Wednesday, January 31, 2018

It. Never. Goes. Away. - Guest Post

This is a guest post by a family member. I hope you'll listen to what she has to say.

I think it is time that I weigh in on the #metoo and #TimesUp movements. I’ve read posts by women poking fun at these movements. I’ve heard my friends and other women blaming sexual assault on what a woman is wearing! Though this is indescribably difficult to do, I’ve come to the painful conclusion that it’s time to tell my story. Even though this will never go away, its time to move forward.

When I was around three, I was molested by a male babysitter. I did not understand at the time what he was doing, but I know I was naked and lying on my stomach on my living room floor and it felt like he was poking me with something sharp in my private areas. My big brother woke up and stopped him. Although his family were family friends, he never babysat us again. That was the first time a man violated me. Was it that skanky four year old’s nightgown that caused this young man to suddenly lose his mind and molest me? I hardly think so.

The next time, I was eight.  A man violated me was on vacation in La Jolla, CA. He followed my sister and I out into the ocean and when we were out far enough, he picked me up and put his hand between my thighs. I jumped away and swam as fast as I could. When my little tummy hit the sandy shore, I was still swimming, I was so frightened. Was it my little bikini that caused him to do this? I was eight years old. I don’t think so.

Throughout Junior High and High School, boys would snap my bra, grab my butt, even my boobs. I had big breasts and weighed under 100 pounds. Maybe it was my boobs that made them think I wanted just anyone to touch me whenever they like? I didn’t choose these boobs though. But even if I had, does that give just anyone the right to touch them? The answer is: NO. No, it does not.

I had a very possessive boyfriend in high school. He routinely hit me and restrained me and forced me to do things I was not comfortable doing. Nobody knew. I didn’t tell anyone. I hid the bruises. One evening he showed up drunk and angry at my house. I was alone and had just gotten out of the shower. I had a robe on. He dragged me around by one leg up and down the stairs giving me severe rug burns. Then he raped me. I told my counselor. She said it wasn’t rape because we’d had sex previously. I was afraid to tell my dad and afraid the guy would kill me if I broke up with him. When I did break up with him, he wouldn’t accept it. He would find me wherever I was. I tried to kill myself. I was wearing jeans and a turtleneck when the police found me and took me to the hospital. I was finally free of him when he graduated and moved away.

In college, I worked at a bar. On Halloween night after work, I was walking to my truck when five frat boys grabbed me and forced me in their car. I fought with everything I had. I weighed 105 pounds. They took me out of town and brutally raped me and kicked me in the head until I was unconscious.

I woke up in a bathtub at the frat house. The water was red with my own blood. A young man I didn’t recognize was sitting on the toilet watching me. When I awoke, he said, “I have to get you out of here”. He helped me out of the tub and gave me a sweat suit to wear. He helped me dress and carried me out to his car. He took me to my apartment, unlocked the door with my keys, helped me in the door, and gave me my keys.

My truck was parked out front. As I struggled to remember what happened, my female neighbor knocked on my door. I hardly knew her. The frat boy had sent her. She took one look at me and said she needed to take me to the hospital. I struggled into my bathroom and looked at my face. I didn’t recognize myself. She took me to the hospital. They took me back to a room right away. Several bones in my face were fractured. I had two black eyes, three broken ribs, a concussion and bruises and abrasions throughout my body. The nurse asked to perform a rape kit.

This was the late ‘80s. Since the frat boys had soaked me in the bathtub, they were having difficulty gathering physical evidence. However by the tears in my vagina and anus, and bruising on my thighs she confirmed with the doctor and sheriff’s deputy it was clear I had been raped and sodomized. The deputy asked to speak to me. I said, “Of course”! I wanted to nail those bastards!! Then... he said it: “Rape is going to be difficult to prove, because of what you were wearing, young lady.”

WHAT? It was Halloween! I was wearing a costume like everyone else. I told the sheriff to leave. I wouldn’t be pressing any charges or naming my rapists. I knew at that moment what would happen to me in court would be worse than what I had just gone through. I spent the night in the hospital, went back to my apartment, and changed the locks. I shut all the curtains and didn’t leave my apartment for two weeks. My neighbor went to the pharmacy, grocery store, and hardware store for me. I kept my Ruger .357 loaded at my side at all times.

It. Never. Goes. Away.

After two weeks, I packed all of my things into my truck and drove as far as I could. I ended up in Seattle. I loved Seattle. Twenty years old and ready for a new start. I got a job at a record store and was accepted to the University of Seattle. I’d planned to start the next Fall. I had all kinds of new friends, and a great boarding house to live. I was having a blast! Then...the crazy ex-boyfriend came to town and through mutual friends found out where I worked.

