#MeToo

photo by Mihai Surdu
I want to start off by recalling back on some of my history. I have danced my entire life since I was three, and I lived most of those years dealing with several chronic back issues. The biggest thing I have always had to deal with is my scoliosis. I was always determined however, to beat this “thing” that was constantly telling me in one form or another that I couldn’t do what I loved the most. Dance. How I got by is that I went to the chiropractor; a lot. I started going when I was 10, and then just never really stopped. There were times and seasons in my life that I didn’t go as often, but overall I have been going off and on for over 20 years. After I had my son Caleb, who is now 6, my body was all over the place. Unfortunately due to having two children close together, and not really taking care of my physical self, I herniated a disk in my lower back. So it was back to the chiropractor I went! At that point it had been years since I had been, but it of course felt like I never left.
The two doctors that I had since I was 10 were still there, and as strange as it may sound I was happy to see them! These were men who supported me in my life of dance and really helped me through a lot. Two of them specifically have witnessed many of my tears over the years and gave me hope in the midst of it all. They played a pretty big role in me being able to do what I loved in a healthy safe way. I also found out more recently since going back as an adult, that even though my health insurance still required me to pay a co-payment, they weren’t charging me a single thing! Which honestly is the biggest blessing they could have given me, because when I herniated a disk I would have gone massively into debt in the process of it all. I felt comfortable with this place. They knew me and all my health problems, and I trusted them.  

I’m going pause on the story here and just say that I know what you’re probably thinking from the title; that this is a blog about how I was raped. So before I go further I want to be clear that I was never raped.

However, I think we can all agree that the #MeToo movement has brought up many other conversations; ones that are important and can shape the lives of tomorrow for future generations.

So what I AM going to share, is how I experienced a situation that I think happens far too often and can be the breading ground for rape. Sexual assault. I want to be clear that I am very sensitive to the fact that many people’s stories like mine can end in actual rape, or it happened entirely different to begin with. I am in no way implying that a victim is to blame regardless of how long it went on. My heart breaks for the women and men out there that have had to go through sexual abuse of any kind. I hear you, I see you, I believe you. We all have a story. That’s what the #MeToo movement is all about. 

So, here’s mine.

During my time of battling my herniated disk, I was honestly going to the chiropractor three days a week. Sometimes when I went, it was so busy that they just started putting me with other doctors that they had there. I was okay with this, since everything they do with me is pretty standard and everything about me is already in their system. In the years that I hadn’t been going, they added two more doctors; both men. One day I went into the room (small room with a closed door), and I met one of these newer doctors. We chatted for a bit before he did the adjustments and other forms of therapy, and I explained to him some of the pain I was experiencing due to the “after math” so to speak, from my herniated disk. I was definitely in recovery at this point, so I pretty much just had a lot of aches and pains all over, as well as sciatica creeping up in the weeks ahead. I was vulnerable, weak, and honestly still in a lot of pain.While we were talking he went through some of my stretches (routine normal things) before the adjustment. Then he says “well here, let me do this…” He then proceeded to do something that was not part of my normal therapy routine. It was inappropriate and unwanted. He also didn’t ASK me if he could do anything, and it was actually painful. Then when he was done he said, “when you come back ask for me, and I can do that more.” Was this a joke??? And what just happened? I was honestly confused, because part of me wanted to think he honestly was just trying to help me. After all, the other two doctors there were practically like fathers to me. Why would a doctor do something like that if it was out of line? Am I over-reacting? Am I reading into this? Should I say nothing? What if he meant well and I blast his name and he gets fired? The more I think back though, the more I realize: Does any of that matter? He didn’t ask and it made me uncomfortable. He should be held accountable for at least that. Enough said.

In the weeks proceeding, I did start to realized it definitely was not okay and that there was likely a hidden motive. I’m not a doctor, but I have been going to the chiropractor since I was 10 years old and no one there has ever done anything like that. I also know my own body well enough to know what should be done to help it. That was not it. That my friends, I believe was the breeding ground for manipulation, abuse, and a man in authority using his knowledge and power to convince me to allow him to do certain things. I had every intention of telling the chiropractor office that I was not comfortable with things he did, but when I called them and asked about him they said he didn’t work there anymore. Thank goodness.

The reason I share that story is because I have learned several things from that situation that have allowed me to understand abuse victims a little better. I am absolutely NOT going to sit here and act like I understand the horror that some women and men have to go through from abuse that goes on for years. What I learned though is that if me a grown woman, a strong willed confident outspoken woman, experienced a speck of what other people deal with and even I left feeling confused and unable to speak up in the moment; how more true is that for younger more vulnerable women and men who are sexually harassed, assaulted, or raped.

