Rape and Shame and Silence: My response to the demand I publicly apologize
Updated: Jan 31
Yesterday I posted a response to Kobe Bryant's death on social media, asking if anyone remembered his being charged with the rape of a young hotel worker in the 1990's. In the end he was was able to avoid going to court by paying the woman money in exchange for an agreement to never talk about what happened. All afternoon and evening, every channel and all the social media outlets were flooded with the story of his death, calling him a Hero.
My social media post was met with the words, "Shame on you...you have disappointed me...how COULD you bring that up in this most tragic moment of these family's lives...she (the rape victim) never went to court or told her story but took money instead...you have caused harm...I used to respect you...how could a midwife be so cold...I have been raped and you may not use #metoo to defend this response, publicly apologize or I will publicly blast you..."
And on and on the comments went. I deleted the post within 20 minutes of posting, seeing the upset my post caused. I continued to receive private messages from very upset women...no men...saying how dare I?
Then I was threatened with public shaming if I did not apologize publicly.
I have spent 24 hours sitting with all of this. I began writing a response this morning but decided to give my response more time.
Age affords time. Healing knows there is time.
Time is the friend of Healing.
Then tonight, the demand from a sexual abuse survivor who is well-known and well-respected in my community that my reputation will be taken down unless I publicly apologize.
I don't know very many women who have not been sexually assaulted and/or raped. I certainly was, beginning at the age of seven by the boyfriend of my mother. I told her.
In 1966, at the age of seven, I still had a voice.
And I used it.
My mother called the police. As a seven year old girl, I was forced to tell a male policeman what happened. Then....nothing happened. There was total silence and it was never spoken of again by anyone.
And nothing ever happened to him.
Then it happened again and again in various other situations and by other men over the course of my early life prior to and just after high schooI.
From the age of seven I got the message that whatever I was feeling was not a 'thing' outside of myself. I felt guilty. Like I deserved or "asked for it."
So I stayed silent.
I got married in 1980, birthed my 2 daughters in 1982 and 1983 and continued to have flashbacks and breakdowns. Therapists were not equipped to help at that time.
But I never gave up trying to heal. At that time, it was groundbreaking to do your healing work from sexual abuse. I wore out 2 copies of #ACouragetoHeal. I cried my guts out in the shower so my daughters wouldn't know/hear. I drove in my car so I could scream the scream I never was afforded. I got bodywork, did yoga, danced. I ached to be better.
In 1991 I was riveted by the #AnitaHill hearings. Her powerful testimony in public, outing Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas for repeatedly sexually harassing her on the job was groundbreaking. I couldn't take my eyes off the proceedings. I dared to hope that a Woman's Voice would be heard amidst the cacophony of the World's Justification of Patriarchy. My daughters were 8 and 9 at the time and we watched together. We spoke of her profound bravery in an age-appropriate way.
The Outcome did not go well for Our Voices. And I was once again devastated.
Ultimately, sexual abuse and rape was too much for my family and it was a contributor to my sweet family breaking up in 1993. We tried really hard to work thorough it all while raising 2 beautiful daughters. People were confused and devastated that our marriage broke up. We were an "amazing" family.
But there was simply not enough support.
By 2003 I was 44 years old. I had become a fierce advocate for women professionally and privately. I was living in Vermont by then.
Nobody knew my history or my story. And I certainly wasn't telling. Because if the police don't listen to a seven year old or Anita Hill or the uncountable number of women who tried to go to court and find justice for rape, incest and sexual assault, I was not sure who would listen to a 44 year old woman with a decades-old story.
Then that year, in 2003, I was re-traumatized by the Kobe Bryant situation. He 'got off.' It took me a silent year to process this. And then to process that he was re-hired and became a Hero by 2005.
My silence became deeper and deeper. As I continued working with women and listening to them, occasionally I would be asked about my past. I would insist I had healed.
But what we know is the hurt never totally goes away for any of us. Most women throughout all of history have had to, and do, carry a version of this hurt. This hurt's name is rape, sexual assault, incest.
