Saturday, December 27, 2014

schoolyard racism and sexual assault

In 6th or 7th grade I went out with my girl friends after school. It was the end of the school year. The days were long. The sun had that early summer quality. I had on a blue stripped knit t-shirt and jeans. I felt alive and grand, in the moment, in my body, with my friends.

We were walking along Broadway near the diner by 207th street, heading to one of the girls’ apartments when we ran into some boys from our class. Boys were of interest and everything was feeling fun, alive and perfect. Then things got weird.

One boy made a racial joke directed at me. “Why does a Puerto Rican carry shit in their wallet?” “For ID.”  I was the only Puerto Rican in the group. I felt the hostility and was not sure what to do. There was some whispers and one of the girls, more of an acquaintance than a friend, said, “Stand around Holly, They are going to do something to Holly.” The air was charged and I was scared of being the target. The girls stood on either side of me and we tried to walk away. The boys lunged towards us from behind. I think there were 4 of them. Some parts are so clear in my mind and some are foggy, as it can be with traumatic memories.

Two of the boys went through with the whispered plan and touched my butt. They did not pinch or grab or caress it but poked it, like a child stealing icing off of a cake in a room full of adults and trying not to get caught, fleetingly. The other two chickened out.

I left my body. The violation of those mere seconds was more than I could handle. Some of my friends tried to be supportive but they did not know what to say or do. One girl may have been jealous that I got all the attention. We were young adolescents, clueless about the world.

We got to someone’s apartment courtyard and sat around for a bit. I lied and said I did not feel good and I wanted to go home. I actually did not feel good, but I still was making up a story. I was in unbearable pain. I walked home alone and scared. I so desperately wanted to tell someone. I intuitively knew that I needed compassion, but I had no idea how to get it. I went home and entered the room where my parents were watching tv. I tried to open my mouth and speak but I could not. I knew that they would not know how to comfort me. I knew from experience that they might freak out and make a scene but no one was going to hold my hand and tell me that I did nothing wrong and love me through it and handle it. They were not bad people but they just did not have it in them, they did not have the capacity, the tools, the experience. They lived in the same internal/external ghetto that the boys who did this to me lived in. They were doing the best they could but their best did not serve me so I kept my pain inside. I harbored the unnecessary shame and fear alone and secretly hoped that the people who had slung the arrows would heal the wound. It did not happen. It seldom does.

The next day in school one of the boys whispered to me during class that he was sorry. I eyed him with distain and lifted my chin the way I had watched cool teenagers acknowledge each other.

Today I have so much compassion for that little girl. Dear child, I am so sorry for your experience, one that you did not deserve. Today I try to heal my many wounds with compassion for myself, and for the wound maker. It is not an easy task, but necessary.

If you have had pain, don’t let it take you down, let it enlighten you, give you compassion, expand your heart, help you to be kind and help others. Be an example, light the way. I am so happy to see the world changing around sexual assaults. I am so happy that people are bravely speaking out and that people are listening. Keep bettering yourself, keep loving yourself, keep up the good work. When we evolve we change the whole world, we help everyone, we bring everyone up a notch with us. I write this to remind myself...

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