When boys will be boys, then girls will be garbage.
I don’t remember much from the assault itself, but I do remember the shame. The knot which began in the pit of my stomach, tightening a noose of shame around me until I could hardly breathe. It happened, as nearly all sexual assaults do, in a mentality of “boys will be boys” and a culture which teaches women from a young age that their bodies are the national pastime. They must be small, but not too small. Their voice needs to be quiet, but not too shy. That to be valued is to be thin, is to be quiet, is to smile. Is to not make too many waves. To be all things to all men – be sexy, be hot, but don’t be a slut. They’ll think you’re a slut anyway, depending on what turns them on.
I remember the first time I realized a man’s body could be a weapon, and a woman’s body the scene of a crime.
I remember the tears I cried when I woke up the next day, saw the blood, and realized my body had been the scene of a crime. The crime of being 18 and trusting a boy when he offered me a drink. You see, I didn’t know that while he and his friends were drinking beer, the girls like me were drinking “jungle juice” – grain alcohol mixed with Kool-Aid. I had never been drunk before you see, so I didn’t suspect anything when I felt so terrible after one drink. Just one drink.
I thought he was being a gentleman when he offered to walk me back to my dorm after my new “friends” left me alone at the party. I hadn’t yet learned to be immediately suspicious of men because I didn’t know their bodies could be a weapon used against me.
It wasn’t until a few months later that I even realized you could call what happened to me an assault. A “bad hookup” I’d told the one friend I knew I could trust – the one new friendship already real enough to tell the truth.
When I sat through the campus date rape round table presentation two months too late to help me – I had the first of many of what is now called “triggering episodes”. A lot of people think to be triggered is to be “uncomfortable”. The people who think that have never been triggered. When I was triggered that night by their skit about date rape and how not to use your body like a weapon, and how not to “let” yourself be the scene of the crime – I went back to my dorm and took a shower so hot it burned my skin.
Then, I spent the next 3 days with a tight knot of fear, anxiety, and pain coiled inside me. I had flashbacks to the scattered bits and pieces I recalled from my assault as I climbed back into the bed where I was the scene of the crime.
Over the 17 years since that night, I’ve healed in many ways, and those triggering moments are fewer and fewer (though I always, always scan a book or movie and if there’s any suggestion that a rape will take place, I usually skip it – after learning the hard way one too many times).
All of this is to say that I have been triggered over and over during the last two years, by none other than the President of the United States, and now the behaviors of a man who is asking for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in our nation. Reading the President’s words about women, about the particular things he has done to women – causes that knot of shame, pain, and fear to rise, unbidden.
Last week, watching Dr. Ford testify before the Senate, I was transported back to when I finally worked up the courage to tell the campus nurse about my assault. It was several months later that I made my way to the campus health center, where I was encouraged not to report what happened, because of how difficult it would be. How I would be treated at this “pro-life” Catholic college. The nurse tried to be compassionate. She wanted to save me the humiliation of what Dr. Ford experienced last week. The face of Dr. Ford, her memories of their laughter. It hit me anew, this wave of remembering. What I remember – what’s indelible in my memory – his weight on me, holding me down. Some things you never forget.
When boys will be boys, girls will be garbage.
I want to address these next words to any woman carrying the burden of inhabiting a sacred body that was desecrated and made the scene of a crime. These next lines are for you, for your precious, sacred body and your strong, survivors spirit.
When I was dating my husband and I told him about my assault, shortly before we got engaged, this is how he reacted:
He did not ask me what I was wearing or what I had to drink.
He did not ask me if I fought back or grill me for details.
He believed me. He held me and cried with me. He apologized that someone who looked like him used his body as a weapon against me. He told me he would sit with me and listen to any part or no part of what I had experienced.
In this, he was Jesus to me. In this, he allowed God to remake my image of what a man is. In him I saw what solidarity looks like and learned that when boys will be men, girls will be gold. His example showed me what the face of non-toxic masculinity looks like.
If you honor any man with your story and his response does not bind up your wounds, does not offer the hand of solidarity and healing, that man is not speaking for God, no matter what color his collar is or which letters appear after his name. Make no mistake about that.
When women hurt, God hurts. When a man turns his body into a weapon with which to make a woman’s body the scene of a crime, that man desecrates the body of God. When a woman’s body is the scene of a crime, Jesus is crucified again.
When some man, claiming to speak for God, re-victimizes you with his disdain for your story and dismissal of your truth, he is not speaking for God. In those moments, God is with you, dear heart. Seek God in the arms of Spirit, and the Spirit of all love will cradle you close.
In the aftermath of these words, this casual violence and degradation, I weep for my daughters. My beautiful, strong, powerful, brilliant daughters. They don’t know yet, but will soon enough learn, that their sacred bodies are nothing more than territory to be claimed and prey to be stalked by stunted boys who have never learned to be men. Their innocence takes my breath away and I long to gather them up into my arms and yell into the faces of those who think their sacred bodies are nothing more than playthings or future scenes of a crime – “NO. No, you cannot have them.”
I see a men like these, who want to hold power like a weapon, and I shudder. I see a man like my husband and I marvel at a world that could have managed to produce them both – and I feel sadness mingled with hope. The Spirit of God is stirring in the Church and in the world, and I hasten Her holy arrival.
Right now we live in a world where boys will be boys, so girls will be garbage. Lovely words decry this mindset, but look below the surface and it is alive and well. We live in a world where broken men use their bodies as a weapon and women are the scene of a crime. But I know that this is not the will of the God who loves us, and I know that when boys will be men, girls will be gold.