It only took a second for the world to change. There was a flash, and the earth became hot and the room filled with lava. As my body was violated I went all the way to the beginning of time, right to the fall of Man. I saw the first expression of free choice take place. I watched as Adam took the apple and ate of it. I was there as Eve understood for the first time her Nakedness.
Do you know how the story goes? God called out to Adam, “Where are you?”
Do you not think God knew where Adam was in the garden, He with his infinite knowledge and understanding? Down where the path meets the river and the birds would take their morning shower, and the flowers would sing sweetly as they walked by? He knew exactly where Adam stood; He wasn’t trying to place Adam, he wanted Adam to place himself.
I understand the story differently now. “The woman, she made me do it,” he explained. Here it was: The First Betrayal; The first Deferring Of Responsibility; The first Casting Of Shame.
I watched as all of time passed and heaven slipped away from our humanity. I watched as women were silenced and put behind doors. I watched as women gave birth to the men who left home and named countries and cities after their fathers. I watched as the child brides left their dolls for their marriage beds. I watched as the prostitutes counted their coins at the end of their long nights as new morning light snuck through their window. I watched as women painted their signs of protest, lining city streets, calling out just to be heard. I watched myself with my colleagues as we wait tables in our black dresses, men telling us to smile, telling us to come closer, placing their hands on our waists, telling us our looks please them. We as women carry with us every injustice since the beginning of time. What has been done to one woman has been done to all of us.
It all flashed before me with my body made of fire, his hands on my breasts, his hands down my stomach to my groin, his breath heavy on my cheek. Another betrayal. Another deferring of responsibility. Another casting of shame.
“I think this should stay between us,” his words hovering above me like dark smog as I laid there, paralyzed by disbelief. Is it in some manual somewhere, “The Line Every Pervert Must Say”? Verbatim, I heard it with my own ears. The first betrayal to now, they have said the same thing to us. “Shut up and take it.” “Boys will be boys.” “This is just what men do.” My story is unique, and it is not unique. His hands on my body was a violation done to all of us. I am not the only one.
This story belongs to every woman, and this story belongs to every man, but it is not every man’s sin. Rather, it has been the men in my life that have buoyed my grief.
Rob walked me through the park and took my hand, he let my soaked face and dripping nose wet the shoulder of his sweater. His quiet steadiness made it safe for me to unravel and succumb to the sadness on the first night.
The next morning I kept my appointment with Ryan, and, his hands in my hair, I was overwhelmed with the stark contrast of his touch to the man touching me the day before, here with my friend who paints my hair gold and tells me stories of all the places he’s been and all the people who have made his day. And as he massaged my scalp, I didn’t flinch from the intimacy. It was Ryan’s gentle urging and encouragement that helped me rally the strength to file an official report.
Iain, my stand-in dad when I’m 2000 miles away from my own, picked me up after I was finished at the police station and anchored my thoughts with prayer, his words a prophecy for a whole heart and a bold life; “You were victimized, but you do not have to live as a victim,” he reminded me.
Two days later I got on a plane and was gathered by my parents, and I spent the weekend clinging to my father. I cried and he cried and he put his hands on either side of my face and the rage in his eyes flashed the same color as the fire in my belly. My lovely father who honors us with morning coffee runs when I visit and stoic gentleness at any other time was furious and bellowing, and his outrage was a gift to me.
The men of my life have stepped up and demonstrated their loyalty to me over and over. They have taken on the responsibility to stand like mighty oaks in this heavy forest, their kind words like rustling leaves whirring and singing, making it easier to find some sleep. They have gathered my tears and cloaked me in honor. They are not like him. His sin is not their sin.
Last night I had a dream that we were all back in Eden; the sun was tucking itself behind the mountain range and the wolves began to howl and the tide of the ocean began to come in and people gathered in their tribes around crackling fires. And Eve walked – no, she was floating – from circle to circle, calling us each by name. She kissed our foreheads and her laugh was like a song, and each man’s eyes filled with tears and they took her hands in theirs and one by one spoke the covenant: “I see you, I am with you, I am for you, I honor you.” Eve kissed their palms and anointed their brows as our daughters danced and ran through the field and down to the water.