When I was growing up, a local paper ran a weekly section where women anonymously shared their stories of sexual abuse. There were common themes – a male member of the family that everyone trusted, a girl too confused or afraid to speak out – week after week the agony of others gushed forth in newsprint. It kept me sane. It gave me hope. I always did a mental math – like oh that didn’t happen to me so mine’s not so bad. On other days I wondered if forced kisses and fondling counted or not.
And then it didn’t seem to stop, there was the man who would wait for me in the stair well eager to “tickle” me before I ran upstairs to my parents. I eventually told them some pale version of events and that thankfully came to an end. But no one ever said anything to me about it so life went on.
Then there were men at the mall who would stroke my arms and back on the escalator so then I started wearing full sleeves. Like it was my 9 year old shoulders that were the problem. We never talked about that either. The soundtrack of my life seems to have a chorus of men making me feel dirty while I struggled so hard to get control over what was in theory mine.
In my head I have dealt with it all, forgiven those who didn’t ask to be forgiven, grown beyond it all somehow and then came #metoo. As hashtag after hashtag flooded my Facebook feed I could feel the grief that never really leaves swallow me whole. Then a video showed up, a video of a man forcing a little boy to kiss him and I fell apart. Even now as I struggle to write this I cannot find the words to describe what that did to me, back when I was a little girl and now.
Why do I write this? Because I think I owe it to the world. To all those female voices that kept me sane when I was young. Because as much as we talk about overcoming and finding strength in adversity sometimes some of us just need to know that it is okay to be sad.
Today I am sad, and I think it’s okay if you are too. Tomorrow will be better.