The #MeToo movement is not going away.
Women are standing up for themselves and are speaking. Sometimes they are shouting. It’s everywhere.
Not long ago, I responded to a reader who had been inappropriately touched by her Physician Assistant, here in Alamance County. Her story didn’t make the news, but her pain is real. The hearings between Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford inspired more women to come forward.
I read a column in the Times-News recently quoting Karen Parker, CEO of Safe Alliance in Charlotte, who stated that “women fail to report assault because of fear that they won’t be believed, that they’ll face some kind of retribution, and that they’ll have to relive the trauma.”
To my surprise, a former client of mine (I'll refer to her as "Z") called me to share her experience of sexual abuse. She told me it felt a bit cleansing to put her experience into words. She also gave me her permission to write about it here, confidentially of course, and for this I feel blessed. I am going to tell it in the first-person as she told it to me:
I grew up in a small family. It was my parents, two sisters, two aunts, two uncles and four first cousins. I am the baby, with many years between myself and the others. I always had a mad crush on my cousin “Doug.” He is quite handsome and he made me feel like I wasn’t just a kid. We “hung out” and talked about life and our family, and I felt very important. As we got older, he moved away and I just kept our relationship to myself. I think I still felt special and like an adult.
When I was in my late teens, Doug came home for a business trip and also because he was going through a divorce. He invited me to spend the night at his hotel and to a lovely dinner. It felt so wonderful to see him and honestly, romantic. We spent hours drinking wine and catching up.
Once we got to his room, I assumed that I’d be sleeping on the pull-out bed attached to the couch and that’s where I planted myself. Doug got into the king-size bed and after just a few minutes he said, “Wouldn’t you rather sleep here with me?”
In spite of my shock and anxiety, I slipped into his bed. What followed was unexpected kissing and touching. I did not sleep at all that night and before we parted ways he said, “Love you, cuz.”
I re-lived this scenario countless times, first every day, then every few months and then maybe yearly.
As an adult in my twenties, I did not even share this with you. I had no idea that I had been abused.
I came across a book titled “Walking the Tiger” by Peter A. Levine and Ann Frederick. It took several years for me to digest the information and get angry. I knew that I wanted to confront Doug and was wisely prepared (by the book) for the possibility that he might deny it had happened.
He said, “Cuz, that was such a long time ago, right?”
It was important for me to face him regardless of his response. It is easy for me to avoid seeing him because we live hundreds of miles apart. Part of the time I forgive him, so that I can get on with my life, but I’d be lying if I did not admit that sometimes I loathe him.
Clearly, whether it’s Hollywood, the White House, powerful CEOs in corporate America, or the church, these are the stories we learn about. Equally significant are the voices that don’t say a word.
Cindy Davis is a retired, licensed professional counselor. Questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.