**Trigger warning: Assault is discussed in this post
I used to say about myself, "I am not a person who gets angry".
I used to be able to count on one hand the times in my life in which I had felt really really mad.
I used to say, "I'm just not an angry person".
I mean, an angry woman is NOT an attractive woman. Women should go with the flow, learn to take a joke, be cool. We are socialized to believe that if we express anger we are undesirable. Some of us are socialized to believe that if we express anger we will be harmed. After growing up in a house where annoyance could turn quickly to violence, I learned as an adult to be the person who could calm down a fight while somehow holding on to that part of me that needed to stand up for what I felt was right. I channeled that into being an advocate for those who needed it most, working in non-profit the beginning of my career and partnering with them since.
Over the past couple of years a number of things have made me feel something that could only be defined as anger, and that I have yet to successfully transfer to anything else.
My mother's sickness and death was likely an early starting point, but at that point I channeled everything into hurt - as I always had. Angry at your Mom for not handling things better? Nope - that's sadness that she's gone. Angry with the people who weren't there for you? Nope - that's empowerment to move forward on your own. Angry with the world for all the ways life hurts people? Nope - that's just grief. I never thought of it as anger.
Then came Trump. All of a sudden, so many of the things I was feeling were shared with many people around me. The world was outraged and it was safe to acknowledge that my sadness wasn't just sadness - it was rage. Experiencing collective fury with so many people who could express it so well allowed me to admit what I was really feeling.
The challenge with starting to feel comfortable acknowledging your anger is that you notice it more. You let it grow. If you're smart, you find ways to navigate it, like my previous attempts at calming it down or turning it into fuel for something good. But suddenly, I wasn't able to do that anymore. Now that I knew this was anger, I could no longer convert into something else. The tears that have always popped up for me when I'm mad could no longer be dismissed as sadness or being overly emotional. I stopped being able to pretend my feelings were something they weren't. And that alone was probably the hardest step for me. The feeling of actually sitting with any kind of resentment at all is so uncomfortable to me that I find myself in a panic. I need a way to resolve it.
A number of personal challenges have forced me to acknowledge that I do have anger that hasn't been resolved with my subconscious attempts to convert it to hurt anxiety, or empowerment. I, like everyone, work to deal with these things - through forgiveness, venting, focusing on the good - whatever I can. But now....
Now it's different.
Everything is different.
The women of the US are outraged. People all over the world are outraged. Yes, there are some things we can do, but is it enough to dissipate our anger? Does a rally make that much injustice go away? Even if I could quit my job and dedicate my entire life to helping, would the rage decrease? How do we sit with the anger we feel right now? I'm writing this because I don't know how to deal with how LIVID I am in this moment.
Last week I posted on #WhyIDidn'tReport in support of Dr. Blasey Ford. In response to that post, 9 people I know and love reached out to me privately to share their experiences of rape. I'd love to believe that's all of them, but we know better. As I watched a group of old white men question Dr. Ford, I scrolled through twitter to read people's comments. What I found reignited a rage in me that I don't know will ever dissipate.
A long time ago I was very close to a man who now has quite a few followers on social media due to his polarizing sports commentary. When I was raped at 17, this was the man who made me understand that it was rape. This was the man that threatened the life of my attacker. This was the man who encouraged me to report (which I didn't) and supported me through the times when I questioned my memory or my value or felt shame at what had happened. This was a good man. I know he's a good man.
We don't agree politically, and at some point during one of the campaigns I could no longer subject myself to things he was saying, but I honestly believed most of it was for show. When we talked, actually talked, we could always find SOME middle ground - even if unstable. Maybe I should have blocked him long ago, but I don't believe in only exposing yourself to one side. I believe it's good to have friends who challenge your beliefs.
During the testimony, though, my old friend's twitter was filled with hateful tweets about Dr. Ford. They ranged from calling her a lying manipulative person who was just trying to get famous to make money to blaming one of the other accusers for not coming forward about the drunken parties earlier. I thought I could talk to him. I told him how I remembered him being there for me, and how after that he could be so adamant that she's lying. His response was that I couldn't be objective because I was a woman who had been assaulted. He said the fact that I wasn't skeptical of Ford demonstrates that I'm not objective. He didn't care what I had to say.
Look - I understand his point. I understand that he's concerned that a woman can make a claim that could destroy a man's life. I really do get it.
But he was there with me. Telling me to report. Hearing all the reasons I couldn't, wouldn't. He KNOWS how hard it is for women. How could this man of all men believe what he believes?
