This is my perception of how life, society, culture, times and perception have impacted me as an individual. Taking one piece of this story might be insurmountable, but putting it all together I hope to help the reader understand how a simple sarcastic comment can destory years of healing that a person thought they had accomplished.
I was born in 1973, my parents were older than most of my friends parents and had old school values as well. As much as I can appreciate the morals and God fearing home that I was raised in I can now see that some of those old school thoughts set me up for a life of private hell.
(Please note: I know that my parents did an amazing job in rearing me, especially through those teen years! I just want to show how hanging on to archaic thoughts of blame and shame for women can truly destroy a person. My parents were raised a certain way, they took that information and adapted it to create their own tool box of survival skills … they did the best that they could with the information and tools that they had available.)
At a young age I learned that I had to hug others, even if I didn’t want to, because not hugging an elder was a show of disrespect. This seemingly harmless action taught me that my body is not mine and I do not have any personal physical boundaries. When someone would hurt me in a typical kid fight I would tell on them and was often asked, “What did you do to deserve that?” All of these things taught me that I am to blame for EVERYTHING that happens to my body.
In first grade I saw a classmate do something that they shouldn’t have done. Granted, the infraction had no impact on me, but I knew that it was wrong, so I told my teacher. She responded by very publically shaming me and pinning a long tail onto the back of my pants so that everyone would know that I was a “Tattle Tale.”
You might be laughing now, but this only added to my perception that any wrongs should not be discussed with anyone. My pain quickly became my secret.
It wasn’t long after the tattle tale incident that I was touched inappropriately for the first time. My response was to kick him in the groin, I was never told to respond that way, I was never given any form of defense discussion or safety, so this was just a natural fight or flight response. Later that day, or maybe the next, another adult came to me (presumably unaware of the harrowing predicament that caused me to “harm” him). She told me that I can’t kick boys and men there, it’s inappropriate and that I can really hurt someone if I do that. I was never asked why I did it, or how my foot came close enough to connect with his groin, it was all about blaming the child for inappropriate behavior.
These things were all happening in the 1970s and early 1980s, where it was still believed that a girl was “asking for it” by the way she dressed. Although I never figured out how an 8 year old asks for it by what she wears, it’s what I heard the adults around me saying when I overheard discussions about assaults and rapes on women.
Each day brought me more reason to hate being female. If only I were a boy, I could have the power to protect myself, but I wouldn’t need it because I had control over the world and there would be no threats to me or my safety. All of these things congealed in my mind and my most formative years became full of fear, rage, sadness and an inability to accept myself for who I am. I know that I had brief punctuations of good memories, but a constant state of “what’s next?” shadowed every part of my life.
By the time I was a teenager I “knew” that I needed a boyfriend to keep me “safe,” yet I also knew that boys that seemed different were even more threatening to me that the “normal” one’s that just wanted to get close to fulfill that rush of testosterone that overcomes them. I became the bully, I beat the crap out of any boy that might appear to be different or kind … or weak. I took my rage toward the entire male population (save my dad who is and always will be the only man that loved me for me) on poor unsuspecting boys that I couldn’t understand and didn’t take the time to learn to understand.
These acts of badassery made me a challenge to males that just wanted one thing. Add to this that I began to find ways to self-medicate my pain and self-hatred, which put me in harms way more often that I would ever care to admit. Even to the point of putting me in a situation where I was in a public place, unable to ask for help and in a failed sense of finding safety ran to an area of privacy, over a barbed wire fence where a stranger caught me and to this day I can taste the sense of fear that his stale rotten breath breathed into my face as he ridiculed me and had his way. This and other events were never reported because I knew I was to blame and contacting police would mean that I would be ridiculed for the way I dressed or attempting to defend myself or being a tattle tale.
Over the past few months I have been so busy dealing with one situation after another that I have largely isolated myself in an attempt to focus on survival and in rare moments on healing. This has inadvertently left me vulnerable to any communication that seems kind or caring. The vulnerability has made me a target for words of hate by men that have no respect for women.
I barely slept last night because I received a derogatory text from someone that began the conversation with concern about how I’m doing. The comment was painful and in no way can be confused with being a misperception on my part. I am not okay with being treated this way, I have learned that being female does not make me an object to be used, abused and/or discarded by others. Yet, the pain of a lifetime of beliefs based on misperceptions by myself or others is still raw when a comment feels like a threat or blindside me.
I guess, in a way, this is my delayed response to the #MeToo movement. In some ways my silence may have condoned the treatment that I received, but the ultimate consequence of my silence is that no derogatory statement can be made about me that I haven’t already said to myself and at some point believed was a true statement of me.
I don’t believe that there is room in my head or heart for additional pain as I’ve already seen or been through it, now it’s just a knife reopening the scars that have been there for a lifetime.
I am not a victim, I am a survivor of circumstance … a survivor of my personal attacks on myself … a survivor of the old school thoughts of victimization … I am a SURVIVOR.