I Do Not Have to Speak Up and Neither Do You. That Choice is Ours.

I have a scar on my left forearm in the shape of a flat-head screwdriver. It was my punishment for saying no -- my forever reminder of a guy I wouldn't let have me. I can't even remember his name. Isn't that stupid? What I remember is the boy who branded me in his honor, because he was dared.

Right across the street from my house, after I got off the bus from school, this boy took a lighter to a screwdriver until it was red, and grabbed my arm.

I didn't tell anyone until this year what that boy did to me, and I didn't say his name. 

I don't have to.  That's my choice.

The burning of my arm wasn't sexual in nature, but the motivation behind it was. And so were the relentless phone calls my father fielded from a guy screaming that he owned me and demanding his right to speak to me. He felt I belonged to him -- even though I'd never so much as stood within the same ten foot space, mostly because I was too afraid to run away -- because he liked me. He would not take no for an answer. 

I'm pretty sure I begged my father not to call the police, because I was more afraid of what would happen to me if he did. Or maybe that's the story I made up in my mind because my father never suggested that as an option. I honestly don't remember. What I do remember is that I stayed in my house like a captive for a whole week so that he would forget about me and move on, and that's what happened.

And so I was branded in this small way, for the rest of my life, as a reminder of what happens when you're fourteen years old and decide to reject the advances of a high school boy.

It was not the first or last time I was assaulted, but comparatively, it's the most minor incident I can recall. Being branded forever on my forearm with a piping hot screwdriver is the least damaging, embarrassing incident I can think of, and that makes me sick. I wrote an entire post about some of the more intrusive and invasive experiences last week, and then decided I'm not ready to publish it. 


I don't have to. That's my choice.

Last week I read and shared another woman's brave story about encountering her abuser at the grocery store, and was a bit shocked by how many women suggested the writer needed to speak up -- that she had to. She owed it to herself, and she owed it to other women. 


I wish to make clear that I am beyond proud of every single one of the brave humans who have outed one or all of their abusers; recently or otherwise. It takes an incredible amount of courage to speak up and out about these things, and that should absolutely be commended. I just don't think it's fair to be expected. I can stand in solidarity with all of those abused and misused, and I can admit #MeToo. I am just not ready to speak to all of it. 

I don't have to. That's my choice.

The assaults so many of us have endured have in many ways stripped us of our power. The brainwashing and conditioning we have all experienced as women over the course of our lives has, more often than not, confirmed that powerlessness on many levels. Some of us aren't through processing those messages or past the point where validation and affirmation supersedes courtesy and polite, haunting, daunting silence. 

Our whole lives we've been taught how not to let these things happen to us (I wrote about that here), to hush up if we did, and to always consider the consequences of our statements; which have often been ours alone to sit with. What were we wearing? How many drinks had we had? What did others think about our sexual history? Were we viewed as kind of whorey or prudish? Could we have brought this attention onto ourselves? Had we not been as careful as we knew we should have been? 

These are things I still grapple with, even though I know better. Having been somewhat raised into adulthood via a 12 step program, I have been asked to take more of my fair share of blame for things as the fellowship deemed appropriate. 

I have been battling myself for close to 40 years, and I'm tired. I'm not capable of grabbing the microphone right now, and pointing the warranted finger of justice at the men (and woman) responsible. Part of me is still angry about the fact that I never did. The part of me who maybe knew the blame was not mind or perhaps even that I deserved some sort of justice. 

What I got was gossiped about and shamed, and I don't need any more of that for my refusal to talk about or act on it. Some of us don't want to talk about it (I wrote about that here), and that needs to be okay too. 

We don't have to. That's our choice.





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