#MeToo…So I teach

I was 13. He was the boy next door, but thank God, not my door. He lived in a nearby town beside the grandparents of a family I babysat for. They took me to watch their young boys while they partied the night away celebrating the grandparents anniversary at the local VFW. He was a senior.

I could’ve been my younger brother’s twin. A short, feathered pixie cut on a young boy’s frame — they took a picture of me that night feeling so unsure in my purple satin blouse.

I think we danced. I long ago discarded his name. He was a stranger to me and his anonymity now seems fitting. They all said how nice he was. What a fine young man. He wasn’t very cute, but what did I know?

He asked them if he could take me outside for some fresh air. They trusted him; he was such a good boy.

He pushed me against the brick wall beside the employee entrance next to the rancid dumpsters. His mouth was all over mine. The bricks were sharp through my blouse. He grabbed my hand and shoved it against his groin. What are you doing? What is that? I don’t want to touch you. I recoiled. He grabbed my hand again. Not giving him whatever it was he wanted, he began fighting with the buttons of my black dress pants.

In a moment his hand shoved inside my underpants. He forced his finger inside. An instant stinging pain shot through me. I shoved him away as I cried out.

They took me to the grandparents’ house where I was to babysit the sweet boys while they slept, so the parents could carry on into the night.

I was alone. It was quiet. I stared at my unfamiliar surroundings, knees pulled to my chest in the middle of the floral, velveteen 1970s couch. I heard tapping on the back kitchen door. I froze. The doorknob twisted back and forth. I strained every muscle to listen. Then the knocking began, quiet at first, then hard enough to make the thin curtain covering the window shake back and forth.

He couldn’t see me, could he? He can’t get in, right?

I was 15. Not much had changed except my new home perm. Our youthful wisdom led us to camp in a tent in my friend’s cow pasture. The perfect place to launch our foolish foray into our first taste of alcohol. Doesn’t everybody mix root beer schnapps with 7-up? We were young, naive, and stupid.

I got sick behind some bushes. My friend held my hair and rubbed my back ’til the heaving subsided. I staggered to the tent and she passed out beside me.

He crawled in on top of me. What is going on? What is happening? Who is this? Why are you here? You are my friend — an upperclassmen. We play drums together in the school band and you’re the “good one.”

Stop! My friend likes you, not me! His mouth covered mine.

I felt that same burning pain as he forced his hand inside my favorite London Rider jeans.

I never told anyone.

It hurts me to think about that innocent young girl. She had never heard of sexual assault and yet she’d been a victim twice.

I am 48. I teach.

The crimes committed against me shaped me as a woman, teacher, and mother. I see injured girls and boys in the desks before me, walking through the hallways with blank stares, alone at lunch tables in the bustling cafeteria. How many have been victims? By a friend, classmate, stranger, or family member.

I want to help. I try to provide an atmosphere of respect. A refuge from a too oft drama-filled, confusing, and sometimes terrifying teenage experience.

Reeling from #metoo this past week, I shared with my sister-in-law my stories of assault feeling somehow an accomplice to their crimes. I went outside with him. I broke the rules and drank alcohol. She said, “It was not theirs to take, it was yours to give.”

Teaching moment for me. It was so simple.

Her words reminded me of one of the best teaching videos I’ve ever seen about sexual assault prevention, shared with me by my niece, an amazingly strong and confident young woman on her own path of educating herself and our world about social justice. An allegory, it’s message crystal clear and blatantly brilliant in comparing sexual assault to drinking tea. You may have seen it — Tea Consent. Linked is the clean version. The original drops a few early F-bombs for emphasis.

I want to educate. We need to educate.

We must teach our sons. We must educate our daughters. We must to continue to share so we heal one another. The involuntary members of the #metoo movement are seemingly endless, but it is up to us to shatter the silence and stop the epidemic.

Enter Betsy DeVos, our nation’s Secretary of Education. Contrary to everything reported on the news, from college campuses to Hollywood to inside our homes, Betsy DeVos thinks the problem is false reporting of sexual assault. She is working to overturn Obama-era Title IX guidance created to responsibly pursue accusations and instead further violate sexual assault victims. At a time when women from all walks of life and all ages are being assaulted, harassed, and raped and as the designated protector of our nation’s youth she should be fighting to increase our education budget to teach prevention of sexual assault, but look who appointed her.

“Nancy Deutsch, a professor at the University of Virginia, says she’s concerned with the impact of the policies and with DeVos’s messaging, especially given that most cases of sexual assault already go unreported. Deutsch served on the Survey Design Committee of the Association of American Universities’ 2015 Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct and leads a program designed to help schools eliminate gender-based violence.”
“I think that DeVos, in multiple areas of her policy, has really focused on an individual rights framework,” Deutsch says. “But in this case, her individual rights framework is really shifting to individual rights of the accused, versus the students who are supposed to be being protected by Title IX.”
New Title IX Guidance Gives Schools Choice in Sexual Misconduct Cases” U.S. News & World Report

I recently met a high school student who is so passionate and educated about sexual assault prevention that she has been volunteering at a local rape crisis center. Her mother also trained her in self-defense. She is unique, not the norm. Our students are not being given the information and tools necessary to reduce the deplorable statistics on sexual assault.

Many women are survivors of far worse heinous atrocities than mine, even enduring sexual abuse through entire childhoods, altering the natural trajectory of their lives.

You know these women. They are your friends, neighbors and family.

As women, we rise up to demand change. #MeToo is ready to defend, protect and fight to improve education of sexual assault prevention for our boys and girls that our country so desperately needs. I am, are you?

HOPE