Posted by: minnow | September 30, 2018

Call for Help

Many women are choosing to tell their stories of abuse–domestic violence, date rape, childhood trauma, and workplace harassment. I just want to remind those who are triggered by the events of the past few weeks and the telling of these stories there is help. Please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 if you are feeling vulnerable, if you need a connection that will hear you and don’t have safe places.
That said–I have had more than one experience with sexual assault, unwanted attention, and sexist behavior from authorities. The first time I was 9 or 10. Three older boys took me to a shallow hole dug into a dirt lot in the neighborhood. They threatened to take my clothes off and held me against my will. I was saved because I heard my dad calling for me to come home and the boys let me go because they were afraid of getting caught.
Later, in high school, a friend and I were cruising the strip (driving up and down the same piece of road with a bunch of other kids doing the same thing–yeah that was a thing in the 70’s). I wasn’t supposed to be doing what we were doing and would have gotten grounded if my parents found out. We picked up a couple boys my friend thought were cute and drove to a well known “parking” spot. What was I expecting? Right? Not what I got. I thought boys would take no for an answer when they went to far. I literally had to kick him off me. My friend and I never talked about it. I remember seeing Barney at school off and on and feeling unclean every time I did. Luckily I went to a large school and he was a year or two ahead of me so I didn’t have to see him every day.
My experience with Barney was an education I did not know I needed. He taught me to be afraid, to monitor my behavior and the messages (intended or not) that I sent others, and he began a life long lesson: that I would rarely be safe unless I was willing to hold myself in check in multiple ways men never needed to.
The final story I will share here, while not my last or even most obviously abusive experience, is actually one which dramatically changed the trajectory of my life. At the end of my sophomore year in college I was sitting in my advisor’s office trying to plan out the next two years of school. I needed to decide where a semester in DC would fit best. Out of the blue my advisor said to me, “Some day you are going to make a great politician’s wife.” It was 1979. In my mind, women were supposed to have equal rights, equal opportunities, equal futures. I’d been raised by my mother to believe there was nothing I couldn’t do if I put in the work to do it. I didn’t want to be some politician’s wife–I wanted to be the politician. My goal was to go to law school, get into politics and become a senator. Yet this man–who was my advisor, who was supposed to have my best interests in mind, who’d had me in class and who had picked me as a freshman along with three other students to accompany former President Ford at a dinner and be a part of the escort to his campus address–was now telling me the greatest achievement he envisioned for my life was as some man’s wife. I left his office and never returned. I never took another political science class, never went to DC or law school, and never became a politician.
I do not know why I let his comment derail my dreams. That I did is on me. That his thinking was so narrow and that he likely said similar things to his other female advisees is on him. Now, almost 40 years later, the fact that women are still hearing such messages from men, still feeling shame because men don’t like to hear no or STOP, still needing to be hyper-vigilant with regard to the physical danger of assault from men IS ON ALL OF US.

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