Don't you dare tell... : Stock Photo

Last week was a bit of a reckoning for my body as I got sick after being run down from extreme stress.  Seems all this #metoo has caught up with me and put my own story front and center of my mind when I have worked diligently to forget it.  Between being sick and caught up in memories, I kind of refer to my body just not being my own right now.   Remember Eleven from Stranger Things?  First I was comparing myself to Will getting bodily invaded by the upside down world.  This week, I am channeling Eleven level strength and needing to recuperate in-between battles.  I even ate Eggos this weekend.  Read on….

Between my last blog and today, I saw the man who hurt me on an online dating website in my feed.  Horrifying.  And how’s that for timing?  If I could see him, could he see me?  As my body froze in fear and my grip on my iPhone became super human, was he filled with rage at seeing me?  I mean, he used to want me dead.  He has access to weapons.  I had forgotten that.  I had a restraining order back in the day too.  Don’t have that now.

I made a choice when posting this tidbit on Facebook.  I didn’t share his name or location (and won’t.)  I did my part 20 years ago and the state is who failed women the second time around.  It’s on the conscience of those jurors.  But I did use the word “rape” when everyone seems to have replaced it with something kinder, more amorphous such as sexual assault.  I didn’t use the word “rapist” for shock value but I used it because that’s what he was.  I deliberated about it but the old English major in me just couldn’t get to “sexual assaulter.”  It didn’t sound right.  And assailant just sounds like someone who could have knocked me over trying to steal a purse; a crime I would have much preferred to cope with at the time.

I received some lovely responses from friends on my Facebook page and via text.  I also received the following excerpts from 2 posts from a male friend.

  • “Perhaps Facebook isn’t the appropriate forum.”
  • “Be VERY, VERY careful with that word.  I’ve seen 2 men’s lives ruined because of this….they are felons with their lives ruined.”
  • “Christine, I know you so I believe you.”
  • “Ok, so there’s crazy chicks out there too.”
  • “Christine, I would not publically use that word, think of something else.  A white lie instead of writing that is justifiable.”
  • “Don’t get sued or defame a person unless a court has a ruling.”
  • “Tell your women’s lib friend there to stay silent a little longer” (in response to one of my friend’s speaking out against his post.) “Jessica – ssshhh.  Be a good girl now.”  (another response to my victim’s advocate friend)

As I just typed these all out, I am still in a bit of shock reading these words.  The post also talked about caring about me and giving me tips to hide better on social media and how I should know who my real friends are.  But that’s not good enough.  Everything else is just shocking and it’s the very building blocks of rape culture.  And yes, he really said these things.  People still talk this way, even now.  Even with a new, emerging history completely against them.  People with children.

I don’t need to be patronized about which forum to use to share my stories.  I am a grown adult who makes my own decisions about my methods of communication.  Not all my decisions are great but I own them.  They do not come from any type of ignorance.  I have a Masters of Science in Communication.  I know the exact power social media carries and my messages are spread across more than one – whether it be for plain old funny stuff like dating horrors or for social movement stuff like oh, I don’t know…civil rights, women’s rights… you know – the cause “du jour.”

I am so sorry a word carries such offense to the male species (insert sarcasm.)  Probably because to so many of them (not all) it is just a word; one they know is harsh.  One they’ve been told to avoid even if they haven’t been taught not to disrespect or assault women – basically, don’t get caught – don’t let anyone accuse you of that word.  But for other men, women and transgenders, it’s a word to describe an experience we have actually had.   There is no word or connotation of a word vivid enough to capture having it actually happen to you.

As far as men’s lives being ruined.  I don’t think it is statistically possible for this man to have 2 innocent friends accused of rape and convicted felons. 1 or both of them is lying.  Spoiler Alert:  Santa Claus isn’t real either.

