I never wanted to write this story

Fair Warning: There is nothing funny in this post. If you came here looking for a bit of light entertainment, you won't find it here today. It's taking all my courage to post this.

I find myself compelled to talk about something and trust me, no one is more shocked than I. Those of you who know me in real life know that this is not a story I tell often. There are many reasons why I don't and I'll talk about some of them later but, well, here's why I feel like I have to say something now.

Today, the Yarn Harlot wrote THIS post. Yes, she's Canadian and mostly blogs about knitting but she's also very much a thinking woman. Her account of the Tory Bowen story is concise and pretty fair, I think.

But I feel the need to speak out on this issue because a sexual assault had a very big effect on my life and probably more so because shame thrives in secrecy and when evil goes unnamed.

When I was either 13 or 14, I went to spend the night with the girl who lived catty-corner across the street. She was a year younger than I was and we weren't good friends but it was during Spring Break and we'd been playing together. We went to sleep in her parent's bed --I don't know where her parents slept nor where her mother was.

Anyway, in the middle of the night, I woke up to find her father kneeling beside the bed, with his hands all over me under my pajamas. He didn't rape me. But he touched me sexually without my consent and I can't begin to describe what that was like. At age 14.

I didn't know what to do so I pretended that I was still asleep but said, "Stop. Stop." sort of sleepily. After a bit, he did and he left the room. I lay awake all night and cried, trying to make sense of what had happened. Trying not to go to sleep for fear it would happen again. I felt like it was probably MY fault in some way. I wished I hadn't worn those pajamas. In the morning, I made an effort to tell him, "I never remember what happens at night." I thought I would be in some kind of trouble... I don't know what I thought. I just wanted to get away and pretend it had never happened.

I never told anyone. But soon after, I started going out into the backyard at night after dinner and throwing up. And that began an almost 17-year long battle with bulimia. At the time, I think I was consciously trying to become sexless. Because surely, if there was something about me that drove grown men-- FATHERS --to do such dirty things, I needed to change.

It took me many years too realize that this man was really sick and that normal grown men do not find girls sexually attractive. Men with normal sex lives do not prey upon the young or weak or defenseless. After the family moved away, when I was in college, I finally told my mom what had happened.

It's taken many, many years to let go of the shame of that one single night. And the repercussions have been pretty huge and horrific--more than I want to talk about here. I don't usually talk about it at all because I never wanted to be defined by my status as a victim. I don't write about having had cervical cancer, either. Nor eating disorders. Once I thought I would like to get my license and counsel girls with eating disorders. Now I know I just couldn't do that and survive. I feel so much gratitude for people who can, though, and not just a little shallow that really, all I want to do is laugh and make people laugh. I'm at a point in my life where what I really want to do is find the fun in the daily absurdity and silliness of life.

If, given that, you are wondering why I'm telling you all this now, it's because this event made me see that there is a time for speaking up about injustice and about the reality of rape. Regardless of what words that judge lets Tory Bowen use, the reality of her rape does not change. She will be affected by it for the rest of her life. But I would also put forth the idea that there is more than one way to rape a woman, and what that judge in Nevada is doing is as harmful to Tory Bowen as what her assailant did. When you take away a person's ability to talk about a horrific event --to seek justice for it by fully describing it-- you add a level of pain that never goes away. Guilt and shame and dysfunction thrive in secrecy and in the dark.

I don't want to say that if we all sit by and watch what's happening without voicing our despair that such a thing can happen in this country --THIS COUNTRY, not Iraq or Dafur or Bosnia -- then we are a party to the rape of Tory Bowen. I don't feel that all of us are meant to be the torch bearers in every cause.

But for me, everything changed when I became the mother of two girls. God forbid that something should ever happen to my daughters. But if it does, I hope that they will trust that they can talk about it and not only be heard, but have justice served.

For me, the stakes are much higher now.

And silence is no longer an option.

Judge Jeffre Cheuvront
Hall of Justice
575 S. 10th St.
Lincoln, NE 68508



Amanda said…
Is a judge an elected or appointed position? Perhaps a letter to whoever's in charge of that wouldn't go astray. Or the professional organisation that governs such things.

or all three. Stepping past my anger, this just isn't logical. Rape in this instance is a legal term to describe the severity of an alleged offence. The offence is alleged until proved, correctly, but in no way should the offence be unnamed. As everyone I'm reading says, try doing that with murder, assault, theft, and you just can't and still have it make legal sense. Why is rape suddenly different?
Anonymous said…
Perhaps you never wanted to write this, but I'm so glad you did. I, too, was a victim. I, too, am the mother of a daughter. There are some things that strike a chord deep within your soul and resonate too loudly to be ignored. This is one of them. I have written to both of my state senators tonight, asking them to look into this matter and to make themselves heard. When it comes to injustice, silence should never be an option.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for writing. (And finding the Judge's address/phone num!)
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing that with us all. I know it couldn't have been easy but I apploud your courage. There is a history of sexual abuse in my extended family and it is never talked about, like it never happened and it makes me sick. There are a few who have come forward and spoken up, but others that pretend it never happened and are in denial. The ones who did speak up did so to warn me because I too have a young daughter. The thing that kills me is no one warned my Mom or Dad about it when I was young and around this person a lot. Thank you again and I really enjoy your blog!
Suna Kendall said…
You did a good thing. I had a very similar reaction when reading that blog entry (and did my own writing to representatives). Then I began to think that perhaps one thing we all CAN do about it is share our own experiences. So, I mentioned on my own blog that I had three experiences where I was sexually assaulted, and how by not reporting one, I discovered at least one other woman was also victimized--that taught me that I do need to say something, no matter what, because while you can't erase what happened to you, you can help prevent it from happening to other women.

I only have male children, but I happen to know it can happen to them, too, and can scar just as badly.

We need to talk, and share, and let people who think they can get away with such things realize that we aren't going to hide any more.
hokgardner said…
THank you for speaking out.
Brendy Vaughn said…
How brave of you to write about this Barb.

I had an incident (for lack of a better word) as a child that involved an adult male. It's affected my life so much. I have a daughter. I'm terrified for her.

I'm glad you spoke up. I wish I could say something helpful. I feel your pain.

I don't think you writting about the light and beauty in life is a bad thing at all. We do what we have to do to survive. I paint light brightly colored paintings that don't make a statement about anything. I'm ok with that. If I thought too much more about all the cruelty and injustice in the world, I wouldn't be able to go on.
Lynn said…
Bless you! I've written to my senators and congressman and to the senators and congressman in Nebraska. And I'll be sharing this information in my weekly email to friends and family.

I was raped just before my 20th birthday; thank Heaven for good counselors.
Knit My Grits said…
I was 8 and dragged into an alley and sexually assaulted as was my sister a week later. Barb McCall (a lawyer at that) and I had an exchange in the comments section where she placed blame on Tory due to "her choice to drink" and she stood with the judge. She couldn't have been a very good lawyer as I was able to rip tactfully rip apart every argument for the law disallowing the word "rape" in court that she had. It's women like her who really have to see that it's not about how we dress or what we do - we don't ask to be raped. I know that at 8 years old, my greatest worry was where my Barbie was.
Looking at this as a mother, what is so distressing to me is your feeling that you couldn't tell anyone - and knowing, probably, that if something like this happened to my teen daughter, she would feel the same way. What is up with that? What makes women feel so alone and ashamed and unsupported? (Odds are, at 14, I would have felt the same way. It's just hard for me to remember.)