A veritable avalanche of accusations involving both sexual harassment and assault are tumbling down on all sorts of people these days. I wondered when Trump was elected what the effect of his own allegations would be on our collective response to this behavior since clearly, those allegations weren’t enough to stop his election. And it’s interesting now to see allegations of everything from groping to masturbating to full on rape of not only women but children as well come out. I had hoped this would happen, that truth would be more important than protecting predators, but as demoralizing as the presidential election was, I wasn’t sure. But if this is a new trend and we see an end to predatory behavior, criminal or otherwise, then that’s awesome. I’ll be cheering along with other survivors as the walls of deception and abuse finally come tumbling down.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and later sexual assault and harassment as an adult, I know this is a problem that’s gone on for far too long. Women and girls are dismissed out of hand while these predators continue on to abuse more and more. It’s a crime that, more often than not, goes unpunished while survivors are left to contend with the damage. Women and girls are reduced to being a target for every guy out there who feels entitled to behave this way. And I have to say, listening to voices prevented from speaking out before, no matter how long they’ve held the truth inside, feels pretty good.
Still, I’m holding my breath a little to see how all of this unfolds. I’ve been here too many times over my sixty years believing something would happen that would hold someone to account only to find later that it was never happening. Justice has always been fleeting in these cases. With the assumption that the woman or girl must be lying, the burden of proof seems far higher than it should be even when the evidence is there.
So as satisfying as it is to see powerful men brought down to their knees for behavior ranging from irritating to criminal, I’m adopting a wait and see approach. Eventually, people go back to their lives and stop paying attention. Will this trickle down into local neighborhoods and family homes? Will our protection and dignity be the result? Or will it be business as usual once the cameras are turned off and journalists find something else to report on?
Every day, I’m reminded of what an angry guy did to me at a business my husband and I owned. He shook my hand, crushing my finger in the process. He was angry at another business and because I couldn’t solve his problem, he shook my hand before leaving and hurt me. This happened in 2007 and due to my RA, my finger has never recovered. The knuckle has nodules surrounding it and I can no longer make a fist effectively. I no longer teach karate, so it is what it is, but the damaged finger interferes with basic daily tasks. The guy got away with what he did because I never knew how to say the words, you hurt me.
His departure was delayed by my husband coming into the room and when he tried to shake my hand again, I pulled it back covering it with my other hand next to my chest, saying, no. He looked at me with a half-smile and left. It’s odd when you own the business. Do you say anything and risk the gossip? Because after all, women supposedly lie about such things. We chose to stay silent to prevent any fallout to our business, a decision that we both regret to this day.
While the assault wasn’t technically sexual in nature, I believe there’s a sexual component involved which provides the foundation for behavior like this. It reflects the same attitude toward women that’s at the heart of sexual harassment and assault. Women are expendable to these men. These fools believe that women won’t say a word and if they do, people won’t believe them, so they do as they please. The guy who permanently damaged my finger was in his middle sixties at the time. He reportedly went on to hurt a woman coming through the front door of a convenience store, his friends rushing to help her as he plowed into her, knocking her down. He didn’t even stop to apologize or help the woman. Instead, he went out the door with no regret whatsoever.
In the karate system my husband and I taught, we have several techniques for handshakes that escalate into physical attacks. Although there was a desk between us when he chose to hurt me, I could have controlled the handshake, pulling him across the desk toward me potentially breaking his wrist as I did so. From there, still controlling the handshake, I might have had an opening to execute an elbow strike to his jaw, potentially breaking it as well, giving him a matched set as it were.
From there, I might have grabbed a handful of hair if he actually had any to speak of (which he did not) and then used that hold to control the whereabouts and directionality of his head, turning it so that my upward heel strike would meet the underside of his jaw. Without hair, it’s a little more difficult to execute which is where strong fingernails are useful, gouging into the neck or head to gain control. If I had chosen to execute a knee strike to the jaw then I would have turned the head to the side to prevent his teeth from possibly injuring my knee and eliminating a natural weapon from my arsenal.
At some point of my own choosing, he may have ended up on the floor where a whole new round of pain would begin. And the thing is, it would have happened in a matter of seconds, his body’s own responses setting up each progressive defensive response. A strike or punch to the solar plexus, for example, brings the attacker’s head in closer where any number of interesting things can occur. Because here’s the thing. Martial artists are trained to stop the attacker, defending ourselves until the attacker is incapacitated enough so that we can then get away.
That day, my life wasn’t in danger and I knew that. So responding with most of the above wouldn’t have been appropriate. That said, maybe if guys like that fool understood that they no longer have the cover they’ve enjoyed throughout their lives then maybe at least some of them would reconsider behavior like this. In other words, if every guy who crushed a woman’s hand drew back a broken wrist or even a bloody stump in the process, who knows?
They say writing is cathartic. And I’m feeling much better now.