#MeToo

Trigger warning…

 

We’ve heard a number of people talk about memories being triggered by something someone says…or a smell…or a place.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve never experienced a sexual assault–but last night a memory came to mind that let me know just how close I came. I don’t know what triggered the memory; maybe it’s all the stories I’ve been hearing/seeing lately about strangers and friends who have experienced assault. Maybe it’s all the discussion around the allegations related to Judge Kavanaugh. I don’t know.

But here’s my memory.

First of all, you need to understand that I was one of those incredibly naïve young women in the 1960s. I had a lot of friends, but I didn’t date much in high school. Instead, there was a group of us who hung out together.

When I went away to college, I was still very naïve. My college was a church one, which meant there was no drinking. In fact, it was conservative enough that there was no dancing either. But we had a lot of other coed activities–safe activities.

I don’t remember all of the specifics of the situation. I don’t remember the date or the event, but I do know that we had had some kind of end-of-school activity. At the end of it, one of my classmates–let’s call him “X”–asked me to go for a walk. He was someone I’d been friends with for that year…and I’d had a bit of a crush on him. So I was thrilled he’d asked me.

We walked over to the football stadium. Our campus was small enough (and in a small town) so we walked just about everywhere. We sat on the bleachers, just snuggled together–him with his arm around me. We didn’t say much or do much of anything else–just looked at the stars.

I’m not sure how long we sat there, but it couldn’t have been a long time, because I had to be back at my dorm at a specific time. X is the one who said that it was time to leave.

As we were walking back to the dorm, he started talking. Again, I don’t remember the specific words he used, but I do remember that what he was telling me was that he had planned on raping me when he asked me to go with him. He changed his mind–I don’t know why. I had had no idea that I was in that kind of danger from him.

The one thing I do remember him telling me was to not be so trusting…that I might not be so fortunate in another situation.

I never told anyone. Not until now.

As I look back at that naïve young woman, I wonder… I think I was so surprised and shocked that I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. Had he followed through on his original plan, what would I have done? I don’t know…but probably nothing. I would have thought that I had done something wrong…would have been scared of what my parents (and my church) would have thought. I doubt that I would have filed charges. I think I would have probably tried to forget it…as I forgot the rest of the experience until now.

Do I remember his name? Oh yeah. Do I remember what he looked like? Oh yeah. Do I remember the weather? Oh yeah. Do I remember other details? Not specifically.

So do I believe women who make allegations but who don’t remember all the details? Oh yeah. I was fortunate in that X–for whatever reason–changed his mind. Many others were not as fortunate.

#MeToo…but who?

I’ve been reading and watching the news this last week and it’s gotten me to thinking…

While I am aware that men can (and have been) sexually harassed and abused, these thoughts are going to relate to women–primarily because I am a woman.

There have been lots of questions swirling around the allegations made, and I don’t want to get into the politics of them. What I do want to do is just simply share some thoughts and concerns they’ve triggered.

Some women remember very clearly every detail of the experiences. Others remember only bits and pieces–sometimes because of the trauma, other times because of other choices they made leading up to those experiences.

Why don’t women report when they’ve had these experiences? I can think of a few of the many reasons:

  • For those whose experiences go back decades, they lived at a time when anything sexual just wasn’t talked about.
  • They may have been afraid.
  • They may have “learned” that it was their fault.
  • They may have seen how other women were attacked and disbelieved and simply didn’t want to go through that themselves.

When women did come forward, the legal focus often fell on them.

  • What were they wearing?
  • Why were they in that place at that time?
  • Were they drinking?
  • How did they know for sure it was assault?

And on and on.

All the concern seemed to be for the man. What was this allegation going to do to his future?

But what about her? What about her future?

She was “damaged goods.” If she told a potential partner what she had experienced, what was going to be his reaction? 

Somehow she wasn’t seen as a “real” person. What the assault did to her didn’t seem to matter. What was important was what the allegation would do to her attacker’s future.

Have things changed? Not really.

We still tend to focus on the impact the allegation would have on the person accused–and don’t seem to worry about the impact the experience has had on the victim. 

We still find all kinds of reasons not to believe the accuser…or to find ways to make it her fault, either for the experience or for waiting so long to come forward.

I wonder what would happen if we saw every woman as a “real” person–as a mother, daughter, grandmother, sister… Would we react differently? Would we be more willing to truly listen without judgment? to consider the impact these experiences have had on them?

Would it change what we teach our sons? Would we finally put to rest the idea that “boys will be boys” who have the “right to make mistakes” as they’re learning how to be men, mistakes that impact significantly the young women they violate? 

There are so many stories out there. They differ in details, in the amount that women remember. But they are there.

It’s time for us to listen.

Missing table fellowship…

I wasn’t sure whether to title this post “Missing table fellowship” or “Sometimes I feel isolated”…either would have been an appropriate title.

So what do I mean by that?

Many of you know that I have lived with MS (multiple sclerosis) since 1976. It’s gone mostly pretty well–at least since the first five years. Because of the vagaries of this auto-immune disease, there is some unpredictability to my life. I’ve learned to live with that.

