Saturday, October 15, 2016

I am one of you

She reached for the heavy stack of books. The teacher said, "Let me help you with those." He put his arms around her back and pulled her close. The 8th grader suddenly felt the admiration for this teacher turn into fear. She felt nauseous. Wrenching free, she ran from the room trembling, hopped onto her bicycle and rushed home. Her story was never told. Who would believe her? Who would stand by her? She had no words for what happened, because no one ever talked about it. She was me.

 A woman was beaten. Everyone knew it. No one talked about it. No one went to her rescue. She suffered his misuse. When he died, she lived in poverty. She had no means of support. Her children were raised on her love and the kindness of others. She did not ask for the life she got. She expected more. She was a family friend.

The woman saved her pennies. She hid them in the baseboard. Her parents wanted her to marry this man of substance. They wanted to see her well taken care of. He was a hard man. She hated him. She took her pennies and tried to escape. When she missed the train, she returned home to a life she did not want. She was my grandmother.

The child was used again and again by her father. No one came to her rescue. She had a child and was just a child herself. The child was ragged and did not smell very good. Other children stood away and teachers failed to acknowledge and parents failed to act. She was a friend.

She was 18. She left the farm and went to work in a classy office for NCR. She was naïve and a bit scared of the world she had entered. The vice president in the office took notice of her. He flirted with her, always stood too close to her and asked for her address. Something felt wrong. She gave him a bogus phone number and prayed he would leave her alone. I was young but already knew the signs.

She was in middle school when her brother was killed in a car accident. She was a senior in high school when she handed me a note: "I want to die."  I called the girl making her promise not to do harm to herself. The girl confided that she had been abused by the older brother. She had been used and abused. No one knew. She had no words for it. She was torn between the aching pain of loss intermixed with the hate of her abuser. 

There are so many more stories just from my life story. Inappropriate touching, lewd behavior, dirty stories and language that proved that the speaker had no respect for a woman. And, we women laughed it off and hid our disgust maybe we didn't feel we deserved more. I heard it as a child. I hear it as an adult. But now I can say to all of this, IT IS TIME TO STOP! I stand up for all of those children and adult women and men who have been used and abused. It is time for respect in all ways of men and women. It is time!

You are not weak. You can find help sources. You can talk to those you trust. We can stand up and say "no more". I have been a woman who has seen it all. I think perhaps that is what has made me a person who naturally could work with kids at risk. I may not have been there for you, my friends, but I am here for you now. You are all worthy women who are smart, strong and who can make change. I know because I am one of you.

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