Stories about dysfunctional families may cover many areas of abuse. Abuse, not just at the hands of your immediate family, but abuse from extended family, neighbors and strangers. Sexual abuse doesn’t just occur in dysfunctional families; it can happen to anyone. It’s my topic for today's blog and a popular topic in the media. Talk about an interesting news day! The story around Matt Lauer makes me sad. Sad because sexual harassment/abuse is so pervasive. It's not just in the workplace either, which leads me to my story.
My first encounter with inappropriate male attention came from my step-grandfather. I think I was six years old when he would ask me to sit on his lap and watch TV. While my grandmother sat ten feet away with her back to us, my step-grandfather would rub my back. First, he would rub my back over my shirt, and then progress to rubbing my back under my shirt. I sat on his lap and let him rub my back because it felt nice. When his hand strayed to the waistband of my pants, I became uncomfortable and jumped down. I trusted my instincts and got away from him.
ALWAYS listen to your gut, instinct, intuition, whatever you want to call it. Nothing further happened regarding my step-grandfather, but I was wary of him for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, it wasn't the last time I would receive inappropriate attention from a man. A very weird shoe salesman kept sticking his tongue out, licking his lips and staring intently at me while my mother wasn't looking. We were shopping for dress shoes. I was ten at the time. What he did confused and disgusted me. I quickly stopped looking at him, squished myself closer to my mom and said I would wear whatever shoe she liked. These incidents and my alcoholic father further deepened my overall distrust of men.
At the ripe old age of eleven, a school official made comments to me about my tight jeans and nice butt. After his comments and suggestive leer, I made sure I was never alone with this person again. This incident didn’t surprise or confuse me. By this time, I had a built-in wariness of men. In both instances, my gut gave me a warning and I listened. I also feel lucky I was not pursued further by any of these men. Did I tell my parents about any of these incidents? No. I’m not sure why. It’s a good question for a psychologist.
I didn’t then and certainly don’t now feel responsible for any of these incidents. I was a child. These were grown men. Two of the men were over 50. (So much for the saying wisdom comes with age) I have received counseling for these issues and others to help me move on and heal. Have I forgiven these men? No, but I will add them to my list. Forgiveness is another topic I’ll cover in my blog.
Last, but not least, when I was 20 years old, I worked in a restaurant during my summer break from college. It was a nice restaurant, but nothing too fancy. Our uniform was a polo shirt and black shorts that came to just above my knee. After a few weeks of working there, one of the cooks came up behind me in the kitchen and said, “grudge f*ck” in my ear. I frowned, turned to face him and told him to shut up. I didn’t know what he meant by this exactly, but clearly it wasn’t a nice thing to say. The cook did this a few more times over the next two weeks. I always said something back to him, but it didn’t seem to deter him. It bothered me enough that I complained to my manager. I don’t think the manager ever said anything to the cook because the cook continued with verbal taunts. The cook’s behavior made me uncomfortable and nervous. One evening after work, my older brother visited me at our mom’s house. He asked me how work was going. I told him not too great as the cook at work was saying nasty things to me. My brother asked me what he said. Once I told him, my brother’s face grew red, his mouth dropped open, and he yelled “WHAT?!” When I confirmed what the cook had been saying to me, my brother indicated he would be at the restaurant for my next shift.
My brother did show up at the restaurant for my next shift and he did come back into the kitchen when I was there. The kitchen is loud, so I couldn’t hear what he said to the cook. Later, I learned my brother told the cook if he ever talked to me again, he would beat the sh*t out of him with a baseball bat! I love my brother, and I wish every female had an older, protective one just like mine. My brothers are twins, and I love them both. One of them just happens to have a temper, kind of like me.
In closing, I wanted to highlight again why I’m writing the blog. I want to help other people overcome their dysfunctional families by sharing my stories and how I coped. I hope it helps to know you are not alone in your struggle.