Wednesday, October 11, 2017

One More Note ...

Every morning, I listen to "The Daily," the podcast from the New York Times. Today, Katherine Kendall, one of the actresses speaking out about Harvey Weinstein, recounted her experience of his intimidation; of his exposing himself to her, fully naked; of his refusing to let her leave; of her wondering if he was going to rape her. It is heartbreaking and infuriating to hear but one part, in particular, really struck me. Of the aftermath, she said, "I was pretty shut down at that point because I really felt scared, like he was in this all-powerful position and I was clearly never going to work again if I said anything. And, the other part to it is, he didn't actually touch me, so, you know, I wasn't sure if people would care. If I'm not bleeding and, you know, just wrecked, then does it really matter?" [ Emphasis added ]

Her voice changes when she says, "... does it really matter?" It gets smaller and more quiet in addition to the questioning.

Does it really matter?

A large, imposing presence of a man who had the power to make or break her career had harangued her into coming into his home and then retreated to another room and stripped naked and then presented himself to her and demanded physical and sexual acts of her and prevented her from leaving and then later sat in a cab and stared at her through the window of a bar for at least 20 minutes.

But he didn't force himself on her physically. He didn't rape her. So she questioned if people would care, if what happened to her really mattered.

Of course it mattered. She knew that. I know that. You know that. Of course it mattered.

It matters.

Since this despicable story has broken, more and more women – and men – are speaking out, telling their tales, creating space for others to feel safer to share.

I've written about a couple instances. As timing would have it, I posted about them a year ago yesterday. At the time, I was responding to the revelation of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape of Trump. But I had written the post an election cycle ago, about Herman Cain. Perhaps the day will come when this topic will not be so timely.

But for today, it is.

That said, what I posted a year ago was, comparatively, benign. It was what I was willing to share at the time.

But there's more.

Unlike Katherine, I never questioned if it really mattered. Like Katherine, though, I didn't speak of it because I wasn't "bleeding and, you know, just wrecked."

But as Amber Tamblyn wrote in her Times piece about James Woods last month: "We are learning that the more we open our mouths, the more we become a choir. And the more we are a choir, the more the tune is forced to change."

Every story matters. Silence only serves those who believe they can rely on silence.

And so:

I was a junior in college. He was someone I had dated. We were no longer dating – I hadn't been willing to sleep with him because I wasn't ready to sleep with him so he started dating someone else – but we were together that night. I don't remember why, what preceded him being in my dorm. I remember reading something to him. I remember him tracing circles with his thumb inside the palm of my hand. I remember kissing him goodbye at the door. I remember his hands on my waist, his forearms parallel to the floor. I'm trying to remember now what changed, what signaled to me that something wasn't right. Did he lift my skirt? Did he kiss me more forcefully? Both? Both feel accurate but I can't recall for sure.

What I remember with perfect clarity, however, was that I knew I had to stop him. I was saying his name, raising my voice each time.

I don't know if it's more accurate to say that he was vacant or hyper-focused. Regardless, he wasn't responding to me.

I remember pressing down on his forearms with my hands with all of my might. His arms were immovable.

I remember realizing how strong he was, stronger than I had ever known.

I remember understanding that I wasn't in control.

Finally, I practically shouted his name and he seemed to return to the moment. He let go of me. He left.

We had contact, off and on, for many more years. To my recollection, we never spoke about that night.

I can recall only ever telling one person about this and obliquely at that.

I am shaking now as I type. Is it my body processing the memory? Is it fear of letting others know?

Either or both may be true. It doesn't really matter.

What matters, I hope, is adding one note to the choir, forcing the tune to change.