nurse in the street. She saw me from far away and came toward me as soon as she saw me. She said, “what happened to you?” She could see my face was swollen, I had no shoes on my feet, and I had no purse with me. I told the nurse my husband beat me. She said, “Oh my gosh! Your husband beat you? He knows you’re pregnant. Are you guys married?” I told her yes, he tried to kill me and the baby and that I didn’t feel any movement from the baby all night and my stomach hurt. I told her I needed to see a doctor but I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have anything. The nurse quickly got a taxi for me and paid for it to take me to the hospital.
They gave me an ultrasound at the hospital, the baby was okay but barely breathing and pushed all the way to one side. The doctor massaged the baby back to where he was supposed to be. I got a little more comfortable, still not quite right, I could feel the baby’s head was pushing too much to one side. The doctor said the baby was unhealthy. I thought to myself that I wasn’t surprised the baby was unhealthy, my husband beat me often, I wasn’t eating enough, and I was working all the time. Mostly I worked and cried. I knew from another doctor I saw before that I didn’t have enough blood in my body. I needed medicine but my husband never gave me money to buy it. Sometimes I felt very sad because nobody ever cared to make sure I got enough to eat and was healthy. I didn’t have any family there and he didn’t care at all. The doctor said it looked like I had a really terrible husband because nobody else beat their pregnant wife. If the baby died the mother would die too, it was very dangerous.
The doctor asked what my plan was, if I had any family I could go live with. I told him I didn’t have any family or friend to live with. I said, “Please don’t send me back. Do you have any idea where I can go? I can’t go back, he will try to kill us.” I explained that people thought he was a nice person but he always beat me and came back late at night drunk, he’d kicked anything he saw the minute he walked in the door. He usually started by kicking our little dog then came to beat me. The doctor and nurse talked with each other for awhile, they thought maybe I could see the Tibetan Women’s Association. The doctor said it would be easy for the baby to die if he even hit me again a little bit in the stomach, nothing like that could happen again. I didn’t know what to do, I had nowhere to go and if I went back there was a good chance we’d both die.
After a few days the doctor called my husband. He brought us both into his office, and asked my husband, “Is this your wife,” and my husband said yes. He asked, “Is this your baby,” and my husband said yes. He asked, “Do you want this baby,” and my husband said yes. My husband went down on his hands and knees, talking nicely about how sorry he was. He promised he would never do anything like that again. I didn’t trust him. When he beat me he looked like a monster. He’d grab my head and slam it into a wall, it looked like his plan would be to kill me or cause serious damage. Although I didn’t trust him, he talked so nicely the doctor trusted him and sent us back together. So then we got a taxi and went home. Just as he opened the door when we got home, we weren’t even in the house, he started to get angry and point his finger at me, saying “Today you made me embarrassed. How dare you?” All the promises he made to the doctor meant nothing, he quickly went back to the way he was before. He came towards me like he was going to beat me, so I ran away outside. I was outside wishing I had somewhere to go, family or a best friend or someone. I didn’t know how the baby and I could live with my husband, he never treated me like his wife or the baby like his kid. I had to think about who would take care of me after the baby was born if I stayed with him.
Six months after the baby was born, he went back to Tibet. The reason was he had a wife and four kids I didn’t know about. He didn’t tell me, I never knew, if I knew who would stay with someone who already had a wife and kids? I’m not stupid. He already planned to get them, maybe that’s why he was trying to kill me and the baby, he wanted to get rid of us before his wife and kids came. I never knew, he didn’t tell me. He went crazy after he found out I was pregnant, he beat me worse after that. He beat me before too, but it was worse after he found out I was pregnant.
KD: Were you still with him when you gave birth?
A: No, I wasn’t. One day he was in the restaurant during dinner, he was angry, it looked like he was getting ready to beat me again. He told me to just wait for the customers to leave and I what see what happened. The doctor had already told him the baby was unhealthy, if he even touched my stomach there was a good chance the baby would die. He didn’t care. I couldn’t let him get that chance, I had to flee from him while there were still customers. It was dark when I ran out, there was really nowhere to go, I ran out into the woods. I stayed out in the woods overnight. It was uncomfortable, I couldn’t get to sleep. I got up with the first light to make my way to McLeod Ganj to look for the Women’s Association. Somebody had told me there was a women’s association, but I didn’t know where it was. I looked around and asked people. Finally I found it and told them my whole story. I told them he was my husband but never treated me like a wife, he looked like a monster always trying to kill us. He never had compassion or felt sorry for anything he did. He made a lot of promises that he never kept.
They helped me with three hundred rupees (about $5) each month. They said I shouldn’t go back to my husband, and they wanted to know if I had papers from the doctor showing the problem with the baby. I didn’t have anything with me, not even my purse or one rupee. All I had was what I was wearing. I just got out of there, each time he beat me he exactly hit my stomach. I don’t understand why he hid everything. He didn’t say anything about his wife and kids. If he told me they were on the way I would have been happy to leave, he didn’t need to kill us. I am human being, we could have talked. He could have asked me to leave, he didn’t need to kill me, I could have left when he asked. I guess he needed me to stay to work at the restaurant.
He had a lot of friends, he gave free tea to lots of people at the restaurant, lots of people got free meals, he had many friends. Everybody thought he was a really nice person, they thought I was the bad guy. It looked to them like he was so nice, they wouldn’t believe he put me in the situation I was in. People made him the victim in the story and me the bad guy. It got switched. If he was a nice person, why didn’t he help us at all when I was pregnant with an unhealthy baby and couldn’t pay any rent? What kind of person is like that?
