At some time in most women’s lives, they have found themselves in an uncomfortable situation with a male counterpart. A lot of women have suffered through sexual harassment or even sexual assault. It’s not something women talk about, even among each other, or even during the post me-too era. It’s not a comfortable, feel-good conversation.  Especially in the South. Most women here are taught to take harassment as good-natured flirting. We’re supposed to take it with a shrug and a ‘boys will be boys’ mentality. The guys are just being ‘good ole boys’. Get over it.

I was okay with getting over it until an incident happened when I was fifteen. At that point in my life, I was a complete innocent, but even I had already heard older men make jokes about what a pretty girl I was and how I was certainly growing up fast- wink, wink, nudge, nudge, look at my boobs. I had read enough romance novels to know what was what, but had not yet been kissed or touched by a guy. I was serious about school and reading. That was all I was focused on.

At fifteen years old, something happened that changed my view of the world. I suppose I took what happened to me and thrust it upon the main character in my novel, Ronnie. Of course, the circumstances were quite different, but the gist of it was the same. I placed my trust in a male and he betrayed it in the worst way possible. I was lucky. I got out of the situation relatively unscathed, much like Ronnie. There was no Sawyer to rescue me, but at the last moment the predator who came after me changed his mind. I’ll never know why exactly. I assume it was because he knew I would tell. It turns out he had been abusing a much younger victim, and when I spoke up so did she. What happened to me was a blessing because it saved another little girl. But it also inherently changed me.

Like Ronnie, suddenly my eyes were opened to a world where men were predators and women the prey. I couldn’t trust anyone or their intentions. I was scared to death to be alone in my own home, and I was fearful of any guys, even ones my own age. It delayed dating for me for several more years. When I did get into relationships, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was always waiting for the guy to cheat on me or do something underhanded or sneaky. And inevitably, for a long time, they did. I found guys that were verbally abusive, scared of commitment, yada, yada, yada. They all disappointed me, but that was okay because I expected it. I was the victim again.

It took years for me to figure out that waiting for something bad to happen is no way to live. I may have met the boogeyman, but I couldn’t let him dictate how I lived my life. I had survived meeting him and I had spoken up. I had, in a way, saved myself. I didn’t need any man to do that for me. Ronnie discovers this in her journey also. You can’t always rely on someone to pull you from the fire. Sometimes, you just must do it yourself.

My personal demons from that day haunted me for a long time. Once your innocence is gone, you don’t get it back. There’s no changing your viewpoint and thinking everyone is innately good. You have to acknowledge the bad in the world. Luckily, there is still hope for good to win over evil.

