Please know: the following may contain triggers for many people reading.
The following post is by an Anonymous contributor.
This whole #MeToo hashtag on social media (the Movement was started by Tarana Burke) has hit home for me and for so many of my friends – male, female, trans…
Like just about every other woman I know, I have also worked in hostile work environments, been catcalled, assaulted, raped.
Please know: the following may contain triggers for many people reading.
That time I was assaulted at Principia College
I have heard so many stories of female students being assaulted, raped, treated inappropriately by staff members / faculty / professors. This is my story, with specific details left out, because even though I am anonymous, I still am not ready to share specific details with anyone.
When I was a student at Principia College, I had an attempted date rape. I had previously slept with him, but didn’t want to this time. #NoMeansNo Just because I wanted sugar in my tea last time doesn’t mean I want sugar in my tea this time.
He came to my room and was quite insistent. I had been asleep in my bed. At Principia, it was against the rules to lock your doors, therefore doors didn’t even have locks! So, I couldn’t lock him out of my room, even though I was trying to sleep and didn’t want visitors.
He got in to my bed, and I was pinned against the wall. I told him “no” so many times. He kept coming at me, with a smile on his face. I pushed him away. This person is much larger than I am, and I was genuinely getting afraid. I kept pushing him, telling him, “no” and he kept thinking I didn’t mean it, and that he could convince me if he kept coming at me and smiling that smile I will never be able to forget.
He did finally leave, but I had been so scared. After I was sure he was gone, I went outside my room. Two women I knew were out in the hallway, so I told them what had happened, and I just started crying. They sat with me and just listened. I think one may have very gently hugged me. They didn’t quite know what to say, but they just sat with me and let me feel the sadness and fear. I knew these two by name, and had chatted over the years with both of them maybe once. But I was so grateful they were there when I needed someone to just be safe for me to be with and help me through this pain.
I never turned him in. I figured since we had “been together” before, I would be blamed and nothing would come of it. (This is over 20 years ago.)
A few months later, he was dating someone else. I have no idea what happened, but the administration came to me and said his most recent girlfriend had mentioned my name in relation to him.
The Dean of Students set up an appointment with me and asked me for my story. I told her. The Dean also mentioned that a few other gals on campus had been named, and they were going to interview them. I didn’t learn their names, or who they were. But there were at least 4 of us, from what I could gather. Each with our own story.
He was kicked out. Principia did the right thing by kicking him out.
More than a decade later, a sibling of mine was about to graduate from the college. I was very happy for them, and our family all went to the graduation weekend.
Guess who was back on campus. About to graduate with my sibling. Go ahead, guess.
It was him. This man.
I spent the whole weekend hiding behind pillars, and ducking. I figured out where he sat in the dining room and then carefully figured out a completely other place for me to go hide during meals in the dining room. The whole weekend should have been a happy occasion. For me: it was One Large Trigger. I had to be on high alert the entire weekend.
I told one of my parents, “look, if I suddenly disengage from our group and go hide behind a pillar or a tree or start running, just know that it’s because I saw the guy who attempted to rape me when I was a student here, and I can’t handle seeing him. By the way, he keeps trying to friend me on Facebook and I feel completely stalked by this guy in the cyber world.”
My parent’s response was completely devoid of empathy and compassion.
It was a typical Christian Science response:
“It’s been 20+ years, don’t you think he has changed by now?”
I was told to forgive the accuser.
There was no, “I’m so sorry that happened to you back then! Oh my gosh!” There was no, “Oh wow, that’s not okay that this whole weekend has to be ruined for you, Principia seriously screwed this up, didn’t they?”
I mean, nothing kind to me as a person. The comment was all about the other person. And how they had probably “changed by now.” And that I should “know the truth about the assaulter and forgive him.”
One of my other siblings walked in to the room, and heard what I was talking about with our parent. I said something specific about this person, and my sibling replied, “oh yeah, I met him today.” I don’t remember any empathetic comment about my experience. I do feel like my sibling was sad that I had to deal with it this weekend during graduation, but I don’t remember empathy about the previous attempted rape situation. Just: “I met him today.”
Our family had gotten 2 assigned seats-tickets to graduation, and had a bunch of “back of the auditorium un-assigned seats-tickets” to the graduation. I wanted to sit in the back, and stay hidden so I could just enjoy graduation and not have to be on high alert.
My family insisted I sit with the nearly front row seats for graduation, and you-know-who walked right by me after walking the stage, and sat down too close for my comfort, along with the other graduates. I acquiesced and sat up front. Again, no empathy from this parent, and my boundaries were not respected to help me feel more secure and peaceful.
