The Horse-Cart Driver, part two

In part one, Mahnaz, who was nine years old at the time, was riding in the front seat of a horse-cart—with her mother and sister seated  in the back—when the driver grabbed her hand and would not let it go.

The horse cart driver didn’t release my hand. I still wasn’t sure of his motives. He was an old man. Maybe he was trying to help me, I thought. But I was wrong. In a few seconds, he led my hand further up and said, “Put your hand here.” He put my hand on his penis. My intuition was right. He had a dirty intention.

I felt a rebellious energy inside me. I pulled back my hand with strength. I stood, without any thought and fear, and I cried, “I want to get off.” The man got scared and said, “Okay, okay!” He stopped the horse.

My mom looked back, scared, and said, “What happened? Are you scared?”  I was shocked and embarrassed but I managed to say, “I want to get off.” My mom did not argue much, thinking that I got scared of the ride. My sister and my mom got off the cart.

My mom paid the man and we left. The whole time I didn’t look at the man. I was paralyzed, filled with hatred. The whole world was soundless; I couldn’t hear anything but the sound of shame and guilt in my head. I just wanted to get away from the situation.

Taking a stand

I blamed myself for his dirty intention. I hated how vulnerable my gender was and how cruel he was to misuse my innocence to turn on his filthy desires. After an hour, on the way to my grandparents’ house, I got the courage to tell my mother what really happened. My mother asked, “Why you did not tell us sooner? We could hit the man.” I said, “I do not know. I was scared and shocked.” 

Even though I did not have much information about male and female sexual desires at that time, my heart told me that somebody wanted to violate my gender. My mother and sister also had warned me in the past that there are some men who will try to harass women, so we should be careful.

That day I experienced the bitterest experience of my life. That day became poison that didn’t kill me but the bitter taste remains under my tongue.

Gender violence comes in different forms. This was one of the bitter forms I experienced. I believe women have an inner voice that tells them when somebody wants to harass them or violate them. We should hear our inner voice and stand against gender violence.

At the time of violence, sometimes we get shocked but we can be very powerful as well. What I learned from this experience is that girls need to know more about male and female sexuality; they need to be aware of the dangers and to know how they should react. 

By Mahnaz


  1. Thank you, Mahnaz, for telling this story to us. I know that you write in quasi-anonymity here, but it still takes courage and self-confidence to revisit and recreate for us such a traumatic moment of the past. My heart hurts for 9-yr-old you, thinking that she has somehow brought this upon herself. I fully empathize with the need and wish to get away from such a moment as quickly as possible. To pretend, maybe, that it never even happened. It is horrible how others’ shameful, thoughtless actions smear themselves on the victim–though I really don’t like the word victim, not for you, because here you are, several years later, taking this moment, turning it in your hands, setting free some of its dark hold, and allowing light inside us, and inside you. I believe deeply in the therapeutic power of storytelling. I hope that writing this has been cathartic for you. I am also deeply glad that your mother and sister were supportive of you. I think the more that we can create safe spaces for listening to each other, and not blaming each other for somehow attracting the terribleness that comes, the better we will all be, the more we will heal.

    Thank you, again, Mahnaz. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  2. Mary Stachyra says:

    Thank you, Mahnaz. You are so brave to tell your story. The world needs more courageous women like you!

  3. Hi Mahnaz,

    Its a great pleasure to hear you speak your truth from so far away (I live in the US). I cannot help but know 100% what you are speaking about and how you feel. I too, as a young woman and also as an adult have experienced violation by men. This sadly happens to women everywhere. I also felt each and every time that this happened to me that I froze and didn’t know how to react because I couldn’t believe that another human being would behave so indecently. I agree with you when you say that women should know how to react, what their rights are, and how to defend themselves. I took a self defense course about a year ago and they coached us to raise our voices and for instance, describe what the person (who is offending you) is wearing, and describe what they are doing- for example: You in the red shirt, stop ………. That way, the people around us are aware of what is happening and can hopefully assist us in getting away, while shaming the offender.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mahnaz, Thank you for sharing your story. You are brave. I live in the United States and had a similar experience as a young woman. I didn’t tell anyone because I was embarrassed and felt guilty. I am so glad to hear that your mother believed you and would have defended you if she had known what had happened. That is a wonderful thing. So much of our self esteem comes from how our parents protect and support us. I look forward to reading more of your stories.

    Venice, California

  5. liz titus says:

    Dear Mahnaz,
    I echo all the comments. You are brave to stand up, get off the cart, speak out! And the fact that your mother agreed is the best news. Sometimes parents of abused children refuse to believe their stories, and you do not have to face this, along with the trauma. From now on you will be aware, and by speaking out, you help others.
    I have huge admiration for you!

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