Let me go on record. I’m watching Dr Blasey Ford’s “reasoning” for not speaking out earlier get picked apart.
I was assaulted by three male classmates for the first time when I was in the third grade.
I was in Mrs Williams’ class, but we had a substitute that day. For her sake, I will not name her, as I grew up in a very small town.
I’d been excused from class to go to the bathroom. At that time, using the restroom required that I exit one building, follow a breezeway, and locate the bathroom entrance which was on the exterior of an adjacent building.
As I approached the entrance to the girls restroom, three of my classmates emerged from the other restroom. They immediately grabbed my body, including my arms, waist, and hair. They groped my crotch and my chest while pulling me into the boys bathroom.
As soon as they grabbed me, after a moment of pure shock and confusion, I began to fight and cry. When I screamed, two of the three let go of me. I wrenched myself away and ran back to my classroom.
I entered the classroom in tears, hysterical, and ran to the substitute teacher. I was trying to explain what happened but I couldn’t yet calm down enough. I did manage to tell her that “they pulled me into the boys bathroom” and “they wouldn’t let me go.”
This substitute may have had a million things run through her mind, but what she chose to do changed me.
She directed me to calm down, be quiet, sit down at my desk, and either continue my worksheet or work quietly on something else if I had already completed my worksheet.
Classmates had seen and heard me absolutely hysterical. They then saw as I numbly returned to my desk. No one spoke to me. A few classmates snickered.
The substitute did not speak to any of my attackers. She did not ask me any more questions. She did not talk to any other teachers or to the school administrators. She told me to be quiet and sit down.
The boys were never penalized. But I lived with the public humiliation and shame.
As an adult, I can still see the look on her face when I ran to her. I understand now that she was taken aback and was completely unprepared to deal with such a situation. I can see the fear that was in her eyes.
But it wasn’t fear on my behalf.
She was a new substitute and a member of a popular local family.
She was afraid of the entire situation. As an adult, she didn’t know how to respond.
Her choice — to tell me to be quiet and sit down — destroyed my trust in adults. It was the hallmark moment that began years of me struggling with internalized shame and humiliation, never trusting that an adult would be the person I needed them to be.
That was not the last or worst assault I experienced in my life, but it absolutely informed the way I handled subsequent issues.
Alone. Internalizing. Quiet. Angry, humiliated, and ashamed.
I’ve worked my entire life to overcome various experiences and the ways they shaped my psyche and my instinctual responses.
I live a wonderful and fulfilling life. I’m the proud mother of a teenage boy. And over the past several years, he and I have discussed sexuality, boundaries, and consent. Last weekend I told him for the first time about my experiences with assault. And he was horrified. We cried together. He was angry on my behalf.
But he NEVER asked me why I had waited as a teenager to talk to his grandparents about a later assault. He understood that I was traumatized. He understood that I didn’t know how to come forward, didn’t know if I Should. And he understood that it began all the way back in the third grade.
My almost-fourteen-year old son can understand that there are many reasons survivors stay silent.
I’d like to believe that you, regardless of your political affiliations, can make the attempt to understand as well.