Before I start this story, I want to warn you that there may be some things you read here that may trigger an unpleasant time in your life. This warning comes because I sat down to take a required sexual harassment course for fall semester of school and before the course started, I was presented a warning message that the course may trigger moments one did not want to relive. Yes, at my age I am going back to school; I will of course be screaming my head off and probably cursing more than I should, but hey, I like challenges, I think. The thing is that when I saw the warning I kind of nudge it off because this would not apply to me. There was no way I had experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment so I would be just fine. Then….. I started to remember.
In the seventies, a teenager, 15 or 16, girls where I grew up were either good or bad. Good, if you went to church every Sunday morning; bad if you smoked cigarettes behind the bleachers at school. I did both. My personality was whatever someone needed me to be at that particular moment to feel accepted. Yep! At an early age I already knew that pleasing people would become a problem for me. I just didn’t know I had permission to be any other way, especially with my reputation on display as the good girl who was the Sunday school secretary or my reputation as the girl who wanted to be noticed; I won’t say the word, “bad” girl here who wants to be notice because what is bad about wanting to be seen!
At 16 I had my drivers license and drove a 1968 LTD Ford, canary yellow, with leather top; a AM/FM radio with an 8-track. My older brother bought the car really for me to take my mother to her church meetings and wherever else she needed to go. But for me the car represented some freedom. Do you know how many friends I can have; picking everyone up and driving to the juke joint on a Saturday night? I had power. I picked up my friends one night after I had lied about being at a cousin’ house and we went to the juke joint. Understand that in 1976, minors were able to buy cigarettes, buy beer and walk in a club without being carded. It was this night I remember; I had too much to drink.
As I’m writing this, I’m taking a step back…breathing through this…because I did not know I had permission to called what happened a sexual assault. I did not know because they were my friends. They were friends who I hung out with; talked to over the phone; planned out the weekend with; and they were my friends who…..while I was drunk. I’m writing this and at the same time, I want to write it and in this second, I don’t but I need to, but I’m not sure, but I must, but why should I, but I did not know….. I had permission to call this anything. The sadness in this is that as a teenager during that time, in the place I lived; it would only appear to be a girl who got drunk and allowed herself to be abused. This is the bad girl; the one who wanted to go have fun, dance, drink some beer and hang out with her friends. Help me to understand, how is she a bad girl? So, why am I writing this? I don’t know but maybe there is someone who remembers like me. Maybe there is someone who has not been given permission to call it what it is. Maybe there is someone who in their teen years only wanted to be themselves; go to church every Sunday morning and have fun with their friends every Saturday night; and it be neither good nor bad; but just being human. Maybe there is someone who has been blaming themselves for a pain that they were not able to define nor given permission to call it what is was; sexual assault. As I remember this pain, which I didn’t even realize was a pain until now, I am thankful because I can see clearly that 16 year old, who wanted everyone to adore her and let her know the woman within her always adored her. Today she is so loved.
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: (RAINN) Need help? Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
Stay Well My Friends,