When the baby was born there was a problem, the doctors put him in a machine for awhile. He was barely breathing.
The woman who got AIDS: her name was ____________. She was 29, from a farm. Her parents were divorced and she lived with her father, but her younger sister lived with her mother, who was sick with a lung disease and other problems. Someone needed to take care of her. The woman had to leave school at age fifteen because it was hard to watch them struggling. They needed her help, so she left school to go home and help take care of her mother. When she was 18 she went to ___________ to work at a hotel. She made little money, half of it she sent home to her mother and half of it she kept for her food and clothes. At 20, she started working for a wealthy family as a nanny. The husband raped her many times, but she couldn’t leave. She had signed papers promising to stay for one year, she was afraid of what would happen if she broke the rules. After the year passed, she left to work at a business where people could take a shower, the pay there was better, allowing her to send more money home. Time passed, and the business failed when she was 24 in 2008.
Someone she knew from the hotel recommended she go to Chamdo. Before she got to Chamdo, she never expected to end up becoming a prostitute. At first, she found prostitution very difficult. Out of the need for money, she had to sell her own body. Other prostitutes told her she could make more than 100,000 Chinese Yuan in only two or three years, a lot of money for them. It was terrible, but she made the money she needed. She got used to it and signed a paper to work at a brothel for two years. In 2010, when she was 26, her body began to feel weak, she didn’t have any energy. It seemed like there was some sickness, so she went to see a doctor. The doctor told her he couldn’t fix the disease, she had AIDS. As soon as she heard that news she deeply missed her family and started to worry about her mother and sister. She didn’t know what they would do if she died. She went home to be with them.
A friend from the brothel helped pay for her medicine, which she was very thankful for. The medicine made her feel much better, with the medicine she felt well enough to return to work as usual. It was the season for picking the caterpillar fungus. The end of the month for picking fungus was the best time for prostitutes to make money. Men coming back from the mountains liked to stop by and see prostitutes before going home. At that time, a prostitute could see sixteen men in one night. Men from the villages liked to use their big chance to see prostitutes, they loved to switch between women, some of them visited five or six prostitutes in the same night. If she asked them to use a condom, they had no idea what she was talking about. Most of them were happy to pay more money if they didn’t have to use one.
Monks and well-known lamas came too. When lamas came, they usually stayed at the hotel next to the brothel. The hotel would send someone bring the prostitutes into the hotel for them. They paid 20 Chinese Yuan to the person who brought the prostitutes. Some of the lamas only masturbated while fondling their breasts. Most of the lamas had sex the same as any other man. The prostitutes liked it when lamas came, the lamas paid more money and didn’t make trouble. She had four lamas among her regular customers. One of the lamas was very important. Sometimes government officials called for the prostitutes too.
She made 90,000 Chinese Yuan, but she often cried. “Now look at me,” she’d say “I have money, but now look at me.” She couldn’t keep going. There is a lot of danger in Tibet for young people. People think they can do anything, but this is a real story.
Posting an interview on this website with a Tibetan woman who endured unbelievable hardships for the sake of protecting her children was an exciting moment. It was an honor to interview someone so admirable, who embodies the strength and dedication of Tibetan women. I deeply believed in the value of her story and its power to get people thinking about the struggles women like her are facing every day.
Unfortunately, that interview had to come down. Members of the Tibetan community here in Norbulingka have told this woman that sharing her story with me, openly and honestly addressing abuses she endured, has harmed the community and embarrassed the Dalai Lama. Although she has no regrets about sharing details about herself, the thought of embarrassing the Dalai Lama is upsetting for her, so the interview has been removed out of respect for her feelings.
It’s sad that we can’t even talk about personal experiences without people who have never lifted a finger to help to other community members using the Dalai Lama’s name to condemn those who speak up. We are refugees, we risked our lives and overcame severe hardships to escape China. We want freedom and independence, but instead we are being controlled by pressure inside the community. Until all Tibetans are free to express ourselves, we will not have freedom even in exile.
My Tibetan boyfriend from my schooldays had been very difficult for me to be with. He was very controlling of me. On weekends, when I went to see him, he sometimes locked me in his apartment when he went out. He’d be gone all day, then come back drunk in the middle of the night. There wasn’t always food in the room for me, and no bathroom. When he did come back, he expected me to have sex with him, and would beat me if I refused.
There was no way for me to get out to use the bathroom, since he’d take the key with him, so I’d have to pee in a bottle. One night, he came home very drunk and was thirsty. He picked up a bottle I’d peed in and drank it. By the time I realized what he was doing, he was already drinking it. I was afraid he’d beat me if I said anything, so I kept quiet while he finished the bottle. Other nights when he came home drunk, I could hear him fighting with friends in front of the room. They would fight very earnestly, to the point that I thought he might be killed or seriously injured. I wasn’t necessarily worried about his well being, but I did worry about getting back out of the room again if something happened to him.
I didn’t enjoy being with him, but he was better than some other men. Other people thought he was a very good person, a quiet person who didn’t make too much trouble. Like my father, he got very bad when he drank. He wasn’t bad when he was sober, but we were not that close either. We didn’t share our feelings, and when people don’t share their feelings, they don’t develop close relationships. I figured staying with him was better than being with other men I knew, and if I didn’t have any boyfriend, lots of men would harass me for sex.