Category Archives: Me Too

Lionhearted

I was recently asked: What is the best word to describe yourself?

The first word that instantly hit my brain was lionhearted, although I don’t know why it did because I had never thought of myself like that before.

On December 31, 2021, I came upon an article attorney and columnist Ms. Flowers wrote for theeagle.com: Get Rid of Christine Blasey Ford Time.

Since she provided her email in the column, I thought about responding directly to her, but I changed my mind and decided to write a blog post instead. I’ll probably forward this post to Ms. Flowers, although I doubt she’ll be able to relate to it or feel the debilitating anguish her words caused me.

I worked on this post for almost five months, mostly because I struggled with how to structure it so that it would make the most sense. My post might seem to the reader to meander and jump around because it does. But then again, so do my everyday thoughts.

It all started in 1967. Or at least that’s as far back as my brain has allowed me to remember.

Back in 1967, when my fourteen-year-old world was crashing in on me, Ms. Flowers was around five.

Lionhearted is often associated with warriors who exhibit courage, determination, and bravery in war. Back in the late 60s, I was fighting my own kind of war. Since lions are the least afraid of anything of all the predators, I often wish I had been more lionlike, even though I was the prey.

My nightmares are often about lions stalking me, and in my dream state, I’m always scared sh**less, yet in my awake state, they’re my spirit animal — after unicorns.

I have yet to remember a night terror where the lion has ever caught me, though. Maybe it’s because I wake up before he has had a chance, or maybe my dream perception is off, and he’s protecting, not hunting me. Or maybe he backs off because he senses my strength — and he doubts if he can take me on.

In the 1980s, I named my daughter Ariel, meaning Lion of God in Hebrew. My daughter was born before The Little Mermaid movie came out, so the name was fairly unknown. When I named her, I only knew of one other Ariel — Shakespeare’s male spirit in his play The Tempest.

In the late 1990s, as I left my SoHo office on my way home one night, there was a man selling angel statues on Broadway. Smack in the middle of the table was a lion. One lone lion surrounded by angels. I took it as a sign and bought him. He was too big for a bag, so I nestled him in my arms.

I lugged him home via the E World Trade Center Subway, followed by the Long Island Railroad, and then placed him in the corner of my backyard.

Twenty-five-plus years later, he’s still there.

And I know this sounds insane, but he needs to be in just the proper position because, for whatever reason, he’s my back-of-the-house focal point. When the gardener moves him, I place him right back to his corner spot.

Now, let’s talk about my front-of-the-house focal point — the parking spot directly in front of my house.

A certain couple on my block thinks I’m a mean old crazy lady because I have asked them nicely — five times — to please refrain from parking in that spot.

I’m not mean or crazy. There’s plenty of parking on my street and more than ample parking spaces in front of their own house, so there’s zero need for my neighbors to regularly and purposefully park directly in front of mine.

The fifth time I spoke to my neighbor, I had no choice but to tell him that I had been assaulted as a young person and shared my fear that a man might be lurking behind his parked car. I was emphatic that the space had to be empty because I needed a clear view of the street directly in front of my house; otherwise, I couldn’t go outside to empty the garbage or for any other reason.

From the look on his face, I know he was thinking “cray-cray,” but he never parked in front of my house again, which I wholeheartedly appreciate because I no longer need to worry about a car-lurking man.

And yet, sometimes — despite the carless space in front of my house — I get to thinking that maybe this man is hiding on the side of my house, or behind the tree in front of my house, or maybe even in the back of my house.

When I get to thinking like that, my routine is to go back and forth from the front window of my house to the back window of my house, peering out, looking for this man.

Front to back, back to front, while always plotting my escape. It’s exhausting, and I wouldn’t wish my modus operandi on anyone.

The reason my lion is so ideally situated is that I not only see him through my back window but his image is perfectly reflected on my glass back door. So, I can see him without actually seeing him.

Okay, now back to the Flowers article.

In her piece, Ms. Flowers wrote this about Dr. Blasey Ford: “…if you live in the United States, where we have a female vice president, a female speaker of the House, thousands of female judges at the state and federal level, it’s a little harder to understand why a woman who says she’s been attacked would wait years or even decades before making her accusations.”

First off, fifty-five years ago, there was no female VP, no female SOH, and few female judges, so why is it so hard for Ms. Flowers to imagine that a woman or child back then might be afraid to accuse?

It took me decades to accuse as well. But now don’t ask, because I’ll tell.

Hell, I’ll tell even if you don’t ask because I can’t control myself. The ripple effect of trauma is a curious phenomenon.

I suppose I kept my mouth shut and my words in for so long that they just flow out of me now. I’m a human coping machine, and time does not heal all wounds.

Speaking of time, Flowers calls it CBFT, short for “Christine Blasey Ford Time.”

CBFT. How clever. How maddening. How painful.