I look back at that day and sometimes wonder, why didn’t I say “Hey! What are you doing? Stop!” Or “Excuse me, I didn’t ask you to do that.” I am victim blaming myself essentially (not okay), but I can understand even if on a small scale what it’s like to be caught in the middle of something that isn’t okay and how even the strongest of voices can be silenced. These men are smart. They know how to control and manipulate, and frankly I’m sick of it. 

Back when the case of Larry Nassar came out, the one about the man who was molesting and abusing the girls from that gymnastics team, I did what I typically do and I researched and googled the heck out of it. As I was reading articles and watching videos of testimonies from these girls, I saw a lot of similarities with them from my story of the chiropractor. My situation did not escalate to that level, but the ways their stories of abuse STARTED were all too similar to what happened to me. When I realized that I got angry. I was angry that a man thought he could potentially get away with something like that with me, and I was angry that this man Larry WAS successful in getting away with it with many young women for years. It was at that point when I realized that the fear/manipulation that is used in these situations is so calculated and intense that it must be so hard to escape for some of these victims. This is why women don’t come forward until years after it occurs. This is not to say that women shouldn’t be encouraged to report their abuse, only that the reasons they don’t are complex and at times impossible to escape. Even in my situation I thought to myself afterwards how insane it would sound that here I am a grown woman who laid there and took it and didn’t speak up. I was playing out in my head him even saying “but she allowed me to do it and never mentioned any sort of pain or discomfort”, which is true. That would leave me looking dishonest or as someone who is over-reacting. I imagined someone else saying “if it was THAT inappropriate, you would have told him to stop while he was doing it.” But would I? No. Because I didn’t; out of fear and manipulation. 

As a society we want to believe that people are always going to speak up for themselves in these moments; like as if they don’t then they must not be a reliable source when they finally do. Since when are we not allowed to be advocates and “whitenesses” on our own behalf? And does our credibility expire over the years? No. It doesn’t. Also—The chiropractor telling me (not asking me) that I should come back so he can “do that more” was also another indicator that he was trying to manipulate me. I can’t imagine what he may have attempted if I had kept seeing him, as I believe that my one time experience with him was likely the start of him seeing how many boundaries he could break. He was confident towards me and assertively explained why it was helpful, which made me believe in that moment that his intentions were pure. When you trust someone, for really any reason, it is hard to imagine especially in the moment that even an “innocent” act could be part of a greater scheme. It’s hard to imagine that a doctor would abuse his power and rape a patient… that a parent would molest a child… that a teacher would assault a student… that a women would be manipulated into a trafficking situation… the list goes on. But is it? Is it so hard to believe that men and women both can be so vile, evil, and sick to the point of doing these things? It’s not that hard to believe; we just don’t want to believe it. There’s a difference.

I think the #MeToo movement is incredibly powerful and is shaping our culture today in ways that we can start having more honest dialogues about topics that have been buried and silenced for years. However, sadly I know first hand that as a society we are in many ways still failing miserably in regards to sexual abuse and believing people’s stories. As a nation, we have victim blaming down to a T and we are constantly making excuses for people and situations. It is easier to believe that the accused abuser is innocent, and that the said victim is just a liar; than it is to believe that there are monsters out there that do these things and get away with them.

I just finished watching that new documentary on Netflix – Surviving R. Kelly. It’s horrendous, and I am absolutely disgusted at the reality of this situation. How is this the world I am raising my children in? No one should ever have to say “me too”. 

Pray.

Get on your knees and pray. Pray for the hurting abused victims that are just trying to escape their pain. Also—Talk to your kids about all of this when they reach the appropriate age, and make sure you create the space for open honest communication so they feel comfortable talking to you. We have to advocate for the children of today, because the boys and girls that we are raising right now are the men and women of tomorrow. I pray, that my own two NEVER have to say “me too”.

I will fight for them. 

Lastly I want to say, OPEN YOUR EYES. Don’t be blinded to what you just don’t want to see. I imagine that we are all like the people from that newly released Netflix movie Bird Box, trying to get around but blindfolded to the world around us. Closing your eyes to all of this, does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Staying silent or walking around “blindfolded” ignoring this issue, means that you are part of the problem. I know it’s painful and even scary to look, but we must. Look at it, talk about it, and believe that it’s happening. Otherwise we are silencing the voices that can help save future generations.

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