November 13, 2017Share:
Occasionally, we hear from readers with a story to tell; and sometimes when one is especially moving, we ask if we can publish it on our blog—as long as we maintain the author’s anonymity. We received the following a few days ago, and the writer consented to let us post it verbatim. Be prepared: this one will affect you. And please share this far and wide.
The Me Too movement has been on my mind a lot lately. I saw it first on social media and it quickly became a national conversation. I grew up before social media. Sexual assault was not something people talked about. I knew rapists and pedophiles existed but that wasn’t something I was worried about encountering in my own life. That was something that happened on the news.
In middle school, two boys I didn’t know cornered me; literally. I was backed into a corner and they put their hands between my legs & over my breasts. I didn’t tell a teacher. I didn’t tell my mom—I didn’t tell anyone. Not because I was scared of these boys or ramifications; I didn’t tell because I didn’t know they had done anything wrong.
I moved on with my day. I was 12. At 13, a 19 year old high school drop-out forced himself on me the first night we met. Afterwards he expressed his desire to be my boyfriend and told me how much he liked me. I was thrilled. I was a real teenager now and doing real teenager things! Date rape wasn’t a phrase in circulation back then and the realization of what really happened didn’t dawn on me until I was well into my 20’s. Many years later, I received a Facebook message from this man, commenting on how happy I looked and that he was sorry for, “Whatever he did to me when he was also a ‘child’.”
At 14, I had low self-esteem and a strong desire to be liked. My next boyfriend was 21years old. This became a 3 year relationship of alcohol, drugs, physical and sexual abuse. This relationship was so dark, toxic and destructive, that it pains me to think of it still. Others witnessed the bruises that I explained away, and even adults witnessed me being hit, choked and pushed to the ground. No one stepped in.
On the other hand, I was very crafty at hiding this relationship and the abuse that was happening from the people who cared about me and would have stepped in. At 17 I very skillfully planned and plotted how to remove myself from this relationship. My life was threatened and I lived with fear. But I did it—I got out. I was proud of myself for that. I picked myself up and kept moving.
I had a lot of shame for the things I allowed to happen. But after time it became a distant memory locked up in my mind, rarely revisited and never spoken of.
At 18, I met a boy my own age that liked to dance. I liked to dance and we met up on Wednesdays at a local club to dance. We had fun together. He was very attentive to me; bringing me lunch on my breaks from school. He took me to meet his friends at his bible study group. While I enjoyed his attention, the relationship on my end was platonic. One night he tried to kiss me and I had to tell him that while I had a great time with him, I only wanted to be friends. He said he would like to continue our friendship and so we met up the next week to dance again. Feeling awkward about the kiss situation, I drank many White Russians that night. Too many. The next thing I remembered was I woke up in the passenger side of his car. I opened my eyes to see a homeless man peering at me through the car window. I looked down to see that what he was staring at. It was my body…my pants were pulled open and my shirt was pulled up. I don’t remember how I got home or what conversation took place between me and “my friend” but I do remember receiving a dozen roses with an “I’m sorry” note the next day. I called my friends to talk over what happened. Can you believe he did that? So gross! And a homeless man watching!
Abuse? Assault? The thought never crossed my mind. I was drunk and this is the stuff that happens when you’re drunk and not in control of your own body. Right? Not until my 30’s did I flash back on this memory with an adult brain and realize I was assaulted.
As an adult this pattern continued in my life. Multiple men who claimed to love me only to take advantage of me given the right circumstances and opportunity. Men not recognizing that they did not have the right to my body even if they were in a relationship with me. I felt disappointed in them but strong about my ability to pick up and move forward. These weren’t rapists or pedophiles. These were men I trusted.
These moments are scattered in my memories along with all the other memories I have, rarely thought of and never dwelled on. Even with these and other incidents I have endured, I never viewed myself as a victim of crime.
Then a news story happened. Then another news story, and another. A politician brags about grabbing women’s bodies, a college athlete assaults a passed out girl behind a dumpster. A Hollywood producer is exposed for decades of sexual abuse. These news stories waking up these memories that I had long buried.
Now it seems nationally “allegations” are in the news every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. While I hear suspicious men wonder, “…why would they wait until now? How come she never said anything?”
I don’t hear this from many women because I suspect many are like me. How many, like me, blamed themselves or like me locked these incidents away as just, “things that happened?” Women know these stories are true, because they have lived through it, too.
With each news story, my brain started cracking open and these memories flowed out painfully like a rushing river. Realization and awakening in me that these same things happened to these women on the news, happened to… Me Too!
Now people are listening and at attention. Careers and reputations are shattered. While abusers will continue to seek and achieve power, the cycle of silence has been irrevocably broken. The national conversation is deafening. I can no longer ignore what happened to me. I can feel the collective relief of women expressing these stories in a chorus. Each woman’s story weaving into and echoing each other. Making a single powerful voice that can never be dismissed ever again.
While we cannot change these things that happened to us, we can bring them to light and whether we are believed or not isn’t really the point.
Together, we are saying this is no longer acceptable. This is abuse. We will no longer be silent. A society that doesn’t speak of sexual abuse will never be rid of it. Because I didn’t know these things that happened to me were abuse, they were repeated over and over in my life. This should not happen.
Due to the brave women and men who are speaking out now, little girls and little boys will grow up and know that they owe their bodies and their silence to no one.
And that is why we tell our stories. So that the next generation, won’t have to say, “Me Too”.