Flowers’ hurtful and thoughtless words made me ask myself: Does she have daughters?

In 2020 I was diagnosed with PTSD. The diagnosis was a relief, but there’s no cure for what ails me. My trauma is like a shadow that follows me wherever I go. Me and that miserable shadow.

In September 2018, both Dr. Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified before the U.S. Senate committee.

First up, Ms. Ford testified about being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh as his friend watched, their uproarious laughter encoded into her brain, his hand over her mouth, his forceful and frightening groping, her panic that she might suffocate, her two front doors, the science of traumatic memory.

Her testimony was riveting, and I never doubted one word of it because, like so many of us, I have lived her pain.

Next up, Brett Kavanaugh testified about liking beer. I never doubted his intense love of beer because Kavanaugh mentioned his fondness for it over 30 times. His entire testimony centered around his love of beer, and in his own words, he fully embraced it. Personally, I would never think to define the word embrace with a brewski, but Brett Kavanaugh did. His testimony was cringeworthy. And please — stop with the gaslighting — the man sexually assaulted Dr. Blasey Ford.

How do I know?

I learned the hard way that a boy or a man who loves his liquor is in danger of drinking too much of it, eventually resulting in bad choices. I know because I was an innocent victim of the life-altering consequences of someone’s drunken behavior — my younger self destroyed by a man who loved and embraced his booze.

In her column Ms. Flowers went on to say: “…even forgettable cads have a right not to have their reputations trashed by women who emerge from the shadows like avenging handmaids, wanting to tell their stories of woe to strangers.”  

Woeful stories? A story is an account of events told for entertainment. Unless you’re a weirdo, there’s zero entertainment in the sexual assault of a child. And back then, I did tell someone: my OGBFF.

She knows who she is, and she knows who he is.

And yes, it was horrifyingly woeful. More woe than any 14-year-old should ever have to feel or bear. My woe, Ms. Flowers, is never-ending.

Christine Flowers ended her column with: Men who rape and sexually assault women need to be held accountable. The way to do that is to actually hold them accountable when they commit the acts, not years later when they won’t be prosecuted.”

I have two replies for you, Ms. Flowers: Firstly, you are incredibly naïve, and I know beyond a reasonable doubt that you were never sexually assaulted as a child. And secondly, I would have done everything and anything to save myself from that drunken monster, but back in 1967, children like me were rarely seen and never heard.

And to the people out there who question my sanity?

I’m not crazy. Just traumatized.

He Was Arrested for Alleged Sexual Abuse

This startling headline appeared in my local newspaper last week:

Arrested for Alleged Sexual Abuse

Now, most emotional triggers hit me like a ton of angsty bricks, so before I even got to the lede, my heart was pounding, but shockingly, in a good way.

The article was about a 41-year-old volunteer male paramedic for our local Fire Department who was charged with second-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

According to the story, the police investigation resulted in the paramedic’s arrest for inappropriately touching a 13-year-old boy.

I felt pity for the child, but I was relieved that his abuser was exposed for the pedophile that he is. I imagined the young boy had a family who loved and believed in him and that they would do everything in their power to make him whole again.

I closed my eyes and asked God to help that poor kid to forget.

And then I wrote a note next to the article, asking my husband to save it for me.

When he warily handed me the paper, I immediately cut out the five-paragraph article and displayed it on my desk.

A short while later, my husband wanted to know why I cut it out. I just shrugged.

After a day had passed, he wanted to know why I would torture myself by placing the article front row and center on my desk.

Later that evening, my husband was still asking me why.

Why. Why. Why.

Please, don’t think me insane, but the article was a salve.  Honestly, I would frame it, but I don’t want to alarm or upset my family.

Why?

Because the article is validation, that’s why.

Because the predator inappropriately touched a thirteen-year-old child, and he got arrested, that’s why.

Because this deviant will serve time in jail, that’s why.

Because Mr. Molester was publicly humiliated and exposed, that’s why.

Because the innocent little boy will never have to be sexually assaulted by that sicko again, that’s why.

At the end of the article, the detectives requested that if anyone thinks they might have been a victim of a similar incident to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-7477 or call 911. All calls are confidential.

Too late for me, but not too late for others, that’s why.

Say His Name

This past Sunday, Kat O’Brien, a former journalist and baseball writer for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Newsday, broke her silence about a major league baseball player who raped her eighteen years ago, when she was 22 years old.

Kat’s words cut through me, and it was a tough essay to read.

I wanted to reach out to her, but I wasn’t sure how, so this blog post is the best I can do. I hope Kat reads it one day.

What I found most heartbreaking about her trauma was that she didn’t name the player because she felt it “would only open me up to the possibility of having dirt thrown on my reputation.”

Eighteen years later, she’s still afraid to say his name. For good reason.

And so, eighteen years later, this unnamed despicable rapist still has her under his powerful thumb.