But there’s one change MS has made to my experiences that creates that sense of loss. The one constant in my schedule is a daily nap. Sometimes it’s as short as 30 minutes; other times it’s as long as a couple of hours. There’s no specific time I have to take it–but I usually do it around noon. That’s what sometimes makes me feel isolated.

When I go to retreats or other all-day events, the schedule is often very full, with meetings leading right up to lunch and beginning again shortly after lunch. So my choices are (a) to forgo my nap…which really isn’t a choice, because if I do skip the nap, I suffer the consequences the next day, or (b) skip lunch in order to take my nap. Obviously, my choice is (b).

But that means that I miss table fellowship. It’s more than just sitting around the table, eating. It’s the visiting, the sharing, the continued development of community.

The people that I attend these events with are always very nice and very welcoming…but I often feel a little bit on the outside because I’ve missed that time of fellowship. (And when I fill out surveys afterwards, I usually mention that concern.)

There have been some events that I’ve attended where the schedule is wonderful! There is time set apart after lunch for everybody to spend some quiet time however they choose…napping, meditating, walking… At those events, I feel fully a part of the community, and I am very appreciative of the sensitivity of the schedulers.

I’m not casting blame on anyone. We’ve traditionally filled our schedules full, trying to get the “most bang for the bucks” when we pull a group of people together for these types of events. Sometimes, when I’ve mentioned my need for some time for a nap, the schedule has been arranged to allow that–not just for me, but for others who might find it useful as well.

I’m wondering if maybe it’s time that we consider that a period of intentional quiet time should be an important part of a scheduled event. I may use it for a nap (and so might others)…some might use it as an opportunity for meditating, walking, processing the events/information of the morning…

Maybe the Spanish custom of a siesta after lunch is something we should consider more seriously!

Romanticizing our history…

For the last fifteen years or so, I have enjoyed going out to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. There have been wonderful shows of all types…fun visiting with “royalty”…and I have a number of friends who perform out there.

I also enjoy medieval murder mysteries…plays (think Lion in Winter) and TV shows (think Merlin).

It is fun…but it’s also not real. It’s a romanticized view of a very real history.

When we think about living “back then,” I would imagine that most of us dream of being a king or queen, prince or princess—or at the very least, a member of nobility. Who would choose to be a peasant?!

But do we think about what it was really like? The challenges and concerns a king might have had…of maintaining a wealthy façade…fears of being poisoned…fighting frequent wars. Or the challenges and concerns of a queen…being “sold” in marriage…possibly dying in childbirth. Those concerns (and others) aren’t part of our romanticized history.

Sometimes it’s just fun to “play” history. But sometimes doing that has very real—and lasting—impacts. We forget what really happened and ignore the damage that the real history caused (and may still be causing).

We romanticize our religious history, and by so doing, we continue to believe that those whose beliefs we support were always in the right…and those whose beliefs are different from ours were (and are) heretics who don’t deserve the same rights we have.

Even in our own specific faith traditions, romanticizing our history keeps us from really understanding how that tradition developed and keeps us from letting it grow.

We also often romanticize our own country’s history at times and do that to our peril. When we are not honest about past behavior, we ignore its continuing impacts…the breakup of families…the feeling of race superiority…the genocide of indigenous peoples…

Romanticizing history can be an enjoyable amusement. But it’s not a healthy way to live in a real world.

I am not your enemy

When did the mere fact that I disagree with you make you decide that I am your enemy?

I have not attacked you; in fact, I still like you personally. I believed that we had the same goals–of making this world a safe one for everyone…of valuing the worth of all people–that the differences we had was in how to go about accomplishing those goals.

Yet somehow those disagreements have made you decide that we are no longer friends but rather that I am your enemy.

When I have asked for the places you have gotten your information, I have been asking so that I can compare it with the information I have. I believe that in many cases the truth we are both seeking is probably somewhere in the middle–and by comparing our information sources, we would both have a better understanding of what each other is hearing.

When I have asked questions about why you believe the way you do, it has been because I have wanted to try to understand your perspective.

When I have asked for specifics about why you feel the way you do, again, it is because I want to understand. There have been times when we have been involved in the same discussions and you have complained about being attacked…attacks that I have not seen. When I have asked for specific incidents or posts, it’s not because I am looking for a “gotcha”; it’s because I genuinely am trying to see what it is I’ve missed.

When I do or say what I believe I am called to do or say because I follow Jesus, I’m not attacking you. He called me to stand with the marginalized, the oppressed…those on the outside of society. When I agreed to become a minister in his name, I took on that commitment. That doesn’t mean that I am saying that everything you are doing is wrong. It simply means that I am following his call to me.

And yet somehow all of that has made me your enemy. You have decided that because I seem liberal in my political beliefs, I am your enemy. You have decided that I am not interested in your perspective…that I am demanding that everything be “my way or the highway.”

That’s wrong.

I want to find ways for us to work together. I know we’re not always going to agree, and I’m okay with that. But if we have the same goals–of making this world a better world–isn’t it possible for us to find ways to accomplish that together?

You are not my enemy. Please don’t make me yours.