Gratuitous and intentional insult

I am not a political animal. But there are some things that happen on the political stage that just cannot be ignored. Donald Trump’s self-described “locker room” talk is one of those things.

I am a Canadian. And U.S. politics have, typically, engaged me even less than the politics of my home and native land.

But I am a woman. And I have two daughters. And if writing about my experiences can in some way contribute to a wider conversation about the need for human beings to treat one another with courtesy and respect – regardless of gender – and for our political leaders to be people of integrity who model that kind of respect, then they will be words well written.

I was 16 the first time a man “moved on” me (to use the words of the U.S. presidential candidate). The man was in his 40s, and in a position of authority. He had offered to give me a ride home and while en route, he reached over and took my hand. I didn’t like it. But I didn’t pull away. I was confused; why would he want to hold my hand? He was married. I didn’t understand. But I didn’t pull my hand away. I remember being afraid I might offend him.

At the end of the ride he leaned over and kissed me. On the mouth. I remember getting out of that car as fast as I could, and wiping my hand across my mouth as I walked away. I remember feeling like I’d been covered in slime. But I told no one. I doubted myself, wondering if I was just misinterpreting his actions. I blamed myself for not pulling my hand away. But I tried to avoid being alone with him after that.

I was 18 the next time it happened. Just walking down the street in Toronto. A busy street. A teenaged boy walking with his friends approached from the opposite direction. I remember he was obviously younger than me. Maybe 14, 15. But as he passed he reached out and grabbed my crotch. I remember hearing his laughter. We were just two people, passing each other on the street. It was all over in a heartbeat. But I felt humiliated. Embarrassed. Horrified. What made him think he had the right?

The next time I was 23. A colleague at work – another married man (also well up into his 40s), made a pass at me. Shocked and revolted, I lashed out. I pushed him off of me. But I remember feeling betrayed. I had liked the man, trusted him. I avoided him after that. I doubted my own judgement. I wondered if I was too trusting.

Three separate incidents, each of which I’ve told myself over the years, was not a big deal.

And yet each one of those incidents is stamped on my mind, because each one left me feeling just a little bit violated. Those men (and that boy) deliberately “moved on” me, taking something from me – even if it was only a little bit of innocence – that they had no right to take. Apparently, your mind doesn’t let you forget things like that.

It causes me to believe every single one of the women who are coming forward now, saying that Donald Trump once made a “move on” them.

If he did what he is alleged to have done to each of these women, he may have long since forgotten about it. But they haven’t.

*

“The human body is sacred. Most of us understand, even if we don’t think about it, or have a vocabulary to talk about it these days, that the human body is not just a piece of meat or a bunch of neurons and cells. The human body has a different moral status than a cow’s body or a piece of broccoli. … Because we have this instinctive sense, we feel elevated when we see behavior that fuses the physical and spiritual. … We feel repulsed — a little or a lot — when the body’s spiritual nature is gratuitously and intentionally insulted.” – David Brooks

 

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Gratuitous and intentional insult

  1. My mutually respectful and loving relationship with my father never prepared me for it. I too, have had similar experiences, both with strangers and with trusted men in positions of authority. The emotional wounds do not go away. Remission, particularly after a long marriage with a man who is loving, compassionate, passionate and respectful, yes, but never complete healing. The scars are there. How dare they!

  2. Your circumstances strikes home for many people. “You’ve got to walk in my shoes before you understand”. This saying is so misunderstood.
    When these things happen to those you love, it stays with you the rest of your life. Having to deal with it in my own family was the hardest thing to do, relationships were destroyed.
    Forgiveness is not immediate, and should never be demanded. Healing wounds like these is a slow process.
    Thank you Patricia.

    • Too many people have been wounded by such things. The wounds may heal but the scars never go away. Every one of us – whether predator or prey – is a person created in the image of God. Oh, that we could all learn to live out the implications of that truth.

  3. Thank you for sharing, Patricia P. and Patricia E.
    Sobering.

    It’s bad enough that these things happen “in the enlightened West” and “in the secular world” but the fact that they happen within Christian organizations and churches and by supposedly Christian male leaders is even more disturbing.

    And, we must keep in mind our sisters around the world who suffer unto death, including Yazidi girls in the Middle East being targeted by ISIS, rape used as a tool of genocide in Bosnia on the European continent, countless sisters across Africa, countless sisters in India/Pakistan, sex trafficking in Cambodia, the hell goes on and on. The evil humankind is capable of is endless.

    • So very true, Wendy. When one human being looks upon another as little more than “a thing” that can be seized and used for their own personal gratification, then there is no limit to the potential for evil – or for the suffering of those who are dehumanized.

  4. Thank you, Patricia. You always have such thoughtful words to share. The men who assaulted you, the Donald Trumps — they make me feel guilty as a white male to whom the world gives every privilege, no matter how undeserved. As the father of a daughter who will be a teenager in a couple of years, it pains me to have to street-proof her about all this. She deserves to enjoy life, not walk through it in fear. So do all God’s children in the world. We humans can do such wonderful things and such vile things as well.

    • Thank you, David, for your kind words. But be assured: you have already given your daughter a head start on street-proofing! Having a father who cherishes her has no doubt given her a level of self-esteem and self-respect that will stand her in good stead throughout her life – but particularly when she is confronted by men who would treat her in a way less than she deserves. She will know the difference, because you have modelled that for her. Yes – by all means – teach her to beware. But rest in the knowledge that the strength you have already built into her is a gift that can never be completely stolen from her – by anyone.

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