I get it.

I’ve been afraid to say his name for 54 years.

After this MLB player raped Kat, she went back to her apartment and drank a bottle of red wine in a desperate attempt to numb her sadness and rage.

I can’t even begin to count the number of bottles of wine I drank to numb myself. I’m still numbing myself.

As I read Kat’s heartbreaking essay, I wondered if she had ever said his name to anyone close to her. I hope she did because it does help somewhat.

I only know that because I’ve said my abuser’s name to a select group of people over the past 54 years. “Select,” being the operative word.  And what I discovered is “select” doesn’t mean I always chose the right people to tell.

When Kat was finally able to talk about “it,” she was asked, “But you really couldn’t get away?”

More than twenty years ago, when I finally mustered up the courage to elaborate on the unspeakable gory details to someone I thought was the closest to me, she  asked: “Are you still talking about that?”

My heart throbbed out of my chest as I read Kat’s words. It was beating so hard that my shirt was moving. I warily looked around at my family gathered together by the pool for fear that one of them would notice.

The rape followed Kat for the rest of her life. She didn’t trust intimacy. She felt unsafe. And she quietly and courageously dealt with the small daily assaults that came and went.

Since Mid-January, Kat’s been having nightmares. She’s been crying on and off every day. She hyperventilates, and her chest pounds in fight or flight.

I feel like I know Kat.

I get her, and I feel her pain.

Because she’s me. She’s a lot of us. Too damn many of us.

She also wrote that her fear of losing her job in sports journalism is long gone and that she’s found her voice.

But in my opinion, Kat’s voice is infinitesimal compared to what it could be—because she still can’t say his name.

And I disagree with Kat that being a rape survivor is only a tiny part of her story. I don’t see how that can be true, given everything she has had to endure.

At the end of her essay, Kat writes that she has finally found the sunlight. I sure hope that she has. She deserves some light, some respite.

Since reading Kat’s essay on Sunday, I can’t stop thinking about her.

And I’m thinking about her rapist too, because maybe—just maybe, he’s afraid.

Because maybe—just maybe, Kat’s the one with all the power.

And if she ever reads this blog post, I only have one thing to say to Kat:

SAY HIS NAME.

My Elephant

A Republican guy friend recently asked me: Does everything in your life lead back to Me Too?

Now in the old days, I would never define my friends as Democrats or Republicans.

But that was waaay back when, before you-know-who.

Plus, my friend’s question was laced with thinly veiled skepticism, while shoving in some other hurtful rhetoric about protecting men and boys, with poor Judge Kavanaugh thrown in.

I felt anger, frustration, sadness, and madness. But I kept my mouth shut.

I regret that I did not answer him, but I was afraid that if I did, something vitriolic would pour out of my mouth, and that I might later regret my words.

Regret vs. regret.

Yesterday I saw a movie trailer about Dumbo, directed by Tim Burton, to be released March 29, 2019.

As I watched Dumbo soar over the crowd, I got full body goosebumps.

Good for you, Dumbo.

And then just like that, those sicko images crept into my brain.

[Push em out push em out.]

My elephant.

As a kid, I loved Dumbo. He was so relatable. He was an only child, no father (although his name was Jumbo Jr.), with a fiercely protective mother. I would often wonder what happened to his dad, and rationalized in my head that if Jumbo Sr. was in the picture, he would have saved his kid.

Poor Jumbo was taunted and bullied for his big ears—and given the cruel name of Dumbo.

He was ridiculed and treated poorly, but he was sincere, naïve, kind, and truly magical.

Sure, he had big ears, but oh my how he could soar and fly.

Aside from his mom, his only friend was a mouse named Timothy, who believed in him.

And then there was that crow, named Jim Crow, who first made fun of Dumbo, but then convinced him that he could fly with a magic crow feather. (And yes, his name was indeed Jim Crow.)

My favorite part in the movie was when Dumbo was getting ready to fly off the platform in the circus act and prove himself as worthy of love and respect.

I can so vividly recall that first time I watched in horror as Dumbo stumbled off that platform.

I was young, but I will never forget how I silently rooted and prayed that Dumbo would prove all of his tormentors wrong, change his life, and live happily ever after with his mom.

“Lord have mercy,” I will never forget praying to myself, parroting what my grandmother always said.

[Okay, so I can’t remember actual dates, and times, or when it started, or how I got there, or why I was alone, or lots of it, so how can I remember Dumbo and Lord have mercy?]

And then there was that happy ending; that memorable and joyous part when the feather falls out of Dumbo’s trunk, and he realizes that his greatness comes not from the magic feather, but from within himself.

The feather wasn’t his savior; he was his savior. It was up to Dumbo to save Jumbo.

And at that last final moment, Dumbo opened up his ears and soared over the incredulous crowd, proving to them that he was special.

