Paper Cuts

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Paper cuts are supposed to be minor injuries that heal quickly. But for Ramya Sethuraman and countless women like her who have endured everyday acts of sexual assault, these cuts run deep.

I got my first paper cut when I was 8. My mother placed a Band-Aid over it and we moved on . Every now and then, my finger would pulsate with a sharp pain and I would bite my lips. It was only a paper cut. I could take it. I am brave.

When I was 3, I loved standing near the slightly open windows in our apartment, letting the breeze ruffle my hair and wondering about the world outside. Until the day the apartment security guard decided to sneak his arm into the window where I stood. My mother locked the windows after that. We don’t leave windows open any more.

It’s just a paper cut.

When I was 11, my mother and I boarded the bus to my computer science class. I was so excited. Until the man behind me thought a skirt was an invitation. I stopped going to classes by bus.


Another paper cut. Just a shallow wound but why does it hurt so much?

When I was 16, I went shopping with friends to buy new clothes. I was happy. We had just finished our grueling final engineering exams. Until this teenage boy laughed and assumed my blouse was an invitation. I ran away and wrapped my jacket more tightly around me.

Could paper cuts kill you?

And then, I came to America. I was 20 and here to study. This was a safe place. Look at how strong and independent the women here are, the freedoms to wear what they want. I love this place. I can let the paper cuts heal now.

But they don’t heal. I see the scars around me in this country.

It doesn’t matter how many windows I close, when I travel, with whom, where I am, what I wear or what I do. There is always the fear of that sneaking hand. Another paper cut. They are not so shallow now. They are harder to forget now. It doesn’t matter how brave we are or how many of us march.

We are dying with a 1000 paper cuts.

With a Perpsective, I’m Ramya Sethuraman.

Ramya Sethuraman works in the Bay Area tech industry.