Knowing me shouldn’t be the requirement to believe my story.  And I don’t need it to be believed.  I know what happened.  What others see or don’t doesn’t change fact.  I am not sharing it to draw attention to myself.  I am sharing it to advocate for others.  I am sharing it because I am bold and I can write.  I consider those my strengths and with strength comes responsibility.  For the one story I have to tell, there are thousands of others which remain in silence.  I am their voice, not a center of attention.  I am not trying to pull in, I am trying to shout out and change the conversation, change the world we live in.   Trust me, it would be easier on me to say nothing but bumpy rides are often the ones I take.   Scroll through the faces of my friends on Facebook.  You may not know how many of them are victims; I don’t even know exactly – but I do it for them.

Don’t get me started on the crazy chicks in the dating pool.  There is hardly a comparison to a woman who may prematurely bring her toothbrush to your house for a potential overnight or who would like to know if you are seeing other people before she sleeps with you and the experience of being forced to have sex when you don’t want it.  I would even argue slashed tires pale in comparison so this argument just doesn’t make sense.

What is the alternate word or white lie I should use?

  • I was sexually inconvenienced.
  • This one time, at band camp, my pants came off all by themselves.
  • I woke up feeling sexually assaulted one morning but it must have just been gas.

“Unless the court has a ruling…”  Because we all know the court system is fool proof.  A guilty person would never be found innocent and an innocent person could never be found guilty.  Email Bryan Stevenson who wrote “Just Mercy” and ask him if the court system doesn’t make mistakes.  Or look at a police report filed on me once where there were actual lies printed in it.  I am not going to defame anyone.  But I will tell you this – regardless of fallible & occasionally biased people on a jury, a rape is a rape is a rape.  A court doesn’t need to be the edict in what makes that true or not.  In my case, one jury convicted him and another one did not.  What does that make him?

The last part was him speaking directly to my friend like an actual child molester…which, unfortunately, she has had experience dealing with.  How disgustingly offensive to speak to anyone but, most of all, her.  That was my last straw.

So many people viewed this post.  I have been receiving messages for days from supportive friends who are thanking me for sharing a story they cannot, who are offering support while I get re-traumatized, and those trying to understand how someone like me has a friend like him.  Because of their respect for me, they are actually trying to be polite in asking how the dynamic of this friendship works because they believe I have a good reason for it.  I am afraid I really don’t think I do.

I built this village.  I have been building this village my whole life.  There are wonderful men in my village.  This man has been in the village for at least 25 years.  He likes to butt in to my relationship issues and have secret conversations with my ex behind my back to protect me which I kindly pretend to not know about.  But I never needed that.  I am not beholden to this chest-beating male behavior.  I don’t need it.  What I need is a safe space for me, my friends and family where we can rely on the fact everyone in my village is reasonable, raises their children differently from how we grew up, where we fight misogyny, prejudice and rape culture.  In my village, we are excited that everyone is talking about rape or sexual assault or harassment or whatever “softer” word people need to find for it.  We actually feel hopeful we can fight back and influence real change.

25 years ago, I probably heard these types of phrases from this male friend and other friends – probably male and female, teachers and parents – saying what words not to use, what accusations never to make, what lives never to ruin, what white lies I must always tell and believed them.

  • Irony – I went to Catholic School and received guidance from clergy

After all, when I was attacked, I didn’t tell anyone.  I was afraid to say the word.  I was afraid to ruin a life and send someone to jail (to this day, that he did time in jail has been very traumatic for me even though he is guilty.)  I didn’t need a white lie because I wasn’t talking.  The only reason I spoke up is because he hurt someone after me and nobody ever covered that scenario when I was growing up.  After all our silence and white lies, what do we do when someone else gets hurt?  It’s real then, isn’t it?  Or were we supposed to keep covering it up?  I mean, a man’s life got ruined, right?  Nothing about our lives and what we have had to do to get by all these years.  Only the men matter, right?

Not in my village.  Not now.  No one speaks to me that way.  No one speaks to my friends that way.  I will admit, I loved watching my “women’s lib” friend (as if that characterization should be seen as an insult.  Umm, can we say Hero? )go right back at him.  That was fun because she is hilarious and smart.  But she should never have had to do it in the first place, nor should I.  In fact, I remember being told how much I was cared about when I was being hurt.  So how was this post any different from that really, really, really bad word I shouldn’t put in writing on social media?