The last few years have been really interesting for our society and culture. I know that it wasn’t, but it seemed like out of nowhere, there was this explosion of women coming forward to detail these horrific events that had taken place over the course of their lives. And the aftershocks are still being felt as they ripple through pop-culture and discourse and every facet of existence.
It is truly a beautiful and terrifying thing. Beautiful, because women are reclaiming their autonomy by giving voice to the casual violation of their existence at the hands of men. Terrifying, because we are seeing quite clearly just how prevalent these systemic abuses are.
I think that there is a flashpoint for everyone. That point where we know nothing is ever going to be the same, going forward. That moment where our innocence is revoked. Our spot in the sun snatched away.
Of all of the numerous times that my existence has been violated by the hands of whatever man was closest- all of the comments- all of the gropings- all of the you name its-
There is one that changed everything for me. See, when your childhood is marked by the most trauma-inducing types of abuse one can experience, you develop this veneer of sorts. I did.
And I assumed that the events of my childhood and adolescence were solitary, and that as a grown woman, I would have some sort of agency and right. Some sort of entitlement to safety, if you will.
I would go to lunch with this man a couple of times a month. He was much older- somewhere between old enough to be my dad and grandfather. I knew him, because his son was my boss’s boss’s boss’ boss. His son didn’t sign my check, but he sat in the boardroom. His son, at one point, thanked me for being kind to his dad. And me, being an island in Texas, appreciated this feeling of family, however limited it was.
If my freedom depended upon it, I couldn’t tell you the day it happened. I couldn’t tell you the address of the family weekend home. I couldn’t even tell you the name of the restaurant we had lunch at. But I could tell you exactly what I was wearing. I could tell you that it was a Wednesday. I could tell you the color of the walls and that there were cobwebs in the corner, because the house wasn’t used as a primary residence. Hell, I couldn’t tell you how long of a drive it was back to my car.
This wasn’t a stranger. This was someone that I trusted. I wasn’t drinking. It was a beautiful Summer afternoon, and I was wearing these wide-leg trousers with a blue 3/4 sleeve blouse. I wasn’t asking for anything. I was young, but obviously and openly married. Even now, I have no idea what I did that made this man think that he could help himself to me.
Let that sink in.
It has been six years. Six years, and I still remember exactly how weak I felt under him. Six years, and I can remember the way his voice sounded as he asked me vile questions. Six years, and I still question myself.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with severe PTSD, as a result of decades worth of just horrible. Every single time that I feel like I am making progress on my journey towards being happy and whole and healed, we get bombarded with Brock Turners and Brett Kavanaughs and Harvey Weinsteins. The near-constant barrage of news concerning sexual assault in this country means that I struggle to eat to sleep to get out of bed to to to to to to.
So that’s what has been on my mind the last few weeks. Because even though the conversation is changing (slowly, but still), and even though we are realizing the prevalence of this phenomenon of sexual violence–
Even though, it’s like a bandaid is being slowly and painfully ripped off, and someone is scratching the fresh scab away, just to rub salt into the wound.
I know that I am not alone in this. I know that there are thousands of women who have struggled to explain why these last few weeks have been so hard on them. I know that I am not alone in crying in my car, because out of nowhere, I’m having a flashback. I know that I am not the only woman unable to sleep right now.
I wish that I could find comfort in that. Because typically, there is comfort in numbers. There is strength.
But goddamn. Look at the dozens of hashtags inspired by MeToo and the hearings in DC right now. The brokenness of the women in my community only inspires more heartache. Their brokenness only inspires more hopelessness. And that’s not even taking into consideration the rage and anger directed at the very few women who would dare come forward about their trauma.
I don’t know what this all means for us. I don’t know what this means for my own ability to heal. And worst of all, I don’t know what this means for the little girls watching the world right now. I don’t know how to prevent the little girls in my own life from experiencing the terror and ugliness that is out there. And I don’t know how to teach them to be prepared for that, because their turn will come.
As sickening as that is.
Right now, our society has an opportunity that generations before haven’t had. All sides of our culture can choose to come together, and say with a loud and clear and unified voice that this form of violence stops with us. This violence that tears through your soul won’t touch those that come after us.
I don’t want this to be wishful and hopeful thinking. I want to wake up to that being the consensus amongst those in power and those with small voices like my own. And more than anything, I want to see women become the kind of women that men fear. I want fearless freedom and agency. I want the privilege that men take for granted. I want to teach the little girls in my life how to be fearless, because their world is new and beautiful and safe.