When I left for college I was ready to end my relationship with my high school boyfriend, but I was only 16 so I did it somewhat vaguely. Muttered a bit about wanting to date around, maybe too under my breath. He wrote me long letters and called but I didn't answer either for a couple of months. Thought this sent a clear enough signal.
He came to my college one weekend and partied with a high school friend. I happened to be in the same guy's dorm that night hanging out with some friends. I bumped into him and was startled. He was obviously inebriated. He pleaded to continue our relationship, I said I really didn't want to talk to him and it was over. Next came a string of female four letter invectives that sent me running into a room and climbing on the top bunk. He came after me. Luckily it was so loud four other guys rushed to my aid as he was screaming and cursing. They tried to reason with him, to no avail. He had to be dragged away by a cluster of men. I shakily climbed down from the bunk, called a girl friend, and we went to the grocery store. I needed to do something mundane, in bright lights, to clear my head.
I'm telling these stories not for pity, I'm long over them, but because this Fall I'm doing some clearing of attic clutter. And it feels good, but it's hard too. I'm reframing past experiences in a whole new wonderful lens. You see I blamed myself for not breaking up right. But it wasn't my fault. Adolescent kids don't always break up right - there is no couples counseling we are just feeling things out. My lack of interaction over months was a clear signal, and I didn't invite that violence from someone I loved. He was in pain, I get it, pain induces rage. But it's no excuse. I've forgiven him. He came to my wedding last month, and I was happy to catch up with his parents there too.
When I approached a male partner, my work brother, a conservative, in anger over Trump's remarks when they had just leaked out about grabbing girls in the pussy he said, "Oh that's just locker room talk. Girls are just as bad." I said a few choice words and then backed off. I cannot change this mentality. No, girls are not as bad. Girls can talk pretty salty, but they don't brag about assaulting men. They don't drug them, rape them, and then laugh and egg each other on. I'm pretty sure that a guy wouldn't be much use after a roofie, but most girls wouldn't dream of doing that. There are exceptions, I know, but it's not all pervasive.
When I broke up with my college boyfriend for the second and almost final time, it was after a winter formal. We all went to a separate location, had a formal dance, and stayed in a hotel room in the facility. He was getting too drunk and no fun so I started dancing with a platonic male friend - fast only, no slow dances. I noticed he was missing so went to try to find him in our room. When I walked in he was shaking and threw me up against the wall in a state of rage. Accused me of cheating. I was so mad I slept curled up in a ball on the floor.
His last girlfriend had cheated on him, and I was a victim of that projection off and on for two years. That was the only time he physically assaulted me, but there was plenty of verbal shit. In college between our Freshman and Sophomore years it was particularly awful when we were apart. I remember my parents pleading with me to talk to him because if he didn't know where I was he would call the house phone until 3 am over and over. The happy bespectacled Kid Rock could turn on a dime, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Now I am Facebook friends with his wife, and enjoy watching him grow older. He's going bald and has a little gut and has two beautiful children. I'm happy he's settled down.
I read a story a few years back - can't remember if it was an article or a short story or a novel, but it has stuck with me because it was so heinous. A woman told of a bad marriage. Her husband was no help when her kids were a toddler and a baby, he moved downstairs. She was doing everything with them at night and working a full time job. He became addicted to bad porn. She knew this because she had to go downstairs every morning before the nanny came to close it out on the computer and clean up the chair. She begged him for a new computer chair, one that wasn't full of his stains, but he was a tightwad. He only regarded her with anger and disdain. Then when Viagra came out, he obtained it for him and his friend, she overheard a phone conversation. At some point he decided to shift the party from downstairs to upstairs. He knew she wouldn't agree, so he decided to drug and rape her. A handful of times. He wanted to try out the new drug.
As I read I thought, what a fucked up, distorted mind. What a completely fucking idiot. Utter lack of respect. Who in their right mind would do that to their wife who they made vows too, the mother of their children? It took her 2.5 years to put it all together, he left clues. She finally developed a vague sense of something wrong, and confronted him in couple's therapy. He vaguely acknowledged, and promised to never do it again. She stood up with a level voice and told him to find another place to sleep, she was calling a divorce lawyer.
It would be another month or two before all the pieces fell into place. Minds are curious and wonderful things, they wait until you are ready to confront your demons. I didn't even know him, but I was ready to gnash his guts out with my teeth and feed the intestines to the pigs. I know rage, and I imagined the cad who might confront her from behind in a dark alley. He would probably get his eyeballs ripped out, she enjoying it gleefully, maybe even eating them maniacally.
This happens. Women blame themselves over and over for this shit. I know, because I have a lot of girlfriends, and they've been through some awful things. Things I would never repeat, because I was told in confidence, but things that would curl your hair. But women are not to blame. White male entitlement is to blame. I know, because I was smart and I worked damn hard. Twice as hard as the lazy dumbass next to me, but he was still regarded in a higher light.
I'm flying to Washington, D.C. next month, during the inauguration. I'm going to the Women's March on Washington. I've already agreed to lead the Sunday School afterwards. Me!! I can't wait to do it, and to tell them all about it. For women, life can be like Groundhog Day. Physical and sexual assault are ubiquitous. But we remain kind, good, and full of action and warmth.
"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars." - Khalil Gibran