I was just a beginner when it happened. In a supposedly safe place. I had a title and stature within an academic community.
From my childhood I’d experienced worse. Regularly. In ways that raised deep shame and self-blame in me. Bad girl.
But this was different. I was an adult. A colleague among adults who were followers of Jesus Christ.
It happened in a crowded hallway between classes. Without a whisper of warning. Just walking to my next class, in conversation with an adult man.
He wasn’t a stranger and he wasn’t my father. He professed to be a supporter of women’s full humanity, and our right to fair and equal access to theological education as students and as professors.
Perhaps he wasn’t thinking? I could give a thousand questions you might have asked me. None would have erased the sudden chill and shame of feeling an uninvited hand patting me on my butt.
I switched my briefcase to my right hand, moved over slightly and kept walking through the hallway as though nothing had happened. Indeed, it never happened again. I maintained my distance, without giving up my friendly demeanor.
My friend touched my body in a way I wouldn’t dream of touching his. It wasn’t a hand on my arm, but my butt. I believed that any attempt to draw attention to this would have made things worse. I felt trapped.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not my big #MeToo story. I’ve already told that in earlier posts—not just about the Shopkeeper, but about my father’s attempts to subdue me, and my first employer’s determination to humiliate me as a young woman just out of high school.
So why tell it? After all, it happened in the blink of an eye.
I’m telling it because we need to attend to the daily impertinences and seemingly small ways in which women, girls, boys and men who aren’t considered manly are reminded of their place and who has power over them.
I’m also telling it because there are millions of everyday people aching to let someone know what happened or is now happening to them. Are we able and willing to listen from our hearts? Without offering solutions or trying to re-write the stories we hear?
Sometimes silence and listening without judgment are the best gifts we give each other. In fact, to listen well is to follow well. The way I imagine Jesus Christ following us and being there when we’re ready for help.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…. (from Psalm 23)
I’m grateful for the women, men, young people and even children who have listened to my story, and shared with me their own experiences. In some ways, this is the table God has set before me in the presence of my enemies—who are more like I am than I could ever guess.
Praying you have a wonderful Sabbath rest.
©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 November 2017
Photo found at theanvilnewsletter.blogspot.com