The Only Way

I was not going to do this.

This morning I filled my teapot and then I put it on the stove to heat the water. It wasn’t until I smelled something burning that I realized that I had put my electric teapot on the open flame and the bottom was melting.

I took the kettle off the burner and I knew. I knew I could not dance around my own stories and my own truths any longer; what happened yesterday on the national stage opened old wounds that no band-aid will repair.

This will not be easy to read.

When I was in eighth grade, each day I had to traverse the campus to get from one class to another. And on that walk, each day a boy I knew would reach out to me and squeeze my breast and say “Honk, honk,” and then he and his friends would howl with laughter as they went on their way.

When I was eighteen and a freshman in college, a senior came to my room one night, in the first few weeks of my freshman year, and stole my virginity in the darkness. It was awful. At some point he said, “Don’t worry, it will get better some day.”

His best friend was down the hall at the time, raping one of my friends who subsequently got pregnant and left school.

One time I was at a party at a friend’s house and the husband of one of my best friends rubbed his hard penis against me and said with great enthusiasm and pride, “Pretty good, huh?” Neither one of us was drunk. His children were at the party, too.

One time I was driving in a car with a man who lived in the same town as I. We were heading to the hardware store to get supplies for a project he had offered to undertake for the shop I owned at the time. In the car he told me that he had had his penis pierced and then asked me if I wanted to see it. 

Four stories are enough for this morning; there are more.

I remember their faces and their names clearly because all of it is “indelible in the hippocampus,” as Dr. Blasey Ford said in her description of her own version of this hell.

Why did I not act to stop these crimes? These heinous acts? Had I been socialized to be quiet? Complacent? Complicit? Do we all believe that boys will be boys? Why did I not report what had happened with the intention that someone with authority would stop these boys and men from doing further harm? Was I embarrassed? Afraid? In disbelief? Did I try to forget it as soon as it was over?

Yes, but it didn’t work because I remember these events now, far more clearly than I would like.

Does my story matter today?

For the past two days a dear friend of mine has been sharing with me, through a tsunami of tears, his story of having been abused and violated as a boy.

Should any of us be talking about these things, all these years later? Will it be hard for the people we love to hear what we endured?

Yes. And yes.

The violation of a person’s boundaries, the theft of their dignity and sense of safety and well-being is an atrocity and it happens every day in myriad ways. The stories of these transgressions and others of similar ilk involving disregard for the sacred pieces of our lives; of our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, are the kinds of truths that must be shared and recorded; it is the only way that things will change.

I can only speak as a woman, though I know too many men who were abused, too; this is a small piece of my anger at work today: if you are a man and you have ever violated the sacred spaces of a woman’s life, you are a vile man. If you are a man who has a daughter or a sister or a mother or a grandmother he loves and you have ever violated the sacred spaces of a woman’s life, dismantling her well-being with your incivility and malevolence, with your sober and drunken horrors, I pray with every cell of my being that you get help, that you will find the courage to face your truths and that you will choose to bless this world with the goodness in you and not contribute to the brokenness with your darkness.

I have spoken my piece and I pray for a better world. May we enter into days of less acceptance and greater healing.

Amen.

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