I haven’t participated publicly in the #MeToo campaign, but with all the stories coming forth about women (and men) being put into sexual situations–over decades–that ranged from uncomfortable to violently abusive by men they trusted or admired or were dependent on, my own uncomfortable experiences as a young girl bubbled up.
When I’ve shared with women friends’ details about an uncle’s inappropriate behaviors toward me—sexual in nature but not sex—I’ve been surprised at how many of these friends have had stories similar to—and often much more distressing than—my own.
It was in sharing my experience I realized I wasn’t alone; as more and more female friends shared their own stories, I realized how pervasive sexual misconduct and abuse is and has been. I was initially shocked by the frequency of it. Given the news these past few months, apparently, I shouldn’t have been.
The 10-year-old “me,” confused by those days, is still a character in the play of my life. She informed parts of who I became as an adult. During periods of my life, she was on stage, her anger and confusion and wounds setting the tone of the scene and impacting how I saw myself and how I interacted with others.
I tried to be gentle toward her; I worked to try and heal her. Only recently have I come to realize I had ambivalent feelings towards her. Yes, she was only 10; yet a part of me blamed her for things that happened to her. In some ways I disapproved of her. I was ashamed by her shame. I simultaneously wanted to comfort her and make her feel better, while also wanting to banish her.
I’m starting to experience a shift in my attitude toward her.
I’m often able to now accept her; to see her as a character who sometimes still comes on stage. And be ok if she does. She’s a part of me, like all the “characters” of my being are a part of me. But she does not get to be “the” character who gets to “singularly” define me. In fact, no one character gets to do that. Or can do that. I am all of them; and none of them.
She’s neither good nor bad; approved of nor disapproved of. She simply “is,” a character with her story.