Sexual abuse and assault is not ok on any level and the atmospheric cultures allowing such behaviors are now on notice. Men, women and children hiding devastating shame and secrets trace back before the first century. The past dictated victims relegated to keeping mouths shut and eyes forward until the next inevitable tap on the shoulder or butt. In many cultures this mindset lives loud and proud apparently demanding recognition as status quo.
The crisis facing the human condition is wavering under trends of acceptable conduct. Morals are debatable and largely peer driven. Friends not wanting any trouble keep secret codes of silence. Prominence and popularity cause fears of reprisal and accusers assuming they will be ostracized remain tight lipped. Unwanted and unwarranted contact is violating and painful. Especially painful is the assault when someone familiar to you has forcibly interrupted trust codes. Quiet apologies on a crime screaming for justice as innumerable women and men worldwide refuse to be dismissed as nothing as this once invisible epidemic grows. The memories and nightmares go deep and hopefully can begin in some cases a lifetime of scarring can begin the healing. There is no time limit. Memories run deep and long. I will share some of my experiences.
While attending junior high school I encountered a young boy popular and well-liked. His fame as it were had followed him from grade school because he was touted as having great potential as an up and coming athlete. As most his age there was an air of misplaced superiority. Many girls of our class jumped at the chance to date him with the cache of gaining more friends and a new improved status.
Never crossed my mind to be considered and steered clear of him altogether. After a pep rally we had an early dismissal and as usual I headed to my locker dropping off books and making my usual beeline to the library before it closed. As I began opening my locker I felt what I thought was a friendly but oddly firm hug. My knee-jerk reaction was to shrug the person off since I was not in the habit of wantonly hugging people at school. Within seconds I realized the grip was unrelenting. Looking from right to left hoping for another human hanging around, of course the hallways were cleared.
I offered conversation and voice of reason as he had me from behind. He thought my resistance was ridiculous. He demanded a kiss which I wholly refused. His grip tightened. He miscalculated my reaction. Thankfully I had my combination lock in hand I wiggled lifted my hand and struck him in self-defense.
I will never forget the sound of metal clanking against his head. He dropped to the floor in agony and called me every name he could. I remember his face as I stood hand raised to strike him again if need be and he got up and backed up. His expression was of fear and disbelief. I never said another word to him but stood my ground. Two things never happened again, he never turned his back on me and more importantly never ever tried touching me again. Whomever he may have encountered after that he carried the mark of resistance on his forehead for years after.
I told my mother immediately and for those who knew my mother the matter was swiftly dealt with as she did not play, instilling in us long before the phrase of see something say something to speak up. Another incident happened when I began working in the retail industry. An assistant manager feeling his oats one day decided I was not listening the way he wanted me to. Mind you I am in my late 20’s at this point. He walks over grabbing me under my upper arm which really hurt and practically drags me to an end cap he wanted me to fix. In my head in that moment I was shocked, surprised, terrified and angry as I had been previously.
It was an honest mistake on my part for not hearing him as it was a busy time of year and the store bustled with shoppers and deals but there were are no excuses for this behavior. The point is neither of the individuals had a right to ever put one finger on me. Needless to say he had to buy a new pair of glasses and shirt that day. I reported the matter and he was written up. Alas, only written up. He documented the incident as an accident. My store manager was aware of the situation but did not get involved. I did stay another five years gaining multiple well deserved promotions. However, the incident needed addressing. Nothing preventative happened here except again a woman had to defend herself.
Interestingly enough a few years after I left the assistant manager was finally fired for misconduct. Whatever led to the final straw is not important what is, is the fact that physical and sexual abuse is wrong. Being put in the position to defend oneself is insane. Not everyone has the same countenance under pressure and I get it. You do not have to hide either or bury your head in the sand. You do need to educate yourself on preventative measures and dealing with the wake of an assault. Dealing with the very real aftermath of mental trauma long after the scars have healed. Awareness is a major start in understanding your reality of safety regarding your person.
Avoid being alone in a common area because it can give a false sense of security. Make your stand known. In today’s climate human trafficking is real and prevalent. Predators lurk in parked cars, hanging around malls while you shop unsuspectingly observing your behavior. In some cases they revisit the same spots in different cars and change their appearance to enhance opportunity and determine the most ideal time to strike undetected. Some go beyond as serial assaulters and blend into crowds, gaining trust with pleasant dialogue, frequenting favorite coffee houses and retailers they see an interested party migrating to.
Be aware of your surroundings and if it seems like too much to handle or think about just imagine having to figure out how you will get out of alive after being bound and thrown into the back of a vehicle. There may not be a second chance to change perspective. Women most often make excuses as to why something turns sideways. Over analyzing and mentally blaming yourself is not a plan of action but another crippling portal into creating negativity and self-doubt.
One woman reached out to let me know of a potential danger not new but should be revisited. A couple, man and woman took turns arriving in an SUV as if attempting to pick up children. They were always the last to leave the pickup area and went undetected for weeks. Both eased into conversation during a major holiday when some can let their guard down. Soon the couple started bringing coffee and sharing frustration at having to wait for kids seemingly never exiting school on time.
Here is what really blew my mind. Schools have lists of who can visit to drop off forgotten items or visit a child and pick up which is standard. Something fell off the wagon. Schools have listings of those allowed to visit and or pick up children. Someone posing as a parent got on a list to pick kids up. The individual shows up and puts on an act of being a close friend of so and so. Upon trying to enter the vehicle the child noticed a knife under a rear seat and immediately knew to jump back out of the van. Guards were let down because it was the holidays.
As an attempt to take off with the child the female driver unsuccessfully tried pulling on the little one’s backpack, the child leaped backwards leaving a sneaker in the wake of the would-be assaulter’s vehicle. Gratefully tragedy was averted and the parents and school collaborated, making integral security upgrades. In speaking with the parent I suggested they all take a course and have the school incorporate safety awareness courses throughout the year. Not an electronic email of preventative measures, often forgotten a real interactive meeting with more than a resolution.
Develop real life scenarios of prevention emphasizing risk, prevention and recovery efforts. Security is manifold and takes a team of students, parents and staff involved in understanding educational integration of safety first. Fire prevention and potential terrorism should be part of the conversation but the very wellbeing of our lives being met with real life conversation and action plans for all of our cultures whether home, school, work or recreation are paramount.
Parents and guardians themselves may not have been trained on life principles. Some may argue the moral compass is up to the eye of the beholder. Basic reasoning dictates developing qualifiers of right and wrong balancing guidance to stay on track. Inappropriate conversation, touching, gesturing and the like are wrong plain and simple but if you are not taught you do not know or feel it is important to learn and accept right and wrong but and instead view this as c concept. Our conscious is a Geiger counter leading us directionally depending on how it is trained or taught. It is also based on repetitious actions, reinforcement of right and wrong. Mental issues and other factors can undermine efforts to improve such behavior and there is help regarding those issues too and yes, it is a tough battle.
Assaults do not start at time of execution and the conversation must go deeper. Blame and hashtags all around raise awareness. Quick social media convictions, apologies and resignations are on the rise but nothing will actively change until the actions of those committing the crimes are mentally called to account. They can check into a local program or spa visit for treatment and be back on the street in a week.
Feelings and memories of neglect and abuse or abandonment can hide undetected and can remain dormant until a trigger brings back recollections which can lead to regrettable conduct. Succumbing to mind altering prescription drugs, alcohol and illegal drugs gives a temporary stay along with incarceration but once released life’s learning curve is at their own risk. Being put in a position to defend against another human being is a rough ticket. Each of us has the ability to live, learn and act responsibly.
The elephant in the room has a name.
Until next time~