Nothing was that bad.
I’ve heard it, and believed it, my whole life.
And save one or two incidences, no maybe things weren’t that bad. For someone else. But for me they created a world of cumulative experiences where I knew I could only be loved if I gave someone what they wanted.
Otherwise I was a bitch.
I’ve never had the self-esteem to walk away from that. I had to fix it. I had to make sure you didn’t think something negative about me. I had to be liked and loved. And that’s how I learned what people wanted from people like me.
It wasn’t the rape that destroyed me.
It wasn’t the sexual assault by a state trooper that annihilated me.
It wasn’t the inappropriate baby sitter.
It wasn’t the hospitalizations beginning at 14 years old.
It wasn’t the boys who wouldn’t be my friend if I didn’t do what they wanted.
It wasn’t the girls who had those exact same expectations, though I thought I’d be safe.
It wasn’t the Sexual Harassment on an almost daily basis from the time I started working.
It wasn’t the countless nights I didn’t know what happened but could surmise.
It wasn’t even the fact that all these people could do these things and walk away with zero consequences, when the price that got paid came out of my pocket: My self-worth.
Now, add them up.
Add each instance, from each column up.
What you are left with is a person terrified to be back in the outside world. Skin crawling, self-loathing, can’t breathe mess of a woman.
Petrified of things that should not scare me. But they do. They do because it all adds up.
A row of bushes lining the sidewalk? I can’t walk past them alone. I will walk in the street before I walk past a towering hedge at night.
If I am alone my back is to the wall, I will not allow you to touch me when I can’t even see you coming.
I can’t walk down a sidewalk and have someone else be coming up it. I need to step aside and wait, I can’t take the stress of wondering if you are going to try to kill me.
I speed up when I pass construction workers, cops, men, groups.
I go into full defensive shut down at the doctor’s office. Don’t touch me, don’t ask questions, move away from the terrified lady on the table.
No, maybe none of it was all that bad.
But for me, I think it just all added up.