These days, either you’ll feel defeated as a woman, or you’ll feel empowered to be one. With the #metoo movement comes the uncovering of thousands of sexual abuse and sexual assault cases that would’ve been left under the rug if it were not for the courage of those who spoke up. And the men, for their part, have resisted, undermined, trivialized all these stories. Some have even done a classic “Adam” and blamed the ruin of their lives to these women.
And with the surfacing of a sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, women from all over the country (the world!) are finding reason to fight harder, as the abuse of men have shown itself to know no bounds.
Perhaps it is too much to ask for understanding or empathy. For not many can relate to a sexual assault survivor, unless you were one yourself.
And that is why we tell our stories. If not to help you feel empathy, then to understand that this is real. Much too common in fact.
Too often, these stories spring alongside misogynistic behaviors, a sense of entitlement and a position of authority. While there may be exceptions, abusers do follow a pattern.
The victims, on the other hand, have sort of a pattern too. In the aftermath of the abuse, no matter the extent it reached, it is the same. The feelings of hurt, trauma, guilt…all the same, all terrible. Then, we jump to the next stage which is to try to deny it to ourselves or if it’s a loved one, justify it (“Maybe he didn’t mean to do it?”). Next, we grapple with the damage it left behind. Fears that lead to emotional, mental and physical dysfunctions that make simple things suddenly complicated, much too challenging.
Perhaps, if but just one of the thousands, you read one story and truly empathize with that, truly help bear the weight that an abused carries even for just a moment, that will help lessen the absurdity that is our world today.
My story began when I was about four years old. My abuser was a male teenage relative. We were swimming together in a pool when he sat himself by the pool stairs and called me to him. Then, he pulled me to him and started rubbing his penis on me. I was four but I knew he was doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing. I tried to get away from him, but he pulled me closer. From then on, I tried to avoid being left alone with him. I never once mentioned this to him, or to anyone else in the family for I feared no one would believe me and as a four-year old, it wasn’t clear to me what just happened. All I know was that I felt violated, though I had no words to articulate that then.
The second abuse happened much later, when I was in my mid-twenties, in the hands of a close male relative. He would lay down next to me in my bed, hug me with his arm purposely on my breast. He embraced me so tight that I could not move much. I pretended to be asleep and was annoyed at being bothered from my slumber. This happened many times in the course of many years. I did not tell him until about a couple of years ago. I tried to be as direct and as straightforward as I could, and tried to communicate the abuse as I recognized it to be, as well as letting him know that I had forgiven him. Our relationship was spared.
Yet, I will never know if it ever registered in his mind that that was abuse. He was defensive, as expected, saying that he meant no malice. Yet, to a woman, an inappropriate touch is obvious and can never be excused. If it made me feel uncomfortable and violated, there’s not much else your intent or lack thereof can do anything to make me feel otherwise. It just has to stop.
I share my story not to “ruin” the lives of my abusers, but to pinpoint just how common it is, in fact even occurring the hands of a relative or someone the victim knows, and that sometimes, men do not know how to draw the line. Must women tell them? Well, then we are telling you now and you are not in a position to make excuses or to not listen.
I have children and everyday, I find myself distraught at how corrupted this world is, and how I’m ever going to let them go out in the world. Statistics show that 1 in 5 girls, and 1 in 20 boys are victims of sexual abuse. How can a parent possibly rest? Yet, I know that I cannot possibly shield them forever. So I educate them. As much as I can and as much as their young minds can comprehend. I’ve taught them that private parts remain private, and that nobody can touch them. If a stranger attempts to do so, he or she must swat their hand and immediately tell Mommy or Daddy. I have taught them that strangers will sometimes lie to them, telling them that they or Mommy or Daddy will be harmed if they do say anything, but I told them that they must not believe that. Of course, I teach them to not go with strangers, to always make sure bathroom doors are locked when they’re inside using it, and to always dress and undress in private.
This is a time when the predators have been unmasked and while it is a good thing, I also know that these are dangerous times. As a woman once a victim of sexual abuse, and now a mother and a woman who believes in social justice, I will continue the fight in my own way. We get up, we learn, we try to protect what’s ours, and we continue to stand up for what is right and we will never allow the wrong to be normalized.