Jan 9, 2018
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
About 20 years ago I was riding the subway when an older man sat directly beside me on a not so crowded car. That sage inner voice immediately said “get up and move” but the other voices in my head – the ones that I have heard all my life literally and subliminally telling me I’m over dramatic and weak – told me I would offend him or create a scene, so I stayed seated.
As the subway rolled along more and more people came aboard and we were eventually all squashed together, as people in rush hour are. I somehow got lost in my thoughts, let down my guard or forgot about the older man sitting beside me. Gradually, through my morning fog, I thought I felt him touching me. It took me a few moments to register what was happening. He was sitting with his arms crossed. I was compressed into my seat with my arms folded in my lap and pushed slightly forward. Yes! He was definitely fondling my left breast. Embarrassed, I looked around to see if anyone was looking at me and no one was.
I dared not look at him. I was terrified.
It took me a few moments to register what was happening.
Just as I was putting this all together in my head, the doors were about to close at a station stop. I bolted off that train as if I was being swarmed by killer bees. He did not follow me off the train but as I turned to look I could see him smiling at me. I had an incredible adrenaline rush – the kind that makes you feel like you’re going to pass out and be sick all at the same time. I had to sit down to prevent myself from falling down.
It took me quite a while to collect myself on that subway platform but even in those first moments, I began to blame and punish myself. Why didn’t I move? What if he had been touching me that whole time and thought I liked it? Did my subconscious mind like it? Why didn’t I get up and scream at him? Why didn’t I press the emergency button to stop the train and get him caught? But his smile as the train pulled out of the station – that was going to stay with me forever.
I eventually pulled myself together and went on to work and then home in the evening. I know I could have told people about it, even in a “you won’t believe what this creep did on the subway this morning” way. The funny thing is I can’t recall telling anyone about it or their reaction, not even my husband at the time. I’m sure that if I had received love and support from these people, I would remember it.
I stuffed that memory down into the dark place
Ultimately, I stuffed that memory down into the dark place with all of my other issues and memories too painful or difficult to deal with and there it stayed… until an audio tape of the candidate for President speaking to a reporter on a bus was leaked to the media.
It wasn’t the actual tape that brought my long-suppressed memory flooding back; it was the brutal way in which he attacked and demeaned his accusers and women in general. I was instantaneously transported back to that subway platform as if no time had passed, feeling the same shock of the initial assault on me, the shame of somehow knowing it was my fault, the guilt of doing nothing to stop it, to stop him. Seeing that man’s smile in my mind’s eye with crystal focus.
This time, as I relived the subway assault, a whole new set of feelings and emotions surfaced and there are complicating factors. I have been battling a severe eating disorder and major depression for years now. Life is not so simple. I question everything that happened back then.
Why would someone do this to me? I am not good looking enough. My body is terrible. I’m not good enough to be assaulted. In short, I took the soon to be President’s disgusting message straight to my heart.
I have spent the last year trying to put those feelings back into that dark hiding place. It hasn’t been easy because, well he got elected despite that tape and his daily misogynistic, racist rants have me glued to the news and apoplectic pretty much always. And then along came a film executive to rip off the little Band-Aid that I had been able to tenuously affix to my wounds.
Keeping such secrets locked away is poison for my soul.
People, men and women alike, in positions of power (all kinds of power) abuse it. It doesn’t take money and fame to have power and just because you’re not on the 6 o’clock news doesn’t mean you haven’t altered the course of someone’s life. I’ve experienced non-sexual exploitation by a person in a position of power and it changed the course of my life.
I am sharing my story because keeping such secrets locked away is poison for my soul. Cracking open the window and letting the light in to reach those places where my secrets are kept is like taking a tiny bit of antidote. When the light finally reaches all the corners perhaps life will be a little easier. I typed #metoo into my Facebook status a couple of weeks ago and felt a tiny little ray of light hit my face.