When Laughing at Assaults No Longer Works
One Woman’s Story of Owning Her Boundaries After a Stranger Spanked Her on the Street
For years, Ariella Steinhorn had prepared herself to disassociate from inappropriate behavior from men: she laughed it off or tried to compartmentalize it, determined not to let anyone hurt her. As a woman, she had been harassed and violated both physically and sexually, starting at age 15. But when a stranger spanked her on the street a few months ago, something shifted, and she realized she couldn’t normalize these experiences anymore. She made the decision to take control of her body and demand respect.
The Burden of Disassociation
Laughing off or ignoring inappropriate behavior became a survival mechanism for Steinhorn, a protection against objectification that allowed her to remain sensitive and free from feeling burdened by her past experiences. However, this disassociation came with a cost: it hardened her, and she didn’t want to spend her life hating other people or holding them accountable for their actions. Over time, her sexual and romantic boundaries became more fluid, and she rejected some proposals while accepting others. But finding her center and establishing boundaries is not a one-time experience. After being spanked by a stranger, Steinhorn realized that she is a person who deserves protection and security.
A Conscious Decision to Own Her Body
Steinhorn filed a police report following the incident, which initially reminded her of countless previous incidents since she was 15. However, she eventually saw this as a turning point in her life and realized that she is a person who deserves protection. She doesn’t have to surrender her body to men’s impulses to achieve freedom or maintain a free spirit. She can still be a light for others while being kinder and less judgmental towards herself. Instead of disassociating from her experiences, she has made the conscious decision to own her body and boundaries.
Ariella Steinhorn is one of the founders of Lioness, a publishing platform, and resides in New York City.