I seriously feel ill about the state of our Union. Like a pit in my stomach, a real, very literal feeling that the attacks on both Ford and Kavanaugh are having on me. It is like we are forgetting that these are real people with real families. It is sad and disheartening that we can treat an individual so disrespectfully, more because of political affiliation than anything else. More than justice, more than truth. It is sad that children are hearing conversations about individuals that are shaping their ideas on acceptable ways to treat a person of the opposite sex. Mothers are worried about their daughters who are growing up in this world, wanting it to be a place where they can come forward with injustice. Mothers are also worried about their sons and the possible threat of a woman’s word being able to change the rest of their life.
These are the conversations being had in my home. Conversations about the value of an individual, every man and woman, about consent and about being a safe place to share. All of this wrapped in sadness.
When I think about the women I know who have been sexually assaulted, abused or taken advantage of, it is staggering! I can list individuals, and yet the outcome of the situations were never handled appropriately. Maybe we knew it was wrong but didn’t know what to do.
I almost titled this My #metoo, but I am fortunate enough that I have never been abused. I am going to share, however, a little bit about something that happened to me personally where this all became very real.
I was 21 years old, living in another country for the summer on a cross cultural internship. I was young and naive and moved into a family where everyone suddenly became family. Every person I met who was older than me I had to call “Auntie” or “Uncle”. If they were my age, they were “cuzzy”. I became “Auntie Brooke” to all these cute little kiddos so quickly bonds were formed. After 6 weeks there, the husband and wife of the house had some business to take care of and they left a relative in charge of the farm. I didn’t think twice, I didn’t feel nervous. These were my “family” and this was my home away from home. There were some boys around my age and their uncle who was left in charge. He was married with kids, but they stayed home.
One night we watched a movie in the living room and I fell asleep during it. I woke up to someone rubbing my leg. My heart started to beat fast and I wondered who it was. I pulled my leg away and flipped over pretending to be half asleep, but also being very deliberate to see who it was and where the others were as I turned over. It was me and the Uncle in the living room. The others had gone to their room I assumed which was actually in a separate trailer outside. The thoughts of what was about to occur were frightening. I was in. the. middle. of. nowhere. No neighbors for miles, no market or gas station to run to. Two hours from town. Stupid of me you may be thinking. But nothing in me thought that staying in the house with only these adult men was a bad idea. First of all, the people I was staying with thought it was fine to leave me. Second, like I said, after 6 weeks of living day in and day out, I felt very comfortable.
I faked sleeping as he rubbed my leg, pulling it away, but trying to act natural, all the while coming up with a plan in my head. I thought of running out of the house, but wondered if he would grab me, but I felt I had no other choice. I went to the restroom and then ran out the front door to the trailer. I woke the other two up and told them what happened. I stayed in the trailer for the night as they fell back asleep acting like it was no big deal.
To be perfectly clear, nothing happened. I was not abused. But I very much felt I was in the position of feeling powerless. And that is not okay. There was no asking, no consent, but only a feeling of being taken advantage of, which was a very very scary. It was the scariest moment of my life, because for those moments that I laid there, aware that I was very literally all alone with a man much bigger than me who obviously wanted something I did not want, I didn’t know how it was going to end. And I was unsure if I would get to choose how it ended or not. I was unsure what would happen if I got up. I was unsure what would happen if I screamed. I was unsure what would happen if I ran.
My overseas adventure ended early because of the experience and I came home. With the prompting of my mom, probably, I told my professor as this was a school internship that I was getting credit for. I left there disappointed, and would handle it very differently now hopefully. He made me feel that it was my fault. He made me feel that I shouldn’t have been there alone without another female, though I told him that they left me there with them. I didn’t have a car. I had the chance to say, “Wait. Stop. Hold on I’m not okay with this. I want to stay somewhere else.” But, call me naive, I didn’t feel that way. I wonder now if he subconsciously (or consciously) blamed me because he was afraid of getting in trouble.
And with the passage of time I have moved on. I am happily married, have kids and do not talk often about the experience, mostly because there is no need. I am pretty cautious with my kids and have told them a little bit about why their dad and I aren’t always keen on sleep overs.
I don’t fit into a political box and I am quite sympathetic. So the other night, I was thinking about my husband. He is honest and just and an all around good man. And I thought about how horrible it would be if he were in the public eye and someone wanted to dig up stuff about what he did in high school. I didn’t know him then, but I know he wasn’t the same person I know now. And then, I thought about my experience, and I had realization. No matter how much a person can change, no matter how much time passes, past experiences shape you and change you the rest of your life. If I heard that this individual who never abused me, but who I felt was unfaithful to his wife that night, who I felt made me feel powerless that night, was going to sit on the Supreme Court, you better believe that I would have a problem it. Would I have gone public or called him up personally, I don’t know. It isn’t mine game of what if. It is like a bad experience at a restaurant. It is your bad experience. No matter how many people tell you how great it is. It is truly truly sad, because obviously someone isn’t being honest with themselves, maybe it is that their memories are vague by the passage of time, or maybe it is intentional. I truly hope that isn’t the case for either of them. Personally, I can’t imagine putting myself out there to be ridiculed and doubted for something that is a lie. But that is what some think, and that is always a possibility, and has happened in the past. I just ask you this, pray. Pray for justice, and pray for truth. We are raising the next generation and they are listening and watching.
This morning I read this folktale to the kids as part of our ancient history studies. I saw it as a warning for us as Americans. We can do great things when we are united. Where do we go from here? Well, we start by treating individuals respectfully.
The Hunter and Quail
Once, a flock of quail lived on the banks of a river. They had plenty to eat and drink but they were afraid of the hunter who came every evening to catch them. He would creep up to the edge of the flock with his net and then leap out of the bushes. When the quail scattered, he would catch the nearest bird in his net, carry it back to his house- and eat it for dinner!
One day the oldest of the quail said, “it is easy for the hunter to catch just one of us. But what if he threw his net over all of us? We would be strong enough to escape!”
So the next evening when the hunter leaped out of the bushes, the quail all stayed in one flock. The hunter flung his net over the quail, but they rose up from the ground together, pulled the net out of hands, and flew away, still side by side. All together, the quail were too strong for the hunter.
But soon the quail began to push and jostle each other, as they crowded together in their safe, strong group. “You’re stepping on my claw!” cried one. “You’re rumpling my feathers!” cried another. “You’re squeezing me until I can’t breathe!” complained a third. Finally they scattered- and the hunter, who had been waiting in the bushes, leaped out and netted them, one by one. As he headed back to his house, he said, “Together, they are free. But apart, they are supper!”