Silence is not an option

Being a woman we are used to being placed in many gender appropriate roles. When I grew up it was an acceptable plan to follow the footsteps of your husband, at a proper distance. It was a wife’s duty to make the husband look good. To have the children look good and behave well so the husband would look good. This notion of following a few feet behind was familiar to me. But times change and my life is one of near equality. In giving up the well worn path to 2nd fiddledom to become an independent and confident woman I have been provided with some truly exceptional affirming moments.

Walking in the 3 day has always been affirming for me. For many reasons. First and foremost it helped me heal from my own Cancer nightmare and it did that by showing me just how powerful I really am. I am not an athlete. I truly have a hard time asking for anything that could be perceived as ‘for me’. The 3 day showed me that yes I am capable of athletic things — and yes I can and should ask for something good… in my name… for me and the causes I feel passionate about.

I have walked 600 miles over 10 walks. And I have asked friends and family to support me by walking and or donating to end Breast Cancer by doing this I have raised over $97,000 for Susan G Komen and my walks. That’s a lot of money. And I have raised more money to help my teammates reach their goals. I showed myself how powerful I can be when I step out of my comfort box.

But yesterday on day 3 of the walk I was shaken by an assault of all this power I have built over these past 6 years.

My daughter and I were part of a team supporting the 3 day in Seattle. We manned a pit 2 and our theme was lumberjacks. All of us had our flannel shirts, our boots and dungarees, but Katie and I were going the distance with big black beards. I put aside the notion of ‘looking good, looking thinner, looking younger than my 63 years, in favor of looking crazy ridiculous and funny. After helping to set up the structures and get the port potties ready to go we then went to the entry to the Pit to welcome the walkers in. Each day is a little different and I wanted day 3 to be a celebration and kooky fun. So I had a shirt under my pink suspenders that said ‘Chop Wood — Look Good’. As the walkers would come I would yell ‘welcome to Pit 2 on the Tree Day of the Tree Day!’ Followed by ‘I got my special shirt on just for you’ . Then I would open my flannel jacket and stick out my stomach to show the tee shirt. People were laughing (some who were in pain and tired after 50 miles of walking), it was fun.

Then a tourist bus arrived. Dozens of people filed off. They saw us and were laughing and a couple asked for photos. So I would stand there and smile for them as they pulled out their cameras. I thought the sooner they take the pictures the sooner I could be ready for that group of walkers crossing the street.

One man came up and put his arm around me. What I didn’t realize for a while was he was fondling my left breast. I didn’t know because it is a prosthesis. My daughter said something like ‘hey’. He said something in a loud and ugly voice and I pushed him away. He walked away yelling insults, (dirty) I would guess, at me. I couldn’t understand the language but I could understand the ugliness. I felt humiliated and sick. On multiple levels this was so wrong.

Honestly I still am shaken. Today I began to try and deal with the sickening taste left by this experience. I decided not to just feel this way but to reach out to the bus charter company and the tour company who provided this man the means by which he assaulted me. Their response? Not unexpected. ‘It’s not our fault’ says the bus company, ‘the tour company had the guide’. ‘It’s not our fault’ say the tour company ‘the tour guide was hired from abroad and came with them'. I explained to them what the man did was criminal. In the course of doing business it should be their responsibility to insure their patrons follow the laws of this country. Or at the very least show some respect for the people who live here.

I am trying to put this in its proper place. It should be a very very low ranking footnote in the story of the 2016 3 day. I don’t want to advertise this experience but I feel in order to hold on to the progress I have made in my life I don’t want to be silent about it either.

If you are reading this then you know, I decided I needed to put it out there and not just silently ‘take it.’ I will have decided I am too strong and powerful to let any man from any country for any reason make me feel less than I am. If you are reading this then you will know that this 21 year survivor has learned lessons in her life that she feels are worth sharing. You will know that with every breath that I take I am screaming ‘I will never give up.’ But you will also know I believe we need to make people who act like this accountable. The bus company’s name is Tiger Travels. The tour company name is Seattle May Tours. The man’s name is not known but mine is Catherine Collis Youngling.

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