Friday, November 10, 2017

Assault in the Age of Woman

When I was in my early twenties, I was sexually assaulted. It is something I never spoke of until this year. l told no one. Not family, not friends, not my husband. I had, in fact, completely shut it out of my mind. Until the rise of Trump.

My friend Diane and I had gone to see a friend's band perform at a club in Quincy Market in Boston. I had a major crush on the bass player and was not going to miss this. It was a Thursday night and we had parked at a garage nearby. It was a beautiful spring night and lots of people were out enjoying the evening.

We had a great night at the pub and left there around 11 since we had to work the next day. We were crossing to the parking garage and chatting about the cute bass player and how Diane thought I had a chance with him. 

Two young men were walking past us when suddenly one of them lurched forward and grabbed my breast with both hands so forcefully that I couldn't breathe. He was uttering some sort of drunken gibberish. Diane started shrieking. The man's friend grabbed his friend off me and apologized profusely. "He's REALLY drunk. I'm so sorry." and quickly led him away.

Diana and I stood there in shock. I had my arms around my chest in pain. Diane asked if we should call the police or maybe go back to the club to get the guys. I said, "I just want to go home." So we walked back to the garage and she drove me home. 

For a week I was in pain and the bruising was horrific. I was still living at home at the time but said nothing to my parents. I wondered if I should go to the hospital. I worried about the long-term physical effects of such an injury. Yet I told no one. 

Women talk about fear and shame when they are sexually assaulted in any way. And this includes verbal assault. We somehow feel that we did something to bring it on. But there's also this feeling that men are in charge of the world and this is the price women must pay to live in it with them. We fear repercussions because of that. Maybe we won't be believed. That our reputations will suffer because this happened to us. TO us often morphs into BECAUSE of us in our heads. Crazy, I know. But men would have to live as women for years to fully understand it.

Diane and I never spoke of it again. She was probably just as traumatized as me. The bruises and pain subsided and I stuffed all the feelings down as best I could. 

For the longest time I thought I must have been an anomaly. It was one of the reasons I didn't share it with anyone. 

Since then I have had a lower opinion of men in general. This is not to say that I am a female chauvinist. There are many many men whom I admire. My husband is one of those men. But, in general, I tend to roll my eyes when men "act up" because I feel that they are more easily swayed by baser instincts. I did not feel that way before that Thursday night in Boston. 

Earlier this year I was having a discussion with my husband about how Trump's openly attacking women both physically and verbally has stirred up a lot of old memories for women like me. At the time, I thought it was a bad thing. That women were suffering in droves because of the specter of sexual assault around every corner not to mention its normalization by the man in charge of the country. 

Initially I think that women like me did have some PTSD moments. We try hard to assimilate, show our strength, and compete with men in areas such as careers. Underneath it all, however, are memories like mine. 

Most women I know and admire don't take marginalization for long. We fight for ourselves, our families, and other women. So it is not surprising to me that women's trauma has turned to action. There have been too many Thursday nights in Boston for all of us. We are done.

A year ago, when Trump was elected, I was dejected and had very little hope. I was talking to my minister who was probably even more dejected than me. In the end, I told her that maybe this was what the country needed. A kick in the pants. We had become too complacent as a society. We needed to open all the wounds in order to heal them once and for all. 

I'm still not sure where all of this is going for women or the country. I was approached by a woman after the election who was working with others to recruit women to run for office. Because of my health, I had to decline. But there were many women who did accept the challenge. And that gives me great hope for the future. 

If there is a lesson in here for men (and I hope there is) it would be to talk to other men. Have they been that young man in Boston that Thursday night? Do they understand how invasive this is? Have they talked to their female family members and friends to see if they have stories to tell? 

If so, listen and share. These wounds will not heal if they remain covered.