It is actually used as a weapon of war.
Most women from the beginning of time have been required in one way or another to be silent. And we have complied. When we don't, we are threatened, our reputations are shredded, we are killed, named as witches, burned at the stake, shunned from our communities...and more.
The problem that I ultimately ended up having however, is that I birthed 2 daughters.
Having daughters does something to a woman who has been raped, sexually assaulted and silenced. Our daughters...MY daughters... demanded a thorough healing. For me.
I did it for them.
But the Wound of Silence leaves us wondering if that Hurt will ever really heal.
I gave my healing work everything. Including about $200,000 of holistic therapies, therapists...you name it. I was relentless and un-stoppable in my healing. At some point I came to the realization that in fact, I was not doing it just for my daughters but I was doing it for #Metoo.
But before #Metoo was a thing. I wanted my daughters to never, ever be shamed or silenced.
From that new place of healing I continued working with women...listening to their stories. I kept listening. And I kept listening. And supporting and loving and working-with.
And still I didn't tell. Still I was silent. Even when #MeToo happened. I silently applauded the bravery of these women who ended their silence but I never joined. A seven-year old girl learns quickly and thoroughly to be quiet.
By then it was perfectly ingrained.
Then there was the Women's March! Then there was another one and another one! I didn't go, but watched and followed it all, grateful that the world was a bit more awake.
When news of Kobe Bryant's death in a helicopter crash broke last night however, the scab on my decades-old wound was torn off and I broke my silence.
And like so many women, I was swiftly told to be quiet. And I was told that I could not claim #MeToo because of timing. That I had disrespected the dead. That many others had died. How dare I?
And as a result, I was threatened with public shaming for speaking out.
But what I discovered this evening when the threat became overt...to bring down my reputation and publicly shame me for speaking out...is that I am in good company.
And I'm not the only Survivor to use my voice at this time.
The Post's handling of this issue shows utter disregard for best practices in supporting survivors of sexual violence
It has been made very clear to me that if I do not publicly apologize for my post on Facebook that I will be 'outed' and publicly shamed for what I 'did.' These women will see to it that my reputation is ruined as a midwife.
I can't do that. I won't be silenced again. It won't serve anyone, especially the women who are threatening me.
Because what I hear in all these threats and shamings and outrage and judgements, exclusively made by women, is their own hurt.
Hurt which is gifting us all with the opportunity for deeper healing.
I don't know if they will see it this way.
Again, Time is the friend of Healing.
As women healing from sexual abuse, rape, incest and domestic violence, what we know is that the System relies on our silence. On our politeness, our social correctness, moving aside, waiting for a 'better time.'
It relies on us turning on each other.
But what we as Women also know, is that we Understand that healing is not convenient. It is inherently messy, does not often fit with social norms and timing and will ALWAYS leave us stronger.
What we know is that women hold women during confusing times. That we wait for the miracle of Understanding. Women know forgiveness and tenderness and love and peace.
Even when it's hard to offer to each other in real-time.
Time is the friend of Healing.
I am grateful for the last 24 hours. Last night I posted a social media post in response to my own unresolved hurt. The women who are publicly and privately upset with me, "disappointed in me," and who use the words, "shame on you" are feeling their own ripped-off scabs of personal hurt and I'm so sad for that as I am sad for me. Each of those amazing women have self-professed their own #MeToo and have insisted I may not and must not use #MeToo to justify what they perceive as my cruelty toward Kobe Bryant.
And my personal response to their angry words and threats is: Thank You.
Your words and threats have moved me into one more layer of healing.
I sincerely and deeply thank you because I tried to just delete my post and pretend all day that I can go back to silence.
Your demand for a public apology was an insistence that I must not be silent. I decided to out myself.
I deeply wish for you Hope and Love and Peace and Healing.
And know that because of your pushing me to finally write, I can never be silenced again. My daughters deserve my Voice.
My daughters deserve ALL of me.