When he showed up one day, I went to lunch with him. It was pleasant enough. Soon, however, he started following me everywhere I went. Home, work, the grocery store and to parties. I would often leave my truck at home, ride to work with co-workers and then go out to parties in their cars so “crazy ex” couldn’t follow me. It became embarrassing. Then one day, while giving a male co-worker a ride home, “crazy ex” followed me. I was embarrassed and afraid. I pulled over and he ran toward my truck yelling that he was going to “kill” my poor co-worker! I took off and he followed. I was going 90 miles an hour down back streets. He was right on my tail. I drove through a police station parking lot, thinking that would stop him. He followed me through, then ran me off the road and backed into my truck. I don’t know how, but I managed to back up and go around him and back to the police station. The policeman in the parking lot had to pry my hands off the steering wheel I was so frightened. Washington’s domestic violence law required my ex to spend the next 24 hours in jail. His parents called me and told me this was all my fault. That time I was wearing jeans, a sweater and a raincoat. I don’t think I caused that, but I packed up and left Seattle anyway.

The next time a man violated me, I was 21, and engaged to be married. I was a receptionist. The owner of my company was around 65. He forcibly kissed me. My coworker saved me by walking around the corner and screaming, “Oh my God!” This time I went to the EEOC and reported him. I was moved from receptionist to basically working in a coat closet filing financials. That time I was wearing a dress with a long sleeved sweater.

Another incident happened a year later, when I was bartending while my husband was finishing school. An older man who liked to call me Busty, got mad when I wouldn’t “show him my tits” and threw a beer mug at me. He missed. That time I was wearing a miniskirt and a t-shirt.

And so it has gone on, over the years. The last time I was harassed was last year when out making sales calls with my supervisor. He insisted on stopping at a Halloween store to try on costumes after lunch. I wasn’t going to a Halloween party, so I didn’t need a costume. I just hung out. Then, he called for me to come to the dressing room. I figured he wanted to get my opinion on the costume. So, I went to the hallway of dressing rooms and called for him. He said to come to his dressing room. When I did, his whole bare ass was hanging out. I screamed and shut the curtain. I reported it immediately to the owner of the company who then put him on paid leave. The next day I recorded my conversation with him—admitting and apologizing for what he’d done. I sent the recording to the owner who didn’t fire him. I spent months afraid to go to the office. Oh, that day I was wearing a business suit and heels.

I had brain surgery a few months after that incident. There was a hole in my skull where my dura had ruptured and my brain was protruding. I asked my neurosurgeon if the hole could have been caused when I had been kicked in the head all those years ago. He said it probably was. I’ve had a second brain surgery a few months ago. I’m still recovering.

It. Never. Goes. Away.

Twenty-eight years later and I am still paying the price for my rape.

So, please don’t tell me that if I wear something sexy, I am inviting a man to put his hands on me! I see sexy guys all the time. Do I think for one second I have some kind of right to do with them what I like because they’re wearing something sexy? NO! No, I do NOT.

No one ever has the right to touch anyone without their permission no matter what anyone is wearing. Period.

Women have been treated as less than men—heck even as a man’s property or personal plaything— for centuries. That makes me very sad for the women who are still so suppressed that they mock us, that they feel they can’t join us without permission from a man.

We’re not asking to be anything but equal human beings. How can that be wrong? Equal pay for equal work? Come on! That’s fair! The right to go to work and not feel threatened or to be harassed sexually? The right to not be afraid every time we walk down the street? Come on! How can anyone in the year 2018 be against those things?

So, that’s the big picture. I can’t speak much to that except to do whatever is in my power to help create change. Until now, only my therapist knows about this. It has been very difficult to even write about—the thought of exposing this to the world is a little terrifying. But I must. We all must.

We must move forward together and stop blaming women when men behave brutally or immorally. We must continue to raise our voices until we’re heard. We must keep hope alive. And though it cannot happen for me, someday, maybe in my daughter’s lifetime,

It. Will. Finally. Go. Away.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Half a Million of Us

The Women’s March on Washington was a big, sloppy mess, but it was the event of my life. I could tell it was going to be as we were going there. Even four days before the actual march, on airplanes, in terminals – you could see us gathering. We would recognize one another – sometimes by the t-shirts that we were wearing, but usually just by the energy level.

My husband and I were lucky. We were invited by his sister who lives about five miles from DC’s center. My other sister-in-law knitted half a dozen hats for us and another friend sewed a half dozen more.  A few husbands dropped us off near the march route just as the speakers started.  We could tell right away that it was going to be much, much larger than they’d anticipated. As we crossed the Potomac, the metro cars were bursting and people flowed across bridges in a stream of pink hats and signs.
We filled the space to the Washington Monument and miles around that in all directions.

The crowds were so thick that it was soon obvious that, although we were on the original march route (they changed it once they saw the crowd size), we weren’t going to get much nearer to the mall. As it was, we were about a block away from the stage – but we were on the back of the Native American Museum and they were on the front. We could see pretty well through the jumbotron, and hear the speakers who enunciated well J  There were thousands and thousands of us. And based on a photo that he posted to Twitter, Joss Whedon was right there in that throng as well.

