A few months ago, something came to mind I hadn’t thought about much in a good while. A Not Nice Thing. A thing that happened to me when I was a girl, about the age my little girl is now. And I realised something then, something that had never occurred to me before.
It wasn’t my fault.
This was a pretty big realisation for me. And I was helped immensely by an acquaintance who posted on his facebook wall, at the height of the #MeToo movement, ‘I believe you.’ I cried when I saw that post, relieved and grateful.
But now I sometimes wish the whole world hadn’t risen up in support of sexual assault survivors. Not because it isn’t a good thing for men to believe women. That is a good thing. It’s just that it would be a lot better thing if I weren’t one of Those Women.
I had those Bad Experiences (three very bad experiences) all packaged up in the box labelled, ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself.’ My fault, I have to live with the consequences: hurt and shame. Somehow that was easier. It was painful, sure, but it was tidy. I did stupid things, and I suffered as a result. Very, very neat.
Now the news, twitter, and facebook all keep throwing things at me, things that take my little snow-globe of a life and shake it. Hard. And all that hurt and I-don’t-know-what starts swirling around again, and I am in a blizzard. A white-out of anger and pain and feelings I can’t put a name to.
This was 30 years ago, I think to myself. And here it feels like it was only yesterday. I see images of Dr Blasey Ford, and I wonder what I would do if Tony Bell or Brian Kehe were nominated to the Supreme Court. Yes, those are real names, and Brian did want to be a lawyer. I don’t know if he did…we sort of lost touch after That Night. I can’t even imagine how I would feel, much less what I would do. I doubt I would have the courage to come forward, even though I was stone cold sober on both occasions and remember exactly where and about when these awful incidents took place.
After long weeks of wandering in decades-old memory, I finally came to a realisation. Although these things happened all those years ago, I didn’t know what to call them. I didn’t know, really, what had happened to me. Now, I interpret those experiences differently: I was in the wrong place, yes. I chose to be with the wrong guys at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. But that doesn’t mean I deserved what happened to me.
And that is not as easy a realisation to come to as you might think. Because years ago I was stupid, and I let those things happen to me. I was asking for it, and I got what was coming to me. It was all my own fault. Nice, self-enclosed system. Calling those experiences ‘sexual assault’ blows the idyllic snow-globe picture to smithereens. I have to accept a new identity, in a way. Although I was assaulted a long, long time ago, I have only just become ‘a survivor of sexual assault’. So, in a sense, it is like it just happened.
But there isn’t anyone to tell, really. No justice will be done. It’s all just been stirred up again to no particularly good effect. Actually, it’s been stirred up to a bad effect: my family are all watching a film, and I’m sitting here, because of the white-out. I can’t see the TV.
I’ll tell you what, though. I finally understand why nobody who was around when I was a small girl wanted to tell my father. (He had been two states away at the time.) I thought it was to protect me–after all, I was told I ought to be ashamed of myself. My father would have been angry, true. But I lived for 40 years under the false impression that he would have been angry at ME. No. I realize the truth now, as the parent of a small girl. Nobody wanted to tell my dad because they were afraid he might shoot the guy. But because I thought I’d be in big trouble, I didn’t say anything. Not when I was a child, and not when I was a teenager.
And I grieve, because I wonder how things might have been different for me if I had been comforted rather than blamed. At the end of the day, I have to be grateful for #MeToo, no matter how much it hurts to have all my memories shaken up and set down in a different light. It’s too late for me: I’ll never know how things might have been.
Sorry, no happy ending this time. Sometimes there just isn’t one.