Me too

 

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new trend going around social media. Stemming from the Harvey Weinstein debacle, users of the various sites are prompted to type “Me too” or #Metoo into their statuses if they have ever been sexually abused/molested/attacked/manipulated/etc. The idea is to acknowledge the community of victims. To no longer hide in shame. And mostly, to support one another.

I would love to say I’ve never been sexually assaulted, but that would be a lie. The first time memory serves would have been around the age of seven. From a “friend” of an uncle. The next time around the age of twelve. From a man my alcoholic parents trusted. John Beard of West Palm Beach, circa 1973. He hired me to babysit his kids (how cliché can it get?). He and his girlfriend seduced my twelve-year-old self with manipulative compassion about my home life. After securing my trust, the fondling began. Which led to the inevitable. Then, they invited their friends to use me as well. For the next few years, it became my freefall into a childhood robbed of innocence, convinced that I was a full grown, sexy woman at the age of thirteen. That abuse messed up my life for the next thirty years, although I didn’t realize that the exploitation carried over into so many aspects of my fucked-up life.

Live. Learn.

Still, there are worse stories. Much worse. We all know the Catholic Church abetted and sheltered abusive priests. Those victims carried the pain into their adult lives with shame, along with an inability to foster trust again. In other places, there were children chained like dogs, whose lives knew nothing but abuse in every form. Then there are those victims who are forced to watch as their loved ones are abused, and can say nothing for fear the abuser might kill. Yes, there are much worse stories than mine. Does that limit the impact of abuse on my life? No. But those tales did help to keep mine in relative perspective.

Everyone has a story to tell. The people I’ve shared my story with have opened up and shared theirs with me. Sexual abuse, in all of its forms, has touched the lives of too many people. When the abuser is in a position of authority in the victim’s life, that power looms ominously over every action. Nothing the victim does is without the taint of fear. Abuse of power is evil incarnate.

Some have never had the opportunity to unburden their souls. Typing two words in a status update might have been the first time some of these victims have acknowledged their plight. You might wonder what good can come out of allowing the world to know you’ve been victimized. Do you skim by the latest Me too post with an eye roll? Folks jumping on the bandwagon, so to speak. I would like to challenge you to reach out to the ones you know who have posted, to see if you can be of some help. Let the person talk about it. Be a listening ear.

No? I get it. You’ll send thoughts and prayers instead.

After your thoughtful prayers, how about we drop our squeamishness over talking about sex? Predators love the dark. Each time we shut down any conversation we find uncomfortable, the abusers hiding in the shadows win, their victims trapped in the darkness of social construct.

My advice for the victims; go talk to someone you trust about the pain you have lived with for too long. Shame and fear keep us in the dark. And alone. That fear was evicted from my life many, many years ago. There is no anxiety or hesitancy for me to speak about sex with others. This post should prove that. But then there are the idiots who denigrate the conversation to a, “That’s what she said.” mentality. Those are the types of people victims are also hiding from. The insensitive, moronic clods who try to cover their own discomfort by making others squirm. Well, we’ve squirmed enough, thank you very much.

If you do not have someone in your life you trust to that extent, there is an organization called RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) waiting for your call. They can help steer you back to yourself. If you typed the phrase, and you don’t know what to do next, click the link, check it out, and then call.

My advice for the others; allow victims to know that you do not judge them for what they suffered. That first step is monumental to moving forward. Look at those who’ve typed those two words. If they are truly friends of yours, and you found that post surprising, text them. Call them. Make a date. Open a dialog for them to unburden the brutality they suffered. For their sakes, please, help them.

Typing Me too exposes ourselves as victims. But it’s not enough. Do you know what can be done to prevent sexual abuse? Nothing. As long as mankind is on this earth, abuse will continue. Let’s stop sheltering these fiends in darkness. Shine a light of love and understanding, and allow the victims freedom from the shackles the abuser put them in. Literally and figuratively.

Dying Since Birth

 

 

“…one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”

― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

 

 

In the last few weeks I’ve been contemplating life. This mental wandering is not new territory for me. Car accidents. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A few times doctors have told me that I had to have this surgery, or that surgery, in order to continue living. Each time the death threat was years down the line. Each time I opted for the surgery. If pressed, I couldn’t say why. Life had never been so fantastic that I would fear losing it. Never one to contemplate suicide, mind you. Crashing God’s party without an invite just seems rude.

Still, the first part of my life did leave a lot to be desired. The third of five children in a lower-income family, it was my first duty to take care of the younger sibs. My mother and step-father were alcoholics, so physical and mental abuse were daily occurrences for all five of us. But I didn’t realize that until hindsight allowed.

This is not a unique story. Many other people have walked this path, and worse. Some came out better, some not so much. Some learn. Some didn’t.

For me, college was not an option, so I went for the next available way out. My first husband. He, too, had issues that inevitably crashed into mine. The fall out of the divorce seventeen years later was my first, true moment of introspection. Up to that point the days traveled past and took me with them. Childhood. Marriage. Two sons. Divorce. All happened without my thinking much in advance. I took comfort in the belief that this is the path the Lord laid out for me.

In the last few weeks I’ve been thinking way too much about all of this. The lump in my right breast became a signpost to reflection. The thing is, after all of the turmoil of my younger years, happiness is now my constant companion. There was a time I embraced life with a Pollyanna “it’ll get better” attitude, but now the joy is tangible. Life has gotten better. My second husband is a man who accepts me for all of my faults and all of the baggage that is me, and still loves me unconditionally. Four young grandchildren come to visit and share their unbridled, innocent joy. This is my life now. These are my reasons for living.

Once upon a time, I told my family if cancer was ever the diagnosis, I’ll let it take me. A lot has changed since then. Today, I cherish every breath allowed. I firmly believe in the spiritual realm, and somewhat look forward to joining it. This life is temporary. Our bodies merely suitcases to hold the soul as it passes the days until life comes to its end. Good, bad, or indifferent. But now, my life is a dream come true. The lump threatened to take it all away. Yes, we are all born astride the grave, dying since birth as it were. From the moment of our first breath, there is a date of death we are hurdling toward. But, I found myself praying that the date might still be years away.

After weeks of waiting, the call came. The screen read “Women’s Center for Radiology.” For a moment I hesitated. Perhaps hearing it in voicemail would make it easier to bear. Then I realized this call did not come from my doctor, as I was told it would, but from the Center. I snatched the phone up and answered. At first, the woman on the other end sounded distracted, which fueled my fear. Then, her voice smiled. (If you don’t know what that means, there is no other way to explain it.) She gave me the blessed news that the lump is benign. I tried not to cry from relief until after I ended the call.

The good Lord has seen fit to grant me another extension on life. Think I’ll throw a “Life is Good” party this weekend. My husband won’t mind.