|As found on FB, original artist Courtney Privett.|
Man. Are you guys tired? I’m exhausted.
I’m not just exhausted because I didn’t sleep well or I was out all weekend because neither of those things is true.
I’m exhausted because #metoo and #whyIdidntreport and all that. I’m exhausted because I’ve been in a state of hypervigilance since about last Tuesday. I’m exhausted because I simultaneously NEED to do something for all the others who don’t feel heard and can’t bring myself to speak up.
I am still not able to speak up and share. One day, maybe.
I want to share a story, though, that I heard recently that has restored some of my faith in mankind – and yes, I used that term deliberately. There was once a girl that was a freshman in college (I have her permission to share here, before anyone asks) who had been sexually assaulted in high school by a boy that she really, really liked. In the course of that rape, she managed to get her hands free and she punched him in the diaphragm to get him off of her. Even though he had held her down and threatened her with the knowledge that he had a gun under his bed, he was angry that she had punched him and knocked the wind out of him.
She carried that experience around through the second half of her senior year of high school. She went to the prom with the same boy because she was all but certain that she had done something wrong, and if she was just nicer to him he would like her back. At prom, he tried again by enticing her to come back to his house. She said no and that was that. He left, and again she felt she had made the wrong decision. The first memory was now joined with the second one – and notes started arriving in her locker from other boys that she knew, asking her to meet them in the parking lot for a quickie between classes or if she would meet them under the bleachers where it was private. She wasn’t sure what to make of these advances – on the one hand, it was attention that she had never gotten from these guys in the past. But on the other hand, she wondered if it was just for sex and not any sort of relationship, so in the end she turned them down. An image of a piece of paper is still burned in her brain that said “But that’s what I heard you do.”
Heard from whom? What did she do? Graduation led to a summer camp job. The job led to a very wobbly start to a potential relationship with a fellow staff member. But she was still carrying that shame and her unerring conviction that she had caused the cascade of events of the second half of her senior year. She started uni that fall and the wobbly relationship steadied a bit, until one unfortunate evening when things were going well with her new beau and he happened to grab her wrists a bit too hard – absolutely and totally by accident, she is certain and since I know the beau in question I’m certain she’s right – and she freaked out. That relationship wobbled to a pause, and later, still at uni, she happened to fall in with a long time male friend and wobbled off in another direction.
Still with me? Here’s the faith-restoring part.
She and the longtime friend became unexpectedly – romantically? Intimately? Involved, on some level, and one night they happened to fall into a conversation about past experiences during said involvement. She loved that friend and trusted him so much that she shared with him not only the original experience but the reaction of the new beau from the summer job, expecting that he would follow suit and that would be that. But he didn’t. Tears fill her eyes as she recounts this every time, but through his own tears he was so tender and careful with her – as he put an immediate stop to anything going on so that he could just listen to her. She came away not feeling shamed or wrong, but HEARD. BELIEVED
They are still friends to this day, and she tells me that one day she will have the chance to tell him how much that one moment meant to her. It’s been more than 30 years since, but she hasn’t forgotten – and now, when faced with all the triggering ugliness of our world right now, she still calls up that moment to remind her that there are some people out there that she can depend on. And if she can, then so can I. So can we all.