At the end of this post, please click the link to an article on The Guardian’s site. The report is just the predictable tip of the iceberg, while the root problem is on the iceberg itself. Is anyone looking at the iceberg? I am, because I have experience being assaulted.
I was molested by more than one person when I was a child, but none of the assaults on me were as extreme as what Larry Nassar has apparently done.
The assaults against me did not involve penetration, but they were frequent. They were also dismissed as either harmless or justified whenever I tried to get help. They continued, and some of the assailants (adults and children) knew each other. Some people who touched me improperly joked that I was so damned weak I couldn’t persuade the adults to protect me. I had the reputation for being the little girl who could be groped with impunity, partly because I had been broken so early by a pediatrician that I never hit back.
I always followed the order Don’t hit back. Tell a grownup. I heard every inappropriate response after reporting the abuse to adults, too. Here are a few of them:
“He’s unhappy with himself.”
“He likes you.”
“Are you sure you aren’t giving out the wrong message?”
“Well, what did you do?”
“In some parts of the world, children are starving. Your problems are small in comparison.”
“Don’t tell anyone.”
“I saw the whole thing. That wouldn’t have happened in front of me if there had been anything wrong with it.”
Sometimes I wonder how many of those school-aged boys who assaulted me outgrew their bad impulses, and how many of them blossomed into Larry Nassars. Other criminals who hurt me were adults who were settled very comfortably into their routines.
For perspective, I was born in 1960 and went through childhood and adolescence when it was considered professionally acceptable for a doctor to unzip a twelve year-old girl’s dress in the waiting room. It was also considered acceptable for a hospital to refuse to install privacy curtains on open wards where children of both sexes were housed. Although I didn’t witness earlier decades, I know the 1960s and 70s were a pedophile’s dream, if the pervert in question worked in healthcare — or just knew parents who would allow that filth to continue indefinitely.
I have a vivid memory of being in a hospital when I was eleven, and trying to cover the upper part of my body with my arms after nurses exposed my chest and began transporting me through the hospital on a gurney. They had no medical reason to parade me around that way, and when I had the instinctive modest reaction one of the nurses forced my arms to my sides. She was so aggressive I got the message. After my arms were manhandled, I allowed her and a couple of other monsters to wheel me around the hospital in that state.
Most of the time, parents in general (not just my own) questioned none of that misconduct, as long as the pediatric creeps complimented them on their parenting skills. However, by the time I was nine I did notice that I was apparently the oldest patient in my pediatrician’s office. Other parents had stopped taking their kids to that asshole earlier. My mother liked the way he flattered her, though, so I didn’t escape until I was about thirteen.
Every victim of sexual harassment or assault has a basic right to report an offense without intimidation, and to have the report investigated. When the offenders have power, though, there are too many roadblocks.
Victims are blamed for failing to speak up promptly. They don’t speak up because they’re humiliated, and many of them don’t expect the right support if they do report a crime.
I suspect the reason I had more trouble than most adult women with sexual harassment was that presumptuous men could see I was already damaged. They enjoyed hurting a woman who was already broken. They were the consummate bullies. One man in particular liked to comment that I needed him for protection every time he grabbed my body.
I didn’t do enough to protect myself against those men because I knew some of them (I wasn’t always sure which ones) would be inclined to call the police, and the thought of being strip-searched in a police station was more than I could take. I was sure no one would take a crime against me seriously, but those men would have no trouble filing an incident report that would command respect. If you slapped one of them in the face, he’d accuse you of trying to cut his testicles off of him.
I’m not sure what the turning point was, but now I get angriest when I hear about younger women going through that. Personally, I’m beyond saving, but I don’t want someone else being hurt.
Now to the genuinely delicate part:
It’s possible — even likely — many of the people committing those crimes were assaulted when they were children. Not every child molestation victim becomes a sex offender (I give you my word I’m not one of those assholes), but often that’s how the cycle works. By protecting people like Larry Nassar, individuals who are obligated to intervene are feeding the tragedy. They’re feeding it for future generations.
Who knows? At one time Larry Nassar may have been molested.
Maybe there’s more to say on this topic, and maybe not. I just know I have to stop writing and go outside for some fresh air.
Have a nice day.