There are quite a few stories that have been in the news recently. As I see these news reports and the back and forth discussions that we are able to have with friends, family, and acquaintances, it makes me worry about the futures of our children. I am a mother of four, two boys and two girls. I am a sister to two brothers. I am a daughter. I am a friend. I am a niece. I am a cousin. I am an ex-wife. I am a survivor.
You see, I was one of the very first girls to develop as a middle schooler. The boys were all obsessed with breasts and it was pretty early on that they had goals related to my breasts. One boy said he wanted to date in hopes of being able to touch them one day. One boy would ask me if my heart was as cold as my hands and then he would grab me. He was seen grabbing me by a teacher. I felt guilty. I was told to be strong and to talk to the school staff. I then had to talk to the District Attorney and get prepared to testify at his hearing. I wasn’t even 14 yet. I hadn’t even kissed a boy yet. I had this grown man preparing me for statements questioning my credibility. I was questioned over and over in mock interviews so that I wouldn’t cry on the stand. You see, as a young girl I was worried what this boy and his friends, his family, my family, and my friends would think. I wrote notes apologizing for getting him in trouble. I had no clue who I could confide in. I was labeled a prude. I was labeled weak. I was labeled a tattle tale. I was labeled in so many ways. I felt adults were the only people I could talk to. My friends were just as young as I was. We were all confused and had no idea what to do about it, so we just didn’t talk about it. Breasts still made us giggle. The word penis made us giggle. I had to testify on the stand how he was trying to show me his penis or have me touch it. I was mortified. My PARENTS were in the room!! There were so many grown adults in the room. HE was in the room. I had a crush on him before this happened. This boy got sent away due to multiple incidents in his life and thankfully, from what I’ve been told, he did turn his life around. I forgave him. He was just a boy. I have no clue if he talks about it now, or if he bad mouths me. That’s not my concern. My concern is that I spoke up. I feel if I didn’t speak up he may have tried something even worse with someone else. Or me.
Fast forward to high school and I was part of an attempted assault. I trusted this boy. I am not going to share many details because we are on speaking terms, not in person, but I forgave him. We both have grown. I saw what could happen when people just believe words and not proof. You see…he was found guilty. He was punished when it happened. However, he was able to convince people in our high school that it was consensual. I wanted it. I didn’t want my parents to know I lost my virginity (which thankfully it didn’t get that far before I got away). These people at our high school threw things at me. I had a blue slushy poured over my head. I got death threats. I had to walk around with some amazing friends just to keep these people at bay. I was an honors student. I was an athlete. I had to go to counseling. I was traumatized. I didn’t reach my full potential because I was so worried about the bullying and harassment. I was constantly talking to my guidance counselor just to get away. Some classes I would take my work to his office and do my work there to avoid certain people. It was horrible. I had to show a brave face. My brothers went to the same school. I didn’t want to make high school any worse for any of them. This incident affected more than just him and me and I was fully aware of it. Thankfully, about two years after the incident, one of the girls who “took his side” came to me in a class we had together and told me she understands what I did and I was brave. This single statement helped me realize forgiveness was necessary. Never once did I ask my friends or family to go after him in a negative way. In turn, when he reached a hard spot I was able to reach out and told him that life is worth more and he was capable of so much more than he thinks. He’s in a good spot now. I’m in a good spot now.
I was a female in the Army for almost seven years. I was usually in an office by myself. Many men, especially of higher ranks, felt they needed to approach me. Even now, while I work, I have grown men yelling to me from their cars or saying things as I walk by. There is no filter. There is just this automatic belief by men from all different backgrounds that women LIKE this stuff. Women LIKE the attention. Listen…we don’t like it when you honk at us when we’re running. We don’t like it when you throw fireworks at us when we’re running. We don’t like when you run alongside of us to check out our chest. We don’t like it when you check us out from head to toe and don’t say a thing but you wink. We like it when you engage us in conversation. We like it when we are seen as a HUMAN BEING and not just some object.
I will say, these incidents with some others throughout my life made me feel I wasn’t capable of being loved without hatred thrown in as well. I settled into relationships where I was belittled. I settled into relationships where I would put forth as much effort as possible to keep the other person happy. I would keep my mouth shut if it meant peace. I would offer an open marriage to save things. I would offer whatever I thought the other person needed, even if it was against what I believed in or wanted, just so there was peace. It was horrible. I look back at pictures of me and my smile was blank. I didn’t even laugh out loud. I would fall for the “friends” and men who could speak a good game but their actions never matched their words. I would open up every wall, window, and door just to make them trust me. Then, I would be targeted when they got what they wanted. I would be the reason their lives weren’t working out. I was the reason their subsequent relationships had problems. I would hide my insecurities with sarcasm and a loud mouth. It took becoming a single mother for the second time in my life to realize that if I didn’t change how I felt about myself then I would raise children who would hurt others like I’ve been hurt. I realized I would raise children that would BE hurt. I couldn’t do that. I know they’ll be hurt but I want to prepare them with the right tools.
This leads me to this…it takes A LOT for someone to speak THEIR truth. Whether you believe it or not is irrelevant. There’s a statement…there’s three sides to every story. There’s each person’s story and then there’s the truth. Many victims and survivors remember various things in warped ways just to function in their daily lives. For instance, I was called one specific name over and over by a man. It was a vulgar term for a vagina. He has convinced his family and friends to STILL use that term for me. This includes women too! I’ve taken that term and I wrote it on a piece of paper. I wrote ways vaginas rock and ways that name rocks. Now, when I hear about that name being used for me I fight back. I have changed the meaning.
CHANGE THE MEANING of the words you have been called. Change the meaning of the hurtful things that have come your way. Change. You have the power. Stop attacking others. Stop believing YOUR TRUTH is the only truth out there. No one is perfect. But, we are all loved. This is the lesson our children need. Stop the attacks. Stop the belittling. Stop the bullying. This isn’t just a grade school thing. This is parents to their children. This is siblings to siblings. This is a grown man to a grown man. This is a grown woman to a grown woman. This is a politician to someone they’ve never met. This is what we’ve become and the love needs to come back. Communication is so widely used now…let’s make it a positive thing.