In the past few days, since the news about that family has dropped (you know who I’m talking about), I’ve been obsessively reading any article on the matter appearing in my Facebook feed. Initially, I was simply trying to gain more information as I was in shock. The shock was not about what had happened. The shock was about my being right. I’ve known for years that something was up with this family (beyond the fact that they were part of a cult) and my gut told me it was this. This exact thing. But of course, that self-doubt creeps in and you tell yourself, when those instincts are triggered, that you couldn’t possibly be right and, further, that you are just a mean-spirited person for thinking that way.
Early on, though, I kept reading because learning of this situation had triggered a memory I’d stashed away. I’d hidden it so deeply, even though it happened when I was nineteen, that I’d even blocked out the person. There have been plenty of comments in support of the offender in this public ordeal but there has also been support for the victims. Those poor girls. In these words of support for the girls,now young women, whose painful past is being dissected and discussed publicly, I found support for myself. I would never pretend that my experience was the same as the experiences of these girls. The victims in this high profile case have endured so much and I cannot even begin to imagine how much irrevocable damage has been done. My circumstance happened one time, and when I woke up, my perpetrator quickly removed himself and that was that. After I moved out of the dorm, I don’t remember ever seeing him again. What I learned that night was not to fall asleep on the sofa in the lobby of my college dormitory while studying/reading. I learned this was a bad idea. Because I was just inviting someone to touch my private parts. I tried to tell myself that I wasn’t to blame. That I didn’t invite Mitch (that’s right, his name was Mitch) to molest me in my sleep. I also tried to tell myself that I didn’t invite my boss, a few years later, to tell me that I “oozed sexuality”. I tried to tell myself that I did not ask for it when, recently, I tried to befriend a fellow male writer who happens to be male and he propositioned me. I tried to tell myself that these men were to blame. But of course, that self-doubt creeps in and you tell yourself, when those instincts are triggered, that you couldn’t possibly be right and, further, that you are just a mean-spirited person for thinking that way.
So, now I’m swimming in these memories. I’m feeling a lot of anxiety, anger, and frustration. Certain things are helping, like this sketch from Funny or Die. It helped to link the dark humor from one of my favorite shows, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, to the situation so I created a meme: I’ve cried a lot. But mostly I just keep reading and reading and reading. The articles in support of his victims, the comments in support of his victims, the ones stating that they weren’t to blame and shame on any whacked out cult-like teachings that might indicate otherwise… that’s the stuff I’m looking for. That’s good stuff. That’s the stuff that is helping me heal. It’s helping me throw my feminist fist in the air and shout, “I’m not to blame”. The way I dressed, the way I spoke, the way I flirted or behaved or awkwardly handled myself was no reason to do anything to me, in my sleep, no matter where I happened to be sleeping.
Instead of waking up, reciting to myself a little chant, something akin to Kimmy Schmidt’s “I’m not really here. I’m not really here. I’m not really here,” I wish I had immediately sprung to action and punched the creep in the face, a move I liken to the response Kimmy had when her backpack was stolen.
What I have gained by watching this scandal unfold is… well, some pretty upsetting repressed memories. But also, I have gained the ability to see previous positions in which I’ve found myself as not my fault.
I wasn’t “asking for it”. I was just existing.
I have to let them know they didn’t break me.
Also, thanks Kimmy.
Next time, I’ll be unbreakable.