If you’re a practicing Christian Scientist, you’re not allowed to have any sort of negative emotions. None: no fear, no anger, no sorrow. Nothing negative. They don’t even have the word, “anxiety” in Christian Science. If there is no word for it, it doesn’t exist.
That’s my FIRST #MeToo in a Christian Science setting.
That time I was assaulted in a Christian Science Reading Room
Note: If that story triggered you at all, I would like to caution you NOT to read this next story.
This next story – since it was someone whose name I don’t even know, and no one knows him from the Christian Science community, as far as I know, I can include details I haven’t even told my husband.
I spent a few days a week working in a Reading Room in a very busy city. Another 70 year old woman (who I will refer to as “Collins”) took care of it most of the week, and I filled in on the other days. It is and open full time with regular business hours and staffed only by one woman at a time. (Is this a good idea to you?)
This was not one of those Reading Rooms where it’s open like 1 or 2 hours per week only. This one paid the staff a salary wage, and kept it open full time with regular hours.
I will tell this story in order of the timeline, but it’s not how I learned it. I didn’t learn this first part until after it was all over.
Collins had a regular homeless visitor who came in. He seemed like a regular person, but he was homeless. The previous Reading Room full time attendant had been a man, and he welcomed the homeless in and encouraged them to come in. He went on to work in Boston at The Mother Church.
This visitor would come in and ask about King Solomon. He had a “little boy” look about him. It was a facade he could put on easily, to make himself seem innocent and harmless.
He was getting more and more bold with Collins. He came in every few weeks. He was a regular. One time, he actually stroked her breast. She chalked it up to, “oh, it was accidental, he didn’t do that on purpose.”
The next week, I was walking up to the Reading Room door to arrive a few minutes before my shift started. This person I had never seen before was standing there, staring at the hours on the door, waiting for it to open. I didn’t know what to do. I was obligated to open it. I have to say I wanted to turn around and go to the coffee shop on the corner and wait it out. But I didn’t want to “get in trouble” by not opening on time.
I went up to the door, with my key, and he asked me if it was open. I said, “it will open in 10 minutes.” He nodded and left.
I opened the door about 10-15 minutes later. He came in about an hour after that.
He puttered around in the study room, then came over to me and said, “do you have anything on King Solomon?” It felt like a genuine request. I went to the study room to get a Bible.
I leaned over to get the Bible off the shelf, and he stroked the back of my butt in a specific way that terrified me (this is not something my husband would even do, believe me). As he stroked it, he said, “soft.” And then I heard the distinct sound of a belt buckle being opened.
I had the Bible in my hand at that point. I whirled around, and held the Bible up, threateningly. I marched to the door, gestured widely with my arm with the Bible in it, and said loudly and boldly, “Get out! You are not welcome here ever again!” I was outside the door, holding it open with the Bible gesturing him to leave.
He walked out very calmly, as if he had done nothing wrong.
I called the people who wrote my paychecks. I told them. I said I was sorry, but I didn’t think I could stay open and sell any Christian Science Monitors that day. (Seriously, I felt bad about that, and actually apologized. We usually sold 2-3 Christian Science Monitors every day.)
I called Collins, and she told me the story of him stroking her breast a week or two before that.
Reader: Please know this: people who are apt to do this sort of thing get more and more bold. That’s what they do! I have verified this with my psychiatrist and therapist. Yes: people get more and more bold.
I called my husband. He told me to lock up the Reading Room and come right home.
I called back the paycheck writers and told them I was going home. I was so shaken up, I could barely speak, I was crying. I was a complete mess.
When I got home, my husband started telling me I needed to report this to the police. The Christian Scientist in me said I needed to forgive this man, and “see that it’s not a part of him.” If I didn’t see it as part of him, then he would be healed of this sin, and it would be “as if it was never a part of him, because he was healed.” And so I felt obligated to fervently pray to see him as pure and innocent. (What about ME!)
I prayed this way: “He is God’s perfect child, he is innocent, this is not a part of him. God made him kind and loving. He is not capable of hurting someone, because God didn’t give that to him. Since God didn’t give it to him, bad stuff can’t exist, it’s not a part of him. He didn’t harm me, because I am God’s perfect child too, I can feel safe and protected. I was safe. I wasn’t harmed. I am ok. I am still God’s perfect child. God loves me. God loves him. He can’t harm anyone. He can’t harm me. I am safe. All is well…” blah blah blah blah blah. For hours, days and months I prayed this way.