Who comprised ‘us’ was the best part. Black, white, young, old, Hispanic, Native Americans in full gear. Even middle-aged white guys like my husband (who rocked a pink pussy hat proudly).  All of America.
Mike and his little sister, Chrissy.

Everyone was fantastically friendly. I met people from Alaska, Germany, Texas, South Carolina, California – you name it. They were all exceptionally kind as well. Sharing food, helping others. The experience was inspiring. Life-changing. WE THE PEOPLE coming together, united.  Against hate.

The against hate was the most beautiful part of it for me. When the march began and the crowd passed the Westboro Baptist demonstration, since their signs targeted black lives matter, the crowd began chanting “Black lives matter” and “They bring hate, We bring love.”
If there is a culture war in this country, I can tell you which side I’m on. With pride.

Using a portapotty or eating anything you didn’t pack in with you was out of the question. We started hiking out of the area at about 4:30.  As we passed a policewoman, she said, “Thank you.” I was surprised to see her looking directly at me. I felt very awkward and mumbled something like, “Oh, sure.”  She said, “No, I mean it. I’ve worked a lot of protests and events and I haven’t seen anything like this. You were the nicest group I’ve ever seen.”

I have had a hard time removing my pink hat. It’s my most cherished piece of clothing. I wore it in rural Winchester Virginia the next day and caught the stink eye from a woman in a diner.  I wore it for all of our 14-hour trip back home.  And dotted through the terminals and planes were my sisters. College students, grammas.  We wave and smile. Sometimes exchange emails or join each other for a meal.  And we’d say some variation of, “This isn’t a moment. It’s a movement.”

Damn right it is.  We the people are bigger than wanna-be tyrants. We have all the good things on our side.  We have right, we have love and we have each other. We totally got this.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Quick Note From the Gutted Half

Half of America feels gutted right now. The other half doesn’t get it. They are either crowing ‘I told you so’ or urging us to ‘get over it.’ They say that this was what they felt like when Obama was elected.

I beg to differ.

The last 24 hours have been rough. One of the worst days of my life. And in just that short time, the lives of my friends have already been hit, hard.  A mom who watched as someone yelled “They’re shipping you out of here” to her brown-skinned girls a few blocks from their school.  A Latina woman who spent yesterday morning sobbing because she had to face cleaning up after the very vocal Trump-supporting white male bosses. My friend who is a black American doctor working in Australia – very solid sort, is now in uncharted waters and so broken. She said, among other things, that she doesn’t know her own skin. Her husband, an Aussie, broke into sobbing twice yesterday.

These are not news items. Again, these are my friends.

We are lost right now. We don’t recognize our country. We fear for the world.  You may have disliked Obama, but you didn’t fear for nuclear war. He didn’t show eagerness for that. His election didn’t cause worldwide panic. Didn’t crash the stock markets.  If you can’t be objective about that, then ... how can we ever find common ground?

Be kind to others.  We’re still Americans. We’re still human beings, at any rate.

And to those who feel despair, hold on. Light can drive out hate and divisiveness. It destroys darkness. It’s the only thing that ever could.

Be there for each other and – because I am at heart a practical optimist – if you see someone being threatened or bullied in this Dark New America – be their advocate! Don’t stand silently by when someone is being victimized. If you cannot confront the abuser, console the victim. A stranger standing by a victim, engaging them in conversation shows them that they are not alone. By being silent, we are complicit in their abuse.

If all we have is one another – that is going to be enough. Stay strong. Take care of yourself. Shine your light. We need it now more than ever.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Where politics melts my head

How did this happen?
For the last few weeks, I’ve been a teary mess. And it's over something on the news. Why do I let it get to me? Because sometimes it's not just the news, but it's a mirror - showing us what the world is really like. This time the mirror is showing me Donald Trump.
Why would this … schoolyard bully reduce me to this? We've all had a bully in our lives, some more than others. My personal bully was my cousin, and he made my life a living hell. In a way it strengthened me, but I wouldn’t wish that baptism of fire on anyone. It warped me – that kind of heat melted my metal and shaped me into a new thing.  When I hear Donald mocking, appealing to our baser nature, suddenly, I’m 14 again and the tormentor is back, roaming the hallways with no monitors in sight. Worse than that – my classmates are screaming encouragement in his ear.
When my cousin turned 19 he apologized, for what it’s worth. He grew to know better. Do I think this the Trump Trend is capable of that?  I do not.
The real upsetting thing to me isn’t that someone like Donald Trump exists.  There will always be that sort of cruel bully in the world.  It’s the fact that he’s so popular. That so god-damned many of my countrymen want this guy to lead our country. Who celebrate this man who mocks disabled people, who encourages hate. Who want to marginalize all the 'thems' in this world.
I am humbled. And broken – that my fellow Americans embrace this ignorance and hate.  I thought we were so much better than this.
They break my heart.  And if they knew, they’d mock me for that.  Fuck that. Mock away.  I know that hate, ridicule, fear – they will always lose – given enough time.
But so many suffer while we keep learning the same fucking lessons.
Be better than this, America.