And then I got to thinking. The guy who assaulted me was pretty high up in his company. What would I do if he ran for office? What would I do if I were in Dr. Ford's position? I don't know that I'd be as brave as she has been, but I did look him up. He has a facebook page. It's crazy to think that's surprising, but it is. The man who raped me has a facebook page, and I can look at it. The man who held me down and left bruises on my face, neck, and wrists has pictures of him with his big happy family. His boys are just a little younger than me. I wonder if they know? I wonder if they're like him? I'm angry that he gets to have a family and a facebook page. I'm angry at his smiling face.
Two weeks ago a man I worked with grabbed my thigh above my knee repeatedly in a meeting. I am 99% certain there was nothing sexual behind it - I think he was being parental - but it wasn't appropriate in a work setting. He did it multiple times, he left his hand there, and even after I turned away he adjusted his chair to do it again. To me, it felt condescending. To me, it felt like he was clearly telling me who was in power here. I brought it up to some coworkers so we could demonstrate to the men in the room how women have crazy choices to make and think about ALL THE TIME. Asking him not to do that would have repercussions. He'd already demonstrated that in other meetings after I'd challenged him. So I kept it in.
Today, after the hearings, after the bullshit my old friend said, I just wasn't up for handling anymore. After weeks of asking this person I work with to spell my name correctly (it's in my email address for goodness sake) and having him ignore it. After weeks of telling him the teams he's trying to align are not aligned and giving him information about it. After weeks of doing a big chunk of his job for him while he takes all the credit. He sends me an email end of day Friday saying, "all you've done is confuse things...we are not aligned". No solution, no options, just the accusation. And he spelled my name wrong.
I probably shouldn't have, but I called him immediately. He didn't answer, so I responded, and copied someone higher up on the chain I trust. I probably shouldn't have done that, either. But I'm tired of should haves. I was very diplomatic, told him I thought it would be more helpful to have a meeting to discuss where folks are not aligned rather than making a blanket statement that I've confused things. And I made the most drastic effort I could in this setting to show him I need him to hear me, to see me, to respect me:
He likes to call me Monica. My name is not Monica.
I signed my email just like this: MoniKa
So that's how I'm dealing with my anger. And writing to you lovely folks. Anyone have any better ideas? Because shit just got real.
Inspired by a very strong friend - I'm making a decision to stand with Dr. Ford:
I didn’t report because I was 17 and confused about what happened. I only had vague moments of memories, and the idea that I could have been drugged didn't occur to me. The reality of what had actually happened didn't hit me until I had to find ways to cover up the hand-shaped bruises on my face, neck, and wrists.
I didn't report because the man was someone I knew and thought I could trust, and afterward he did nice things for me. I've since learned this is common. A rape victim will question whether it was rape because her attacker brushed leaves off her back after forcing her into them. I was confused by him bringing me food and changing the sheets.
I didn't report because he told me I wanted it. I had enjoyed his initial attention. He was older, he must be right. What did I know at 17?
I didn't report because it happened on Christmas Eve, and all I wanted to was to spend a happy Christmas Day with people I loved.
I didn't report because when I first told my boyfriend what happened, I said I cheated. When I told him the truth a few hours later, he didn't believe me. His anger never left me.
I didn't report because when I told several people I trust in my church, including two pastors, I was told it was my fault for being alone with a man. I was to blame. I was shameful in the eyes of God and to be judged for what I had done.
I didn't report because I was a strong 6'4" athlete. How could a man overpower me?
I didn't report because I was not emotionally capable of processing what had happened to me. As a friend said, "Rape is not the kind of thing the human brain easily recognizes as fact. Eventually, adrenaline and shock gave way to a numb, cold certainty I could no longer explain away." Months later, as a freshman in college, my attacker contacted me. My incredible basketball team heard me and supported me. It was only then that I was able to start to deal with what had happened. After what I now consider a minor mental breakdown, I faced what happened and started (STARTED!!!!) to rebuild. I considered reporting then, but at what cost? With what evidence?
And in following years, when other assaults happened that I've now learned were non-consensual, I didn't report because I didn't even consider them assault compared to that life-changing moment at 17.
I'm quoting my friend directly here because I can't say this next part better than she did:
"Not reporting is my reality. It’s the reality of thousands upon thousands of women, men, non-binary/trans folx, and children who’ve been raped and sexually assaulted or abused. It’s a reality for survivors far more often than it isn’t. The statistics are absolutely staggering. The vast majority of these crimes are never reported, and that’s NOT because they don’t happen. False reports are so very, very rare."
I believe and stand with Dr. Ford.