My husband tried to convince me to go to the police about this. After 2-3 hours of him telling me this is what I should do, he said, “what if he tries to do this to a female who works in a nearby store?” I didn’t want to have another woman subjected to something so horrible or probably worse; so that’s what convinced me to call the police.
I called the police. They told me to come in the next day and talk with a detective. A Christian Science church member lady I trust kept my kids for the hours we had to go back downtown. My husband accompanied me. First, we went to the police station. Then, they sent a detective out to meet me at the Reading Room.
Thankfully, it was a woman detective. I showed her the Reading Room. I told her what happened. I acted all of it out for her. She was very kind and compassionate and smart. I felt safe talking with her.
Collins also told the detective what had happened to her.
The detective was full of compassion and empathy. She was also very surprised that I hadn’t called the police right away. That bothered her immensely. At some point a few days later, it occurred to me that women are supposed to call the police immediately when this happens – that this is a NORMAL and HEALTHY response – to call the police! I realized how bad of an idea it was that Christian Science had conditioned me to do the exact wrong thing! This wrong thing could endanger another woman. This was a key turning point for me in leaving Christian Science.
I still have issues going to that major metropolitan city. I don’t mind going with my kids and with friends and tourists. But I don’t seek out opportunities to go there. Recently, I tried to meet a friend there. She was over an hour late to meet me, and I started to panic. I headed back home without ever seeing her. She apologized profusely. But it made me realize that despite the fact that it’s now been years, I still cannot be there alone.
Both of these instances happened in Christian Science settings, and neither of these times were not the first time I was assaulted, attacked, raped, anything. I had been raped three times already before my experience at Principia College, and I knew how to get away. There is a “look” rapists get in their eye, and I learned to recognize it, defend myself and keep defending until they go away. Rapists want an easy target. They do NOT want someone who will fight back and be difficult. Thanks to me learning this THE HARD WAY, I haven’t had a rape since.
Rapists want an easy target. They do NOT want someone who will fight back and be difficult.
It took me years to be able to tell my Christian Science family members about these instances. I only told them recently, in fact, about the one at Principia. They still don’t know about the one at the Reading Room.
I recently realized that a few of my siblings were friends with the person who assaulted me at Principia. I called them all on a multi-person phone call, so we could all talk to each other at the same time. I told them briefly that this person had harmed me, and that a group of us women students had told our stories to the Dean of Students and he was kicked out. I asked my siblings to please block this person on social media. My siblings blocked him. They didn’t even question me about it. They were very kind to me and were not devoid of empathy. They just blocked him and then told me they love me and support me. I felt so grateful for their compassion and support. My siblings are wonderful people and I appreciate them so much.
After the assault at the Reading Room, I yelled at myself about not being able to forgive this person. I also yelled at myself about not feeling safe in the metropolitan city. David and Goliath assured me that I was safe, that’s what I had learned from a young age. “The story of David and Goliath teaches us that we can take down a bully or someone of power if we just believe in God enough! Trust that!” I yelled at myself constantly for not feeling safe.
As Doctor Phil might say: “How is that working for you?”
Well, it didn’t. I am so grateful for good, solid therapy, psychiatric care, and specific medicines.
Did you know that talking about our fears actually makes them have less power over us? Christian Science teaches people NOT to talk about their fears, because then they won’t have power! This is yet another way that Christian Science teaches us the exact wrong thing to do. This makes the human condition worse instead of better!
I hope that with all of these #MeToo posts on social media, that our society is waking up and that good men will learn to advocate for women. That they will learn to say, “not cool, man,” when they see coworkers sharing dirty photos of their wives, or catcalling women, or discussing lewd things in locker rooms.
Men allies: Teach other men to be classy. Be an ally to marginalized people – including transgender people, black people, Native American people, Asian people, dwarves, disabled, elderly, everyone!
I hope that school systems will begin to teach empathy in schools. I think learning empathy is a necessary skill to help humanity rise up and become something better. Empathy is the best way for women to not have to share something like #MeToo in future generations.
Thank you for reading my story.
Last note: Collins died about a year after my assault in the Reading Room. She died a very sudden death, at a Christian Science Nursing Facility. Her husband had died at the same facility a few months before Collins did, after suffering for years. As far as I know, despite losing both of her parents while in Christian Science nursing homes, their daughter is still a Christian Scientist who works for “The Cause,” in a public way.