I was about 28 years old and separated from my husband. We had two children…boys….age 7 and 5. I struggled with the fact that I wanted my boys to have quality time with their father, and the fact that their father was not always safety conscious when it came to the kids.
So, one Sunday when it was his turn to take the kids, my ex decided he was going to take them fishing at a local spot. I thought it might be a good idea to go and check on them. So, I did and when it seemed that things looked okay as far as using kid’s fishing poles and and that they weren’t going out in anyone’s boat without life jackets as had happened before…I felt it was okay to leave them be and I said I would see them later at the house…and I left.
While on the way walking back to my car, I had the feeling that I was being followed. I turned around and saw that there were two elderly gentlemen walking in back of me. I thought nothing more of it until I reached my car and saw that the two men were still behind me and as I was searching for my key in my pocketbook, they approached.
I don’t remember who spoke first or how the conversation started, but the gist of the whole deal was I was being asked very politely if I would perhaps mind performing specific sexual acts on both men….for the sum of $5.
To give you an idea, at this point in time, a pack of cigarettes cost about $5. I didn’t negotiate, but I assumed from what they were saying that they were asking for a 2 for 1 sale.
I remember being in shock. Not scared. Just shocked. And not even so much shocked at being approached and being mistaken for a hooker. I was shocked that I was being approached being mistaken for a 2 for 1 five dollar hooker.
I don’t get angry often. I don’t. Not all out I don’t care what I am saying angry from the gut type of angry. I did then.
I didn’t get angry that they approached me. I supposed I should have been scared…maybe if I hadn’t been in an open place around people during the daytime I would have been…but I didn’t even think about that. I was too busy being angry that they dare thought they could approach me thinking that I looked like I would go for that. I was like so angry I could barely spit out my words.
“Five dollars?” I said. “Five dollars?! Are you kidding me!! Five dollars??”
The two men looked at each other and then looked back at me. Obviously thinking that we were negotiating, the spokesman of the two then said….”Okay, $10?”
I just remember getting in my car and driving away.
The next week at work, I was having lunch with a male friend and I told him what had happened. I had not really thought that much about it. But then my male co-worker asked me a question that kind of took me back. He didn’t ask if I was shaken up by the event or if I had reported the men to the police.
Instead he said to me…..”What were your wearing?”
I hadn’t thought about it. “Mom clothes, I guess,” was my answer. And then I thought about it. “Well, okay, I was wearing shorts….and a shear top. Nothing sexy. It was a mom top for summer. But I guess you could see my bra through it.”
“Ah, well there you go.”
“Huh? What? Really? You think so?” I’m sure I just kind of stared and blinked my eyes dumbly, like as a man he must know what he was talking about.
“Well, y’know, a young woman walking alone in a park area wearing something…..” What? Summery? “…suggestive like that. I mean, you can’t blame them, for thinking what they thought, now can you?”
Was he serious? He was. How could I not have seen that was what I was doing? I think I went home and threw away that top. Which was a plain cotton top. I swear. It now became something I should never wear again.
What had happened during that conversation with my male co-worker was called “victim blaming” or “victim shaming”. And this is something that happens a lot more often than it should. Although I did not feel like I was in danger at the time, the fact of the matter was that I was followed back to my car when I was alone….by two men who were in whatever way for whatever reason….targeting me and basically stalking me and following me with the intent of both of them having sex with me. And I don’t think that was because of what I was wearing. I think it was because I was alone and therefore seen as less of a threat.
We as women tend to learn that we are responsible for the actions of men. I think I’ve written here about how a boyfriend I had once punched me in the head and threw me down outside of school to beat me with a jean jacket….and how the priest we had to meet with told my parents that his actions were my fault.
It’s a stigma that is ingrained in society. A man sows his wild oats. A woman is a slut. And I am in no way trying to be for one group of people and against another. It just tends to go this way. Men get abused as well. Abuse know no gender. But generally speaking, women have had to struggle to like themselves and to respect themselves as people and not just as having their value be a reflection of the approval of men.
I have had the honor of speaking with many women who have been abused as adults by priests and clergy. These are intelligent, loving and caring women who have not only been used by powerful men with an agenda similar to wolves on the prowl, but have then had to shoulder the responsibility of the actions of another person.
Just as I was once asked, “How do you think Father felt when he read your email?” And just as I was shamed into thinking that somehow I had once again misunderstood his intentions and had done something horribly wrong and sinful….and I was the one who was 100% wrong while he was the one who was 100% innocent and wronged….the truth being that I was gas-lighted and manipulated by a narcissist sitting in a position of power….so did many other woman find themselves thrown aside in shame as the one who had been responsible. Discredited simply for being a woman, their only crime was attempting to speak the truth.
I’ve heard it said that women are generally looking for love and closeness in a relationship. That is why the love bombing that the narcissistic predator uses on their victim clouds their perspective.
Many survivors of adult abuse have told me that they were not even attracted to the priest who seduced them. That was true in my case as well. He was not my type, they tell me. But yet, for some reason, I felt that he was the love of my life. I have also heard it said that women tend to fall in love through their ears more than through their eyes. The predator has learned through trial and error and honing his skills what words work the best. Skilled manipulators know how to use words to capture the hearts of the lonely and the vulnerable. They know how to twist those words to get their victim to do as they want.
When a woman realizes that she has fallen victim to such a scam, it is heartbreaking, and yet the perpetrator knows exactly how to walk away clean and lay all of the blame onto the soul he has just crushed. And much of the reason they can get away with this as priests is because the very culture of the priesthood is about temptation and women tempting the man. Very little is shown or taught about the upstanding woman who fell for the charms of a man and was still seen as the victim in that case. What do you think would happen if someone seduced a nun? Do you think she would be allowed to stay in the convent if she were no longer a virgin when she was supposed to be faithful to God?
But by saying these words, and by simply pointing out that there exists a double standard by which women are basically held responsible for all sexual thoughts and actions of men, it makes me sound angry. I remember growing up hearing men in my family say that women who wanted the same jobs as men and who were pro women’s lib, etc., were angry and hateful and couldn’t get a man. Oh, and of course….they needed to get laid. That would set their heads straight.
Of course that would then make them a slut, and of course your know that does not make them marriage material so….
I will tell you though, what I want. And what most likely every other woman who has been abused as an adult would say she wants as well. And that would be to make people aware of this antiquated system that has been drilled into our heads by the very people who used that system against us….the priests who have taught us since we were children that it is wrong to be female. And if we are female, it is wrong that we feel pleasure or that we want to feel love. Because filling our heads with that nonsense is totally used against us when the guilt threatens to kill us because we enjoyed having another human being treat us as if we were special. Because every way we have of reacting is wrong and is sinful. Against man or against God. Because we have not been programmed to be human beings.
Instead, we have been programmed to blame ourselves for how we look, how we feel, and what we wear.