I know I am a work in progress, I do. I see that I’ve come a long way, I do. But I still get frustrated with myself when familiar scenarios replay.
I was standing next to him. He was seated at the table. The meeting was about to begin, and I was talking to someone nearby when I felt his hand grasp my right calf and give it a little squeeze. I froze. What the fuck just happened? I finished my conversation quickly, moved away and found a seat.
In 1987, I watched the movie “Nuts,” starring Barbara Streisand. In it, there is a brief dialog that comes to my mind frequently. A patient says to her therapist, “the thing is…I know there are normal people out there…I’m just not sure what they do.”
What do normal people do when someone you are acquainted with fondles your calf just before a business meeting? Does this happen to normal people? What the fuck just happened?
I kept this story to myself for several days. I began to question what I did to invite this. And, I hated myself for asking that question. Me. Survivor. Advocate. I tell people “it’s not your fault and you are not alone.” I wasn’t listening to my own message.
Finally, I shared what happened with my tribe…a friend who also attends these meetings, my husband, Jackie, and then another friend, and another. To a person, they understood me, believed me, and supported me. They encouraged me to take back my power and confront him. And it was through them, that I remembered how important it is to speak my truth. The few days I spent silently pondering what had happened, inside my own head, were the worst days in recent memory. When I shared what had happened, they reminded me of who I am, and they reminded me that I did not ask for or invite this awful act.
My tribe also reminded me that it was okay that I did not react in the moment, and that there was no statute of limitations on confronting him. With their encouragement, I wrote him the following letter:
A few weeks ago at the meeting, you reached out, took hold of my calf, and gave it a squeeze. Although I did not react at first, I want you to know three things, so I am writing you this letter.
1) I did not enjoy it
2) It was completely inappropriate for you to touch me this way, and
3) As a result, do not touch me again for any reason
We are all work in progress. It’s never too late to start speaking about what happened/happens to us. No incident is too small or insignificant. If it made you uncomfortable, it matters. If you know there are normal people out there, but you’re not sure what they do, your tribe will help you remember who you are.