It is time to heal the effects of misogyny.
I, like so many survivors of sexual assault and rape, have been emotionally ripped apart by the Kavanaugh inquiry this week. And, like Senator Blumenthal so eloquently said (below), I am inspired and so grateful for Christine Blasey Ford’s bravery to bear the virulent assaults she predicted in sharing her story of his sexual assault and attempted rape. Here is my first story about being a rape survivor.
You have inspired and you have enlightened men in America to listen respectfully to women survivors—and men—who have survived sexual attack. And that is a profound public service, regardless of what happens with this nomination. ~ Sen. Richard Blumenthal
I just submitted my story to the When You’re Ready online support network because there is no reason why I should continue feeling misunderstood day to day; no reason why I should not actively join the #metoo community or the beyond metoo community, or any other circle of resonant nourishing support that, despite feeling okay enough, I truly need.
Here is my story:
Someday I’ll Get My Voice Back
“Come see me when you’re older,” This self-assured adult male said to me oh so casually when I was eleven.
This stuck with me; maybe because I thought I was supposed to actually come see him some day. What does “when you’re older” mean, I wondered, confused. Didn’t every girl defer their own personal authority to men?
My father passed away two years ago and I am just starting to unravel the effects of being the daughter of a misogynist. His comments and jokes that never seemed funny usurped my natural well-being and wore me down like a heavily trodden path toward emotional emptiness and cognitive dissonance that I couldn’t stop myself from walking over and over again. Even in his last years, through his dementia, I just wanted to help his spirit be free. With my little 8-year old arms waving as I ran in the driveway in front of him, I watched in horror, unable to stop him, as he ran over and crushed the life out of my younger brother with an 18-wheeler. It never occurred to me to blame him for being so damned unaware. I just didn’t want him to die without forgiving himself.
In high school I worked at a supermarket and, after all this time, believe that my stalker/rapist was someone who had worked with me. He wore a ski mask. But that didn’t stop the cops from getting a kick out of forcing me to look through photo albums to try to identify him. You just get used to this embarrassment, this soul-crushing shame they inflict, right? The real kick in the ass was that someone told me that my mother sensed that she knew who it was and never did anything about it. But I was already spiritually comatose by that point in my life and didn’t think my parent’s inability to say or do anything supportive was unusual.
The stalker/rapist watched me watch television one night through the back sliding glass door. I was 16. The movie on TV, Clockwork Orange, was terribly disturbing; dis-regulating to be more precise. I closed the slider but forgot to put the stick in the track. I even went to bed without my pajama top; the first and last time I’d ever done this despite the sweltering heat.
He waited a few hours. He woke me up with one of our huge kitchen knives with the blade placed right under my nose. You don’t scream with a blade under your nose after being sound asleep. My mother, sleeping in the next room, wouldn’t have heard anything anyway as she slept with ear plugs… He tied my hands over my head with my telephone cord. He tried having a conversation with me like he was a nice guy. I remember the hair on his legs as he forced his penis in my mouth. He gave me a towel to spit in; so thoughtful, huh? After he was done with me he told me to stay in the bathroom for some time – maybe he told me to count to 300. I obeyed. He stole my car.
I went into my mother’s room, naked, and climbed into bed with her. This disturbed her and she didn’t know what to do. I think I was crying but don’t remember. I had just wanted to be held.
My dad came over (they’d been divorced a few years). I remember feeling like he didn’t believe me. Did I steal my own fucking car?! I’m sure my mother called the cops. I think they were in the living room. I can still feel the shame of retelling the story to them. His semen was on the towel he’d left in my bedroom and they said they’d get some dogs to track his scent. I believed them. My car was found in the supermarket parking lot. Duh, not rocket science, right?
In college (yes, I went to a local college despite, as my dad said, being a girl) I was anorexic and bulimic. It was liberating to control my calories. I have no idea how I found my way to the Al-a-teen support group but the two or three times I went changed my life. The words I heard spoken there were like none I’d ever heard before. Feelings were shared. I watched people my age who had unusual clothes, unusual hair, unusual decorations on themselves, say things that no one else ever said out loud. It cracked me open. I raged in my journals. I kept getting into pretty bad car accidents. But I took a bold step and added a second major to my plate – interpersonal communications.
After my first attempt at public speaking — in my first public speaking class where I was to defend the separation of church and state against the president of the student government association — my opponent suggested we go out with his friends. I didn’t know how to say no in general, especially not to someone so polished like him, so I convinced myself that this would be fun.
I didn’t know the other couple but that was okay. We went to a bar and each had a drink or two. I remember walking to the town common and marveling at the beautiful fat snowflakes falling all around us and reflecting in the street lights. We went back to his apartment despite the fact that I was getting very sleepy and may have said I didn’t want to go. It seemed like a few short minutes of sitting on the couch before this SGA president took me in his room and shoved his penis in my mouth. “Oh aren’t you sexy,” he said. All I could think was, “wow, what a tiny penis you have.” But I didn’t have my wits about me. I got away from him and crawled into his closet. I have no idea how long I was in there. His friend was the nephew of someone very famous. The friend seemed like a decent human being because he seemed to genuinely care about my well-being. I am 90% sure he drove me home.
Typing this story I realize that I was likely drugged that night. There was one other time in college where I had clearly been drugged — at my cousin’s frat party. He invited me and I went alone. Bad move that no one in college these days would ever do, thank God. But, most likely because of that prior experience, I realized the loss of physical sovereignty as it came on and I managed to get myself out of there and walk home.
I got two degrees in four years, both with honors, magna cum laude. The second degree was a business one. I figured with grades like I had earned I would have a fairly easy time getting a job. The definition of having a good job has morphed so many times over the 20 odd years since college. I have struggled to heal from the effects of misogyny in various workplaces – effects that feel like ongoing emotional rape that is both sudden and unexpected by people you want to trust and insidious life-sapping mind fucks by people you report to that you have to “get along” with so you can be lucky enough to pay your bills.
Time For Solidarity
My dream is to heal the effects of misogyny as a series of communities interconnected by story and hugs of solidarity. Once we learn how safe feels, we become so much more resilient and impenetrable.
One very interesting definition of the word impenetrable is “impossible to understand”. I know that people who have not courageously journeyed off the well worn path will find it hard to understand me. I know that people who have not stood in front of their peers, voices shaking, resolutely speaking their truth will find it hard to understand me. This is okay. But it’s incredibly hard to be misunderstood day in and day out. It’s also incredibly hard to resist the temptation to go numb. We need community. And as more people are starting to feel safe enough in the collective energy of society to share their stories, we need to make real space for these conversations.
I seek to strengthen and use my voice to support and be supported by those who do understand this journey from personal experience. And I am more than willing to educate those with a genuine desire to be part of the shift to stop the emotional damage and life-altering harm caused by blatant or unconscious contempt for the communal, soft, tender side of being human.
… to be continued.