Dumbo, the maligned, became Jumbo, the respected; the hero of the circus.

Why all this talk of Dumbo/Jumbo?

Because watching that trailer about Dumbo triggered Me Too.

Why? I have no clue.

But it triggered something that I had forgotten. One small nagging thing that for years I couldn’t remember.

But now I know.

Before Me Too I referred to my “issues” as “the elephant in the room.”

Unlike Disney Dumbo my elephant was dark and menacing, popping up here and there, in the unlikeliest and often inopportune of times.

Anywhere and everywhere, any occasion, every movie, any song, any anything, or, or, or.

Those despicable visions creeping up and in.

Despicable me and my despicable elephant.

“The elephant in the room” has been in that damn room with me for my entire life.

Actually, “the elephant in the room” has been with me in every room, in every corner, for every second, of every day, no matter where I go or who I’m with, or, or, or.

I know many of you are thinking: Get over it.

Don’t you think I want to? Who would want to live like this?

The answer to my friend’s question should and could have been a simple one: Lord have mercy, yes.

 

#MeToo

I’ve been losing a ton of sleep over the Harvey Weinstein thing for a couple of weeks now.

Here’s the internal struggle.

Do I have the courage to share what’s in my tormented head?

Or not.

Putting this blog post together has been one of the most heart-wrenching and challenging things I’ve ever done.

And I’m not exaggerating.

Back and forth and forth and back. What should I say? How far should I go?

There were “things” I furiously typed out, but then fear took hold, and a flurry of backspaces wiped them all out.

I put the post aside for a while, tried to work, make like I was okay.

Even though I wasn’t.

And then I tried to write about it again. And again.

Save, delete, save, delete. Backspace. Take a break.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been flooded with tragic messages from women using #MeToo to acknowledge that they have been a victim.

The victimizing runs the gamut: Unwanted physical contact, lewd come-ons, catcalls, leers, nasty comments, inappropriate flirting, sexual harassment, molestation, abuse, assault, rape.

A plethora of unseemliness.

Reading through thousands of messages has shaken me to the core but also given me courage.

I’ve been terrified to admit that I’m a Me Too.

But there, I said it.

And people knew. “People” who were supposed to protect me.

They said things like:

“Are you still talking about this?”

I’ve been “talking about this” for my entire adult life.

Or:

“I think you’re confused.”

They know the truth. They know I’m not confused.

They chose to turn a blind eye, and make excuses, even when my abuser admitted it:

“That’s the way I was back then.”

The family member I trusted the most told me to “get over it.”

Unless you’ve been in “it” you can’t know how it scars and damages who you are.

You don’t think I want to get over it?

To be honest, as hard as this post has been to write, I’ve been writing it for most of my life.

Reams of words in all forms and formats written over decades and then carefully hidden away. I was never looking to reveal. I was looking to write it out of me.

With all this “Me Too” sharing, I felt like maybe, just maybe, I could finally exorcise it.

But it’s always been about protecting others, and not wanting to hurt anyone. And I don’t want to be judged, which is why I have always been so torn apart.

And yet, If I don’t speak up now, when will I?

So here it is.

A harrowing, heartbreaking, unforgivable, and unforgettable series of childhood “events” ruined my chances at any sort of Ozzie-and-Harriett life.

The memories and the continuing flashbacks are deeply and profoundly humiliating and searingly painful.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into the gory details.

But I will say that too early on I learned the hard way, that the world is a dangerous place to live.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying: The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.

I live in a world in which I’m always on the lookout for weirdos.

They’re everywhere: On the streets, at work, on trains, subways, buses, airplanes.

And they run the gamut: Creepy construction workers, egotistical CEOs,  perverted professionals, sloppy drunk guys.

Too close, too touchy-feely, too familiar. Too everything.

Too damn much.

I might sound paranoid, but unsafe is everywhere.

You have your Hollywood, publishing, modeling, banking, advertising, government, and beauty pageant bigwigs…

…in places like restaurants, hotels, offices, schools, churches, daycare centers, and even home sweet home.

The list of suspects and unsafe locales is endless because abuse lurks everywhere.

“You know you want it.”

The careful mental calculations I drum up on a daily basis are exhausting. No matter where I go or what I do, I’m always on high alert.

Getting in and out of my car, walking down a quiet street, or an empty hotel corridor, getting into an elevator, choosing a seat at a bar, taking a cab or an Uber, or having service workers in my home.

The paranoia and possible bad choices are endless, exhausting, and heartbreakingly draining.

A psychologist once told me that children who have been physically or sexually abused often end up sabotaging their lives.

They are their own worst enemy because as children their little brains were overloaded with fear and stress hormones. So they tend to live out their lives in fight or flight mode.

Fight it out or flight it out. That’s me.

I’m done writing about “Me Too” for now.

One day I hope to say what I really want to say.

But not today.