This post is mainly going to be about me, and women in general. My closest friends and family know what I have been through in my life. I keep it a secret from everyone else. But why? Why shouldn’t people know that I was sexually abused by my own father as a child? It doesn’t make me any less of a valid person. For the sake of my family, I will leave out anything that doesn’t have to do with me. But I am done hiding. Secrets are the best friend of abuse, and I was by far not the only one who suffered, and not only at the hands of my father.
I need to ask, but I can’t say that I know the answer. Where does it all start? What makes people feel that they have the right to violate someone on such a deep level? I WISH I knew, but I know that it is something that is taught. Something that is learned, passed on in the small things. Are you teaching your children to protect women and children? Are you teaching them that it is never okay to talk about someone in a degrading manner, whether they hear it or not? Are you teaching them that condoning this behavior, either by participating or not speaking out against it, it is just as bad as if you were the perpetrator yourself? Are you teaching this by example? If the answer to ANY of these questions is no, something needs to change. Now.
As a victim of such abuse, I felt disgusted with myself. Years after my mother left him, I would burst into tears for no reason when I thought about him. When I read a book and there is even a hint of someone being raped or abused sexually I start to tremble. I fight back tears. I try to hold back the pure rage that threatens to overtake me. I sit in movies and watch as the men in them make sexual comments about a woman, and the audience laughs. Why is it okay? It shouldn’t be. This cultivates negative feelings against women. It dehumanizes them. And violence against someone that isn’t really a person is not nearly as bad, right? And the state condones this. I know someone who was raped as a child over an extended amount of time. He was sued, found guilty in the court of law, and received 1 year of prison. 1 year. That man should have been castrated and never seen the light of day again. Something like that should simply be unforgivable, and it is in my eyes. To other people it may seem like less, because they haven’t experienced anything close to it. There was a case a few months ago where a refugee raped a little boy in a swimming pool bathroom until he had to go to the hospital. I read about this in the tram on my way to work, and I almost broke down right then and there. This man’s excuse was that he had not had sex in months, as his family is still back home. He saw nothing wrong with what he did.
A classic case of this is the latest Harvard rape case. My heart always reaches out to rape and sexual abuse victims. The feeling that there will never be justice eats away at you. This girl’s rapist was convicted guilty on three counts, and got a little jail time and probation, and on top of that his father defended his actions. My own father got nothing. No probation, no jail time, and he went on to get remarried. I often wonder if his wife knows what he did. He was not allowed to see us again, that was his only punishment.
I recently read an article here: Wall Street Bro Talk
Now, the entire article is an important read, and it heartens me somewhat to think that there are men out there who are affected by the way women are treated. One particular excerpt stuck out to me and resonated so deeply with me that I had to start writing this post immediately, and share my experience.
…A few years after I left Wall Street, when my wife was pregnant with our first child, and we learned that it was going to be a girl, I burst into tears. My daughter would soon enter a world not just of unequal pay and unequal opportunity, but one in which almost 20 percent of women are raped, and a quarter of girls are sexually abused.
If you think that this violence has nothing to do with bro talk, you’re wrong. When we dehumanize people in conversation, we give permission for them to be degraded in other ways as well. And even if we don’t participate, our silence condones this language. I deeply regret remaining quiet while women were being disparaged during my eight years as a trader.
If hedge fund founders, managing directors and desk heads instituted a zero-tolerance policy for this behavior in their ranks, it would help engender a culture of respect for women on Wall Street. And if men of status in our wider culture — managers, coaches, politicians, celebrities — insisted that women were spoken not just to, but about, with respect, that would help create a culture where it’s not so scary to be the parent of a daughter.
This rang so true with me that it almost brought me to tears. When I started reading the article, I did not at first see that it was written by a man. I thought, oh yeah, another woman speaking out for women. The saddest part is that I was relieved when I saw that it was written by a man. I thought, finally someone will listen. If a man is speaking, someone will listen. How sick is that? I am a woman, speaking out for women, and I can only hope that someone will listen.