“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all,” the woman on the other end of the phone said to my dad, who was sitting in our living room.
“Right, yeah…yeah, I’ll talk to her,” Dad replied, looking defeated and sad. I sat at the other end of the room, watching him talk. When he got off the phone, I asked him what she said. He mocked her voice.
“But did you tell her what happened?” I asked. He shook his head, implying that I should just let it go.
But I can’t just let it go—not even fourteen years later.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]As if it’s ever in a woman’s power to do something about it. As if women are ever taken seriously when men do them harm. As if women are ever given the power to show mercy instead of being silenced or told to let it go.[/pullquote]“Shut up and get the hell away from me.”
That’s what I said that day—the day his mother said I shouldn’t say anything if it’s not nice. The day I was essentially told to let it go.
The day I defended myself from a boy who wouldn’t stop grabbing me.
“I’m touching Natalie’s pee-pee!” he yelled for all to hear, while everyone either laughed or ignored it. Every time I swatted him away, his hands came back, grabbing at my crotch or my chest.
I don’t know how it started. I don’t know why it started. All I know is this boy thought it was okay to touch me inappropriately, despite my negative verbal and body language, and no one around defended me. It went on for weeks.
So I finally smacked him and yelled at him, and he walked away crying.
And later that day, my dad took a phone call.
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.
Right, yeah, I’ll talk to her.
But did you tell her what happened? Did you tell her what he was doing to me?
Let it go?
I don’t remember it happening again after I defended myself, but I do remember the anger. Every time I heard his name, I felt nauseous. Every time I saw him, I felt defeated, as though he had unfairly won some sort of battle. As though he had cheated.
And now, looking back, I feel as if it were my fault—that I let him get away with this. That I gave him mercy by choosing to let it go. As if it were in my power, as an eleven year old girl, to actually do something about it.
As if it’s ever in a woman’s power to do something about it. As if women are ever taken seriously when men do them harm. As if women are ever given the power to show mercy instead of being silenced or told to let it go.
Mercy was never mine to give. And it’s not fair.
When I stopped being physically around him on a regular basis, my anger turned to annoyance at the thought of him. Now, fourteen years later, my annoyance is a reminder of my place in society. I was molested, and it didn’t matter. He kept touching me when I told him not to, and it didn’t matter.
Brock Turner raped a girl, and it didn’t matter. Six months in jail for “twenty minutes of action,” as his dad described it. Six months. That’s it. And then he got out after three months for good behavior. Good behavior? This should outrage you.
Two guys raped a girl in Steubenville, OH—five minutes from my hometown of Weirton, WV—and it didn’t matter until Anonymous fought for justice. And now that member of Anonymous is being indicted for hacking and is facing much more severe consequences than the guys convicted of rape. (Seems a bit crooked to me, but hey, what do I know? I’m a woman.)
These stories are way too common, and they make me angry—way angrier than I felt fourteen years ago. How many other women have similar stories to mine but never shared them? How many more have much worse stories, but never saw justice?
I’m not looking for pity. I’ve forgiven, but not forgotten, my abuser. And I in no way blame my father for not pursuing the matter further. Instead, I’m looking for accountability. I’m looking for a way for women to be able to show mercy, if they choose to, before the option is taken from them. I’m looking for justice and equality.
And most of all, I’m looking forward to the day Jesus comes back and makes all things new and perfect. I’m looking forward to His healing of our bodies. I’m praying for His Kingdom to come, and to be His hands and feet. There is no perfect man but Him. Help us to remember that, yet seek justice all the same.
Natalie currently lives in the greater DC area with her husband, Andrew, where she works as a Technical Writer/Editor for a global IT company.