I liked him, I thought.
A few months before I'd had my heart broken by someone who had no ill intentions, but hadn't been careful with my heart.
I was 22 and childless and I don't remember who I was back then.
But I remember a week night. After work, heading to the apartment close to campus. Drinking a little too much on the back deck. Everyone leaving but me.
Belt buckles left bruises on my hips and I was angry and I punched and pushed and pulled my bra back into place and scrambled to find my keys.
Drunkenly he offered to walk me to my car, because "campus isn't safe for girls at night".
And the next day he didn't remember how he got the bruise on his arm from where I had pushed him off of me.
I was careful. Walked outside with my best friend. I was sober and had my key in my pocket. All night someone had been bothering me inside. Walking up behind me and pushing himself against me. Once he pulled my hair I told the bouncer to watch out for me and I left. Walked to my car a few hundred feet away. I pulled my key out of my pocket and it fell on the ground. When I bent over to pick it up I heard my friend scream my name and the next thing I knew I was being thrown against my car.
He'd just gotten out of prison, he had told me. He pushed his body against mine and kept me suspended feet above the ground. All he'd done while in prison was work out, he said. He could do this all day.
My friend yelled at him to drop me, but he ignored her. His hips pinned me against the car and his hands pulled my hair and he described vulgarly what he planned to do. And I looked for the police over his shoulder and finally between gritted teeth I reminded him that if he wasn't careful I could get him sent back to jail.
And my friend showed up. Upstate New York in a black trench coat who had been watching from his two story walk up apartment, unsure whether we were playing or I was scared. When he saw me pushing he walked down and stood in the glow of the streetlight and simply said, "drop her".
Which he did.
And he ran.
Or the time I was standing in the restaurant and the young man walked back and grabbed my ass with his hand.
Or the time he pulled me into the back room to put his fingers up my shorts.
Or the time he pulled me into his lap and kissed me without permission.
The time he grabbed the back of my head and pulled me towards his lap.
The time his hands kept coming back every time I moved them.
The time I don't really remember.
The time he made a decision for us that we were not ready to make.
The stories go on and on.
Not a single one of those men believed at the time that what they were doing was inappropriate.
And I could have made a scene about every single incident.
There are days I wished I had.
I could have aired their dirty laundry. I could have publicly shamed them. For a couple of these guys... I could have ruined their careers. As preachers, as barbers, medical students, small business owners, as politicians, as husbands.
But there are people right now who are telling my stories without my permission. Rape culture reminds me daily what kind of role I played in each and every scenario. Rape culture adjusts and amends my expectations of the behavior of men.
I had to make a decision each and every time about how to handle what happened. With the expception of a few cirumstances, wildly out of my control, I handled it in a way I felt proud.
A couple of the incidences required that I seek counseling.
To this day I think about the worship leader and I have deeply rooted skepticism, distrust, for men who work for the church.
All I am saying is, me too.
And in the moment I wish I had talked more about it. Maybe I wish I had been more vocal.
But I never wished I had been more vocal in order to draw attention for myself, or to punish the man (men) who'd hurt me so badly.
My thoughts on this go on so far as... what do we do to protect those women (or, let's be honest, men too) who come after us. This is the gray area. This is where grace gets sticky. This is where the lines are blurred.
What do we do to maintain that private relationships and relations are respected, that shame has no part in our narrative. Not for ourselves, not for our perpetrators, because justice doesn't require shame. But what do we do... how do we behave, so people are made aware that what they did was wrong. While also behaving in a way which is above reproach? How do we create room for redemption, while still allowing breathing room for the reckoning.
I believe this is the only mentality that will survive this movement.
We could "trade licks" all day long. And the feminist movement could gnash our teeth and wail and groan and raise our voices so loud to make sure we overpower the louder voices of our male counterparts. We could embarrass all of you. If we all told these stories, we could dismantle entire empires. But that's not sustainable.
With the exception of two... I have never been hurt by a man who knew what he was doing was wrong.
This does not excuse them.
But it draws attention to a problem much deeper than publicizing sexual misconduct allegations and hashtags can reach.
*** I wrote this months ago and feel like this is the hurdle I must overcome to be able to write anything else.