I have a friend who is a professor at a community college. An ex-coach of several all-girls teams, who now focuses on mental and physical health along with other aspects of the human condition. She’s got a flawless score on ratemyprofessor.com and is loved by all, hated by none. This coach has dedicated her life to setting her students up for future success and stability all by assigning them far too much work that focuses on reflecting on their lives and experiences. She’s been doing this for over 20 years now and each and every year, her class has countless students on the waiting list, ready to do whatever it takes to get into one of her classes.
And every year when classes start up again, she tells me how affected she is by the experiences of their students, how surprised she is by what they are willing to share under the veil anonymity, how it seems like life never even gave some students a chance, how she hates the fact that so many perpetrators got away because her students were too afraid to ask for help and kept their sometimes vile experiences a secret buried deep inside them.
Today, she told me a story of a young girl in her class, who identified herself as someone who trusts too quickly, which leads her to get hurt just as fast as well. The student wrote about her old personality, comparing it to her new one which is steeped in anger and violence. All because she had trusted a boyfriend, who later drugged her and raped her. She woke up covered in blood, along with the realisation that she could not trust anybody in her life. Out of shame and disgust, she kept her story a secret, until this teacher came along, and the student wrote out her soul on a piece of paper. She wrote about the fact that she has taught herself to no longer trust anyone. She has taught herself to be strong in the way of reacting with anger and violence during unwanted, albeit sometimes harmless encounters – like someone touching her arm by accident. This young girl’s shame has mirrored every experience she has had since this crime was committed onto her body, soul and mind. In fact, all of this young girl’s future experiences will be a reflection of her rape. She has never gotten help, she has never told anyone. She has never had the chance to be a victim and see her criminal be punished for his actions. She may never get closure of knowing that she has not done anything wrong by trusting another human being.
Her previous of faith and trust in humanity is not a weakness, but a strength. Her previous understanding that her trust in people was possibly her greatest strength. The fact that she placed trust in another human was also not a mistake, but a show of courage and strength that she truly believes that as humans, we can expect each other to not intentionally hurt one another. Perhaps if we had managed to create a world and society where she felt right in the knowledge that having this happen to her meant that she would not be criticised or shunned or need to feel ashamed, but use her strength to bring down her rapist. If anyone deserves to feel weak, hurt and ashamed it is her rapist, because in an ideal situation, as a society, we would have created an environment where he is punished for his vile crime, where he has full understanding of the fact that no one, except him, is in the wrong and that his punishment would be an accurate representation of the trauma he forced onto somebody else. His punishment might have never made her pain go away, but it would have reiterated the fact that she is safe, that she has the support of her entire world, and that there was no way in hell anyone would be critical of her traumatic experience.
Her secret has shaped her current life, and will continue to shape her future. No matter what words come out of her teacher, no matter how hard she is urged to seek help and discuss her problems, she will live with the knowledge that her rapist has walked away from a truly heinous crime.
We can have an argument and yell at each other about how not ALL humans should be trusted, and that MOST men are in fact, not rapists. But all the MOSTs and the ALLs and the MANYs are just veils to cover up the dirty grime that live beneath the surface. Every use of MOST men or MANY women is ignoring the ones that do perpetuate violence, rape and anguish onto others. Looking at the whole picture means recognising the discrepancies in how we choose to avoid the negative, how we avoid the small corners of distress so we don’t have to deal with it. Looking at a whole picture does not mean ignoring the sum of its parts.
Until the next rant.