Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

I Believe

"An idea
(I will find a way)
Like a hurt
Like an outrage
(To keep this moment for myself)
Like a sunrise
Like a monster
(I will find a way)
Like a monster
Like a mantra
Like a mantra..."

Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, Mantra 

Then from across the bar he pointed at me and mouthed the words: You're dead.

That's when everything slowed way down, just like in a dramatic movie moment. Except it wasn't. It was real. Actually, surreal, and the alcohol we'd consumed blunted all color and sound. We started toward each other, my friends immediately surrounding me like a protective wedge. They moved me along but I still got within inches of him.

We threatened to kill each other, and I reached for him, only to be stopped by one of my friends. Seconds later we were out the door.

I looked back while they moved me onward toward our cars, telling me to chill out and it'll be all right, but I didn't see him. And I never saw him again -- this horrible and mentally unstable man who had been our first step-father when I was 9 to 12 years old, the man who abused my mother and tried to kill her, who emotionally abused my sister and I, and who sexually abused me. My mother was also pretty sure that he killed his previous wife as well. All this happening during the same time the Visalia Ransacker (Golden State Killer) had stalked my hometown and had broken into our garage. And all this after growing up with alcoholism and domestic violence with our birth father.

When I had finally told my family about what had happened to me, nearly a decade had passed. Although it was too late to file any charges, my mother reported him to child protective services, just in case he had another family in his crazy stranglehold again. Shortly after I told them, we were out as a family for my 21st birthday at a restaurant, and sitting at the bar all alone was him. My mother didn't hesitate and charged the bar. My sister followed. I sat frozen in my seat with my dad (second step dad and the man I'll always call my father).

We watched as my sister and mother confronted him. My mother screamed at him and my sister threw a drink in his face. My dad and I didn't move. The restaurant asked us all to leave, which we did, and then my sister and I went out with our friends to the bar where the above confrontation happened.

I wanted to kill him for everything he did to us. I'll never know if I could've done it, because I never saw him again. At some point years and years later, he passed away. But I finally told my truth, even though it took 10 years, and I was believed.

However, even if I would've said something when I was 10 or 11 years old, he was charismatic and controlling and probably would've covered it all up readily. Maybe my mother and sister would've believe me, considering what they were going through, but I just don't know about law enforcement or anyone else. With our birth father, there was physical evidence of domestic violence, but with this man, there was none. He was careful and made it seem like it was normal behavior, and anything abnormal no one would believe, especially when it came to me and my sister. Even when he was threatening to kill my mother, and once when he poisoned her making her extremely ill, there was never any physical evidence.

All of these memories were triggered during the Transforming Together conference I helped organize locally. It was a day full of speakers and sessions around domestic violence and sexual assault awareness and prevention. It was an amazing and inspiring day, even in the shadow of the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation.

As I've written before, according to RAINN and the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 60 percent of sexual assault perpetrators are white (probably higher) and mostly male. There continue to be too many angry white men and boys in American society, encouraged to repress their feelings and humanity, something I grew up fighting against and continue to, while patriarchy continues to fuel it. If you haven't seen The Mask You Live In, I highly recommend it. The documentary follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. Judy Chu Ed.D., Affiliated Faculty in Human Biology at Stanford University and author of When Boys Become Boys (NYU Press, 2014), was featured in the documentary and was also one of our keynotes at our local conference.

And yet, even with the community strength we received during our conference on making a difference, something broke me later on that evening -- seeing people I know, some of them women, posting internet memes like "Believe Women Evidence" and sharing related sentiments in other posts. Politicizing and victimizing the victims of sexual assaults and casting doubt on survivors' truths. It's hard enough for victims to report these crimes due to fear and shame and a myriad of other ostracizing fallout, including not being believed. This is bigger than the divisive political polarization that keeps consuming us. There's just so much more at stake for our children's well being and what happens to them and by them as adults.

I didn't have any evidence when it happened to me, but my mantra is clear and definitive: I believe survivors; I am a survivor.

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