Another Hurting Person Rambling On

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When I heard the leaked Trump tape, it all came back. The first boy who asked me out — with scissors to my throat. The stranger running a jokey Independence Day beauty pageant who isolated me from the younger girls and older women and exposed me, saying, “We have to see if you’re a woman.” The man asking for gas money in a parking lot who shoved a hand into my pants and I gave him my money because I was afraid not to, and I felt angrier — more justified — in feeling robbed than assaulted. The male therapist, the boyfriend who asked how far I’d parked from the store, a version of “What were you wearing?” The relationship that left me afraid of everything from my phone to flying to speaking to not speaking, the relationship that made me feel unbearably naive, the relationship that closed my heart in ways I’ve never gotten over, the relationship that could have legitimately ended my life, the relationship that left me uncertain who I was at all — it has been picked over, the blood let back out, the pain fresh as this man we just elected our president spoke about grabbing women and spoke about how such speech is harmless.

It has been just a few weeks since we heard him say those things. It feels like a lifetime, and for those of us who have experienced assault or emotional abuse or rape, it is a lifetime because we keep living those events and moments, tethered to them across years and decades. And this whole time, I have been living short of breath. I have been too afraid to even see his face or hear his voice. I have been unable to follow much of the campaign because I see all the men who have hurt me and then brushed it off, not even acknowledged the damage they’ve done.

I have been abused. I feel like my abuser just became our president.

Two weeks ago, a man in my neighborhood slapped my ass while I was walking with my daughters. First, he offered me a business card, and I was polite. Then, he asked about my daughters, and I was polite. He told me there was a mosquito on me, and before I could say a word, he slapped me several times and pulled the waist band of my pants away from my lower back. I was polite and walked away. And when I called my mother, out of breath and shaking, I told her, “I don’t know if there was a mosquito. Maybe there really was a mosquito.”

My heart breaks and breaks and breaks. I have spent my life trying to understand what others’ intentions were instead of looking directly at their actions. I have silenced my own voice so as not to accuse someone falsely or let them think I perceive them in a negative light. I crave connection with people. Not everyone does.

When this same man found me later on my walk, left the yard work he was doing in my neighborhood, and pursued me further, I yelled at him. I called the constable. I stated what happened, even though I could hardly believe it. My instinct was still to say, “Maybe there was a mosquito. Maybe he didn’t think about what it means to touch a person without their consent.” The man denied that he had intended to intimidate me. I still walk in my neighborhood, but now I look for the maroon truck he drives. I’m afraid I will see him again, not because he will hurt me more, but because I very well may find myself apologizing for making a big thing of a big thing.

Get pepper spray. Get a gun. Get a dog. Get a thicker skin. Get over it.

I’m not over it, and how can I be when a man can so blatantly brag about assault and then be elected our president? 53% of white women voted for him. My sisters, those same women who have held keys between their knuckles at night and sought safety in numbers, left the rest of us to fend for ourselves, and that betrayal is hard to forgive.

I know this man evokes the same feelings of hopelessness and fear and worry in so many cross-sections of people who face worse potential outcomes than I do as a white, cis, straight, able-bodied citizen, and knowing how I feel as I try desperately to separate a history of misogynist terror from today and tomorrow and the next day, I am profoundly sad and sorry for those groups he has invited hate upon.

When I cast my vote for who I hoped would be our first female president, I was first nearly turned away by a man who tried to say I couldn’t take my babies with me. He was wrong, but he didn’t care to be right. Even this small thing — a person giving bad information — feels so deeply personal.

What gives me hope? The woman who offered to hold my babies so I could vote. The woman who pulled over when she saw me crying and yelling at the man in my neighborhood and waited with me well after the constable was gone. My mother, who has always believed me. My friends, who share their voices bravely. My doula, who helped bring my babies into this world and helped me, today, get through an hour more in it. She handed me the note in the picture above before I left. My husband, who just last week defended a young woman being casually harassed by men. My close male friends who are also hurting from all this and want to use their position for change. Writers, who take their uncelebrated gifts and create hope and assurance from the tiny, fragile husks of words. My kids, who don’t understand any of this yet but whom I’m teaching to respect their bodies and other people’s bodies.

My mother told me to get fear out of my body. I’m walking. I’m talking. I’m dancing with my kids even though I don’t feel like dancing. I’m finding anything to laugh about. I’m letting myself cry, for now. I might take a bath. I’m cleaning. I’m killing all these motherfucking mosquitoes that have the audacity to keep living into November and bite me. I’m breathing. I’m standing barefoot in sand. I’m holding my family.

Thank you to those of you who are holding space today, whether out of empathy or experience. Thank you to the ones who are checking in and taking care. Thank you to the ones who aren’t fearful but fired up. I’m getting there, too.

Comments

  1. says

    This resonated with me on so many levels, Mel. The classmate who sexually harassed me for an entire semester in high school, forcing me to sit on his lap by grabbing my hips with force that knocked my feet from under me, then crushed my body against by wrapping his massive arms around my waist, then showing me a condom while I struggled to get free. His laugh and taunts of “this is how I like it,” when I would resist, scream, punch, or otherwise fight will haunt me forever. The endless caressing of my hair, of him sitting behind me in class, touching my shoulders to see if Inwas wearing a bra. Him trying to tough my thighs through my school uniform. These aee burdens I carry. Then for him to be unscathed by his actions while my speaking out and involving the authorities meant I was shunned by my entire class and told repeatedly that I was over-reacting. That I was a prude.

    The fiance I loved with abandon who took advantage of me, emotionally abused me in ways I am still trying to recover from, who hit me on the nose with a camera for deleting a picture of myself I found unflattering, who made me feel like I was not worthy of love, who made me feel like I was a foolish girl with no way out. These men, who left their marks on me, could habe ruined me. Have ruined me in some ways. But we put ourselves together as best we can and we remain as open to love as we can. We let ourselves be loved and in turn love one another. We need to love.

    • says

      It’s so sad how many of us have a sprawling inventory of these injustices and wounds, how when a rape trial captures public interest or a world leader dismisses assault so casually, we dig through our list and hold each hurt up to the light again. I’m sorry you have these hurts. I’m sorry so many of us do.

      I still struggle to even own the word “abuse” when I talk and write about my most profound pain, but it was abuse. It was the kind of emotional and sometimes physical abuse that I still cannot believe anyone could knowingly choose to inflict, and I am always caught between saying, “This happened,” and worrying over, still, what he really thought he was doing. I am slowly learning to trust my own reality, to hold my truth first.

      Thank you for your voice and your truth. I see you. I believe you. I hold you in my heart.

  2. R. t. says

    This is how I feel also. Introduced to sexual acts at 8. At fifteen, a friends father would be all in my face trying kiss me and woo me. My first job, a manager always making comments that made me feel dirty. Another job a man always asking to see my boobs, Constantly.!!! Never finding my voice to say ENOUGH! ENOUGH!!
    I heard stories before he had a major foot in the race. And it all clicked, why he made me feel the way He did anytime I heard his voice. I am floored on how this could happen. How a country could let this happen.
    I’m so happy you found a voice. It will be a life long struggle to find mine, to not live in fear of disappointing others. An internal fear.
    Beautifully written.

    • says

      Thank you for your voice here, even if it is hard to speak in other places, with other people. I still struggle with owning my own story. I, too, distrusted and felt wary of Trump before others were taking him seriously. Those of us who have been treated a certain way can spot those behaviors, those tendencies in others, and we don’t easily brush them off. I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve felt. I see you and I believe you, and I wish you healing.

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