"I don't feel safe."
Those were the words that I told my husband last night on the living room floor, in tears.
The past few weeks, months really, have been difficult.
I continue to receive sexually charged messages, videos, and photos from men who are strangers to me. On YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. And usually, we have a mutual friend. They are part of a community, have a good job, have a family, and children. I block one, and two more pop up, like a hydra.
It is maddening to deal with, quite frequently these days, but it isn’t solely what caused my breakdown last night.
When I was younger, I grew up in a community in which men held the power, but it was okay, because they were supposed to protect us. And I believed that.
Until a friend was raped and held by the point of a sharp kitchen utensil by her brother, and the community blamed her. In the blink of an eye, she went from being an object (yes, object) to be cherished and most importantly protected, to a whoring woman who tempted her helpless, pitiable older brother. She wasn’t the last.
As the years rolled by, more assaults happened in the spiritually abusive community, but also in the small town we lived in. The local school had a certain man within it who thought it was his god given right to take whatever young girl he saw and have her. It wasn’t until one got deathly sick and was sent to the hospital multiple times from reproductive and urinary tract infections that the truth came out. He got a slap on the wrist. Because you know how teenage girls are, jailbait.
But, I thought it was just the little abusive corner of the community that I had been raised in that this kind of thing happened, and maybe small towns too. And more recently, creeps online.
And for years now, I have operated under being okay. My husband is safe, he is honorable, he would never allow anyone to hurt me and if someone managed to, well, pity the fool. Over time, I forgot my fear of men that developed during that time, and the hatred of myself for being a stumbling block to them, no matter what I wore.
Then the sexual abuse scandals started rolling out. At first, I didn’t pay much attention, probably for self-preservation and the fact that I wasn’t familiar with many of the accused.
But Matt Lauer? He was on the TV every morning when I woke up as a child. He wasn’t a political abstraction to me. And from what I’ve read, many people knew what he was doing, and chose to do nothing. The exact same thing that had happened in the tiny community I grew up in, and the school down the road.
Allegation, after allegation, after allegation. There is no discrimination, it is pervasive across secular and religious culture.
Just last night, I was reading a book and it had recent statistics on the number of pastors who watch pornography. I’m not speaking towards any moral argument here, just my own deep-seated, vulnerable thoughts. It was terrifying to me. The very men in charge of our spiritual wellbeing are using our kind, women, as objects for sexual gratification, then getting back up in the pulpit as if there is nothing at all wrong.
I mention this because I don’t think the problem begins with a few random assholes sexually assaulting women. The men who sexually assault women are obviously sick, but they walk among us. There is no sign tattooed on their forehead to warn of the monstrous crimes they commit. Their assaults often come out of benign situations. These men are often thought of as trustworthy.
They are, for lack of a better way to phrase it, human. And I think that the stepping stone, at least one, that got them to the point of sexual assault, is seeing women as a means to an end. Not human, not sister, not someone’s daughter or wife… a commodity.
Nothing more than a living, breathing sex doll. One that might even go “make me a sammich” after it is all said and done, because you know, that’s all women are really good or valued for, being used for sex and making food.
That’s only part of it. The community that stays silent, made up of men and women, are guilty as well. They terrify me too. They see, they know, and they stay silent. And the ones that don’t stay silent are punished BY THESE PEOPLE.
Even if they don’t punish, they downplay the impact that sexual harassment and assault have. Without mincing words here, I am disgusted by something I recently saw on Twitter.
It was a conservative woman claiming anyone worried about Trump’s words about grabbing women by their genitals was overly sensitive. I think if anything, the fact that the President can say such a thing and still get elected and adored without denouncing and repenting of what was said shows the sickening state of our current society.
The most difficult thing for me is that, contrary to what I believed upon escaping legalism, sexual assault is allowed in every part of society. It isn’t just cults and isolated communities. It is our churches, our schools, our small towns, our big cities, our workplaces, our streets, our media, our politics, and yes, our homes.
Apart from our trip to California, sort of an eye of the hurricane for me, I haven’t felt safe. I’ve been increasingly on edge as the stories come out and the hashtags fly across my social media accounts.
Going to the grocery store is difficult, walking to my car (especially with a toddler in tow) is anxiety-inducing, and going to church is the worst of all. Because I know, statistically speaking, there are men there that I should otherwise trust who view me not as a sister in Christ or child of God, but as my husband’s property or a body to be used and mentally recorded for a “spank bank.”
I’ve seen the depths of depravity of sexual assault and the people who cover it up, who would rather the victim kill themselves than talk about it. I’ve lived in terror of the question, “What if I am next? Will anyone believe me? Even if I am not, how can I trust men who talk about honor and respect of women and then turn around and use pixels of us when they are bored and lonely?”
I don’t want to be back in this place. I never wanted to come back here. All I wanted, then and now, is to be respected and loved, not used and abused. But I cannot assume that of anyone except my husband.
I don’t feel safe. And I’m scared.