As survivors, we spend our lives enduring the impossible. And the detailed allegations of men using their positions to sexually harass or assault both men and women, feels impossible to take in, no matter how encouraging it might be that the truth is now coming out. Making a distinction between the unwanted aggressive sexual behavior and antics of a former comedian and the behavior of a then district attorney that got him booted from a local mall and the YMCA, as well as the unwanted sexual behavior of our sitting president, is evidently necessary right now. Sad that this isn’t a given, but at the same time, the former comedian shouldn’t be given a pass for what he did either. As to whether or not he’ll need to give up his seat in Congress, time will tell on that but it still doesn’t make sense to place him in the same category as the other two men.
We’re experiencing the beginnings of a deluge of accusations by women and men who have remained silent for too long. I know first hand as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse along with the other bullshit I’ve experienced as an adult, people who encroach on others this way probably outnumber the people who don’t. As we laugh at one comedian’s jokes, we never realize that in his mind, we’re giving him cover and dismissing his behavior. It’s just boys being boys. It’s all in good fun. Besides, women should take it as a compliment, right? But the truth is, he used everyone in the audience to excuse his predatory behavior.
If women speak up, we’re told to stop being emotional, to let it go, to not create a fuss. No one will believe us anyway, and even if they do, no one will see it as serious and help us take action. Then there’s the humiliation factor. When men talk to us in ways that make us feel uncomfortable or ashamed, particularly if we’re already a survivor which chances are high that we are, we wither beneath the attention whether they put their hands on us or not.
My own abuser, my father, was also a high school teacher who ultimately had to leave that position when he began asking both male and female students what they did with their respective girlfriends or boyfriends when they were alone. I can hear how he did it, the sound of his voice, the words he used. How creeped out each one would have been. It gave him a thrill, you see, to try to get them to talk about their sexual behavior and experiences. He was given the option by the school district to either get help or he would be fired. So he resigned claiming it was due to back problems. His wife took me into the kitchen at their home to give me another explanation for his sudden retirement handing me a file folder full of letters from parents and possibly students, I don’t remember anymore, that described their experiences along with their outrage.
I was shocked that they gave him any chance at all to redeem himself because redemption for predators like my father isn’t possible. He thankfully died several years ago, so I’m safe now, along with everyone else who through no fault of their own found themselves in his orbit during his lifetime. That’s the thing. Those of us who have experienced this predatory behavior have been stalked and groomed by these people. Predators simply don’t see others as human or as someone with value. We are objects to play with, in whatever manner they wish.
It may not seem like a comedian sticking his tongue down a woman’s throat without her permission is such a big deal. Unlike the teenage girls in Alabama, she was an adult at the time so no harm, no foul, right? It didn’t really go any further so why all the fuss? But if we try to reconcile who we believe this man to be with what he’s admitted to in the process of doing that we risk the possibility that we’ll diminish the woman’s experience.
No matter the lie some of us have bought into, it’s never acceptable for men to touch women without their permission. It begins with comments and accelerates into physicality. We all know it and little if anything is done to stop it. Although women can be guilty of this behavior, it seems to come primarily from men. None of this contact is appropriate whether it’s physical or verbal and it must stop now.
You’d think this would be a no-brainer, that it would be obvious what we should do. Instead, it’s now falling along party lines with one party apparently fine with voting for an alleged predator. As long as the guy votes the way they want, they’re apparently glad to overlook any predatory behavior.
Survivors spend their lives enduring the impossible. Even if we’re able to make peace with what happened, any memories we still have remain intact. And if we do remember the abuse, we experience our abusers in others, a smile, a tone, or the scent of cologne bringing the overwhelming terror rushing back. And even when we don’t remember all of the details, the same abuse reaction happens, more terrifying given our blocked memory. Talking about it, assuming we can, never gets easier and hearing all the accusations now feels like a double-edged sword. As happy as survivors are that at least someone is being heard, many of us may be experiencing abuse reactions from all the news reports. Because again, we spend our lives enduring the impossible.
Although unwanted sexual behavior falls along a continuum, it all still ends up in the same unwanted sexual behavior bag. So if grabby men are feeling a little defensive as their behavior is revealed then it is what it is. Probably shouldn’t have put their hands on a woman let alone stuck a tongue in her mouth without her permission. Their skeevy comments alone are beyond the pale but to touch a woman without her consent may just be criminal. So if they’re feeling some shame? Good. It’s about time.
With luck, all of this daylight will result in a shift of perception and people will say no to the predators among us. But we have to keep the conversation as well as the momentum going. Because eventually, the guy in the Oval Office is going to have to do more than call his accusers liars.
So let’s hang in there, no matter how uncomfortable it becomes. Catalysts come in unexpected places. And we’re not done.
Blessings to all!