Since I’ve been thinking lately about boundaries, I thought I’d explore the serious side. As a woman who never learned to set personal boundaries, I’ve paid a price. Luckily, the cost hasn’t been too high – other than lack of self-respect – but I’ve been in some situations that could have turned out much worse.
In these cases, I either didn’t believe that I deserved to raise an alarm or I felt “bad” for saying “NO!” I often downplayed sexual harassment, for instance, because the term seemed so serious, so “surely that wasn’t what happened to me, he just got a little frisky,” and I didn’t want to make a problem by saying anything. After all, he just “kissed me on the cheek and grabbed my butt.” He’s just playing around. Never mind that he knows I’m married and we’re at a work function. Sad to say, I laughed that incident off and acted like it hadn’t happened. You know, because to do otherwise would make me one of “those girls” who make a big deal out of everything.
Even when I was stalked and my stalker BROKE MY DOOR DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, I felt bad for bothering the police. Because at one time, I chose to date this person, so it must be MY FAULT that now he won’t leave me alone. A belief made more substantial after the male cop asked me what I had done to make my stalker so obsessed with me. After I discovered that police reports hadn’t even been filed (when I had been told otherwise) for each incident (including but not limited to crawling through my window and hiding under my bed), I thought for sure I didn’t “deserve” to be called a victim of a crime.
A few years after that melee, something just as frightening happened, something that could have turned out much worse.
About 10 years ago, The Rock and I were at a friend’s party several blocks away from where we lived. I drank too much and accused The Rock of flirting with a woman at the party. He’d become frustrated when I wouldn’t let it go and left the party, thinking I’d sleep it off at our friend’s house or at the very least, get a ride home. After he left, I decided I’d walk home and give him what-for some more. So I took off without telling anybody and began to stumble the half-mile to our house. After a few minutes, a white truck drove by, stopped, and then backed up to idle at the opposite curb from me. There were two men in the truck and the passenger rolled down his window and shouted a few things to me that I couldn’t hear. I ignored them and continued to walk. Although drunk, I knew this could get dangerous. I was alone without a cell phone on a dark street at midnight and I didn’t have all my faculties about me. Also, there were two of them.
Sure enough, one of the guys got out of the truck and crossed the street. I kept walking, mumbling to myself, hoping he’d think I was crazy. It didn’t work. He jogged over to me, put his hands up my mini skirt and began to pull my underwear to the side. His buddy stayed in the car, keeping an eye out I suppose. The fondling lasted about two or three minutes. I kept walking the whole time, looking straight ahead, saying, “I’m almost home, I’m almost home.”
I have no idea why, but he left. Got back in the truck and just left. THANK GOD. I ran the rest of the way home and told The Rock what had happened. I was very unsober, but he got the gist and insisted we call the police. No, I begged. No. I’m drunk. They won’t believe me. Nothing bad happened. I don’t want to bother the police. But God love him, The Rock picked up the phone anyway and within minutes, an officer arrived to hear my story.
Truthfully? I felt like an idiot. Question after question revealed that I had been drunk, walked home by myself, and wore a short skirt. I didn’t feel blamed per se, but rather somehow responsible. Still, the next day, a detective left me a message to investigate the incident further. Again, I felt silly. Like all this attention was being directed at me and I didn’t deserve it.
I know for a fact that if I hadn’t been with The Rock, I never would have called to report what happened to me. It seemed so minor, so unworthy of attention. Can you believe that? A stranger stuck his hand in my underwear and I thought I was the problem. I wonder now about women like me; women who don’t want to “make waves,” or discount themselves to such an extent that they truly believe somewhere inside, they’re not “important” enough to draw attention to the bad things that happen to them.
I write all this because I wonder about the unreported “incidents” that might have alerted authorities to suspicious behavior, that might have led police to investigate a person before he “strikes again.” What if those guys in the white truck went on to another girl after me? What if she hadn’t gotten off as “easy” as I did? If I hadn’t reported it, then someone else may have suffered. I’m grateful I did report it. But you know what? I had to have someone else tell me I was worth it.
I am on my way to stronger self-belief and confidence, to “I AM worth it.” It’s a long, long road. I’m not sure why it’s like that for me. But I tell you what, I’m making damn sure my girls don’t walk the same way I have.