I was 12. I was at the DYA—basically the military version of a community center for kids. I was in a room by myself doing my gymnastics stuff. Two guys came in and sat at the piano in the corner near the door.
One of the guys, 15 or 16, told me to come over so they could talk to me. I knew him so I went over and answered a couple of questions. Then he grabbed my crotch and kept his hand there while he talked to me. I froze. I truly didn’t know what to do. His friend laughed. He laughed. He finally let me go. Honestly, I have no idea what I did after that, but I know I always, always felt like it was my fault. I was so stupid to go over there.
It wasn’t like it was the first time I’d been touched inappropriately. It must be my fault somehow. Right?
I was 12. Not the first time.
Around the same age, one night, four boys pinned me down on the floor—one boy per limb. I was small, they were not. I couldn’t move. Not only were my limbs held down, but my hair was stuck behind my back on the floor so I couldn’t even lift my head. They tickled me mercilessly and endlessly. It hurt. Please stop. Feeling completely helpless, I was terrified. They just would not stop. I was pinned down, unable to move, for an unbearably long amount of time. Please let me go. Please.
When I was in college, there was that one guy on the dance floor. He wanted to dance with me. He grabbed my arm, pulled me close and would not let go. He was a tall, muscular Marine. I was very much on the petite side at the time. Please let me go. His hand wrapped around my arm just below my wrist. He held me so tightly that when I finally wrenched free, I thought my arm would break. He was pretty angry when I pulled away and he came at me, but his friends grabbed him and held him back to let me get away. I was shaking. Maybe I should have just danced with him?
There was that other guy at the Metro station who threatened to throw me in front of the train. He wasn’t pleased that I had pointed out the cameras to him after he said he could do whatever he wanted to me and I’d never be able to ID him. Then that same night, just a mere 35 minutes later, after I had finally calmed down on the ride home, I got off the train and walked to the parking lot. Two guys walking toward me talked loudly about my honey blonde hair and all the things they would love to do to me. Oh God, please help.
I thought I had dealt with these kinds of memories until they started popping up over and over again in the past year or so. There was an endless barrage of moments like these just pelting me one after the other. I brushed them aside for a while —what the…? go away, leave me alone— but they kept coming back. Anxiety started taking over. I had no idea what was going on. Seriously, I’m done with you, just leave me alone.
I had gone through life a little too long believing those types of things were somehow my fault. Somehow, something I must have deserved. Or, if I grasped that it wasn’t me, it was just the way life is. Some guys are just idiots. For every bad guy story, I know good guys who more than make up the difference. This really shouldn’t bother me. Please just let me be.
The anxiety didn’t ease until I started telling my husband some of my experiences, most I had never told anyone before. Why would I? It’s not like I got raped. All in all, it’s kinda minor stuff, don’t you think? Others go through so much worse.
But why did it never stop? It just never stopped. Far too often I had to go through this kind of crap. Some guy somewhere, anywhere, just had to say something, had to touch, had to be vulgar. Maybe I’m just not strong enough, but the accumulation of it all…
It takes a toll.
Oh, stop whining. You shouldn’t have done whatever you did anyway. Let it go.
What shouldn’t I have done? Talked to some guy? Hang out with my friends? Should I have not gone dancing? Taken the Metro home? Not have blondish hair? Is there anything that would have made it stop? Anything at all?
Then, not too long ago, I saw a man, a 40-something father, staring intently at my 13-year-old. She didn’t know he was doing it, but I saw. He had that look in eyes. He was just a few steps from her so I moved closer to her. He looked my way and saw me staring at him. He stopped looking her direction, but as I kept my eyes on him, I watched him struggle to not turn back to her. He quickly left the area.
I had already seen how guys were looking at my daughters. I expect the attention from teen boys, preferably the younger teens. They are beautiful girls. Truly. However, they are only 13 and 11. They dress appropriately. They don’t yet wear make-up. They don’t go out of their way to attract extra attention. Yet somehow, this does not keep them from being noticed and ogled by grown men. I have seen it multiple times. You don’t know how badly I want to cuss right now.
That anxiety I have been feeling?
Because I can’t make it stop. For them, I still can’t make it stop.
How do I handle this? It’s like it’s starting all over again and I still feel helpless. Pinned to the ground unable to defend myself or my girls should something go wrong.
Except I’m not completely helpless now. I’m much stronger than I used to be. I know now those things weren’t my fault. I didn’t do anything to deserve it. It doesn’t even make sense that I ever believed that. Or that any of us ever believe that we deserve to be treated badly. It makes no sense. But, somehow, it is a very convincing lie.
So I do what I can to teach my girls that they have great worth that has nothing to do with how they look or how others treat them. But I also want them to know that their beauty is not something to be ashamed of or to hide. Whatever anybody says or does to them, does not mean in any way that they deserve it and does not make lies true.
I know some reading this have been through abuse of one kind or another. I don’t know how to make your particular pain go away. There’s no magical quick and easy cure. It was suggested to me once when I was in a rut, to pray that God would show me the evidence of His love for me. Let me see it. I still pray that prayer when I start to feel down. Every single time, though it may be the smallest thing you could imagine and may not make sense to anyone else, He has answered. Sometimes how He answers makes me laugh out loud. Sometimes I just feel a sigh within. Oh thank God, You still love me.
Find a verse that speaks to the need in your heart and in your soul for healing. Concentrate on it and let it soak in. Start changing those lies into truths. For some, it will be shaky walking for a good bit of time. All I can do is encourage you to believe what God says about you—not what some twisted humans made you think. It’s a fight, but one you are able to win with His love.