I grew up among predators. It is why I escaped more than left my hometown when I was nineteen, put myself through college, and rarely returned to visit my family as an adult. It took me years to identify what had happened to me as abuse and even longer to process the extent of it and begin to heal.
It is the reason I have abused my body with food for years, keeping myself fat more than thin, for years at a time, my fear of being raped or murdered always just below the surface. I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel safe ANYWHERE for so long. I didn’t know exactly where it came from. I know much of it now. I am fifty-three years old and it took me this long to process much of the horror that was my childhood. Now, I am taking my power back.
Muriel’s story of Woody Allen inviting her to go to Paris with him when she was eighteen to share a hotel bedroom, with her parents encouraging her to go filled me with horror. It was the equivalent of selling her body in exchange for a successful career. They were okay with this. It was Woody Allen. He was famous and rich. Somehow that made it okay to her parents. She said she didn’t want to go. Thankfully, she was intelligent and strong enough to say no. She shouldn’t have been put in that position. She needed her parents’ support. She needed them to tell the forty-year old creep to go away and stay away from their daughter. It didn’t matter WHO he was.
I have a story of what my father told me to do with my body when I was eighteen that horrified me. The man was not rich or famous. It was still disgusting and unacceptable. My father made it clear that my body was all I had to offer to the world.
He had spent my childhood telling me that I was stupid and ugly, worthless in every way he could express. My mother had too. They were a team.
When I graduated from high school, and was working at a temporary job as a legal secretary for an elderly man. my father told me that if the lawyer chased me around the desk I should let him catch me. Always indirect, he still made it clear to me that he meant I should let the seventy year old man have sex with me,because he was a lawyer and had money. I told my father he should not talk to me that way. He laughed his jolly laugh, and acted like he had not said anything wrong. He asked, “Why?” I said, “Because you are my father.” There was no reaction , no change in his demeanor. It was like talking to a wall.
My father did not treat me with respect. He never had and in that moment he had made it clear that all he saw me qualified to do was prostitute my body.
This is not the man who most of my friends, neighbors, or people who attended church with my father knew. He was a different man when they were around. In public he was the good father, the good husband, the church goer. He was the man who would help anyone if he could, easy-going, quick with a joke or a smile.
I didn’t know that man. He didn’t live in my house. The man who lived in my house was angry and frightening. He believed he owned me and my sister and that is how he treated us. My REAL father was a selfish asshole who hated women. He was a sexist, selfish narcissist with a short temper and a quick hand.
He was an actor. He was the perfect father and husband IN PUBLIC.
Oh, he slipped a time or two, yelling across the neighbor’s yard as a friend and I, both sixteen year old females,walked home from what HAD been a good day, ” Jamie, you don’t need a bra, you just need band aids for your nipples.”
I was mortified, embarrassed. I didn’t know what to say or do. I glanced at my friend, my face red, neither of us knowing what to say.
What kind of person, let alone father shouts that for the neighborhood to hear, at his sixteen year old daughter? My good friend and I never spoke of that again. How could we? What would we say?
For the most part, my father was perfect to everyone outside of our home. He was beloved, a good, kind man who worked hard and took care of his family. He and my mother adopted my younger sister. They were such good people IN THEORY.
That is how it works. For anyone who finds it hard to believe that Bill Cosby might have done these horrible things he is accused of or that Woody Allen was a creepy predator, keep in mind that men like them are different in private. They are not stupid. They have an image to maintain.
The important point here is that whether a predator is rich and famous, or not, once the perfect public persona has been established, they can do evil in private and it is nearly impossible for the victim to share the truth and be believed. The predator KNOWS that.
The predator feels entitled to whatever they want to take and they will simply take it. They know that people will not believe their victims and they take full advantage of this. They are evil.
Denial allows the predators and perpetrators to continue to victimize others. That is why it is important for people to become educated. That is why I am writing this, because people need to understand, that children, women, girls, men, and boys, are abused every day. It NEEDS to stop.
Talking about it as Muriel Hemingway has done is important. It’s important that I tell you what happened to me. It’s important for all of us to hold our abusers accountable, to hold all of the people who would take advantage of others accountable. Don’t keep secrets. Secrets give the predators power. Say no to that. Out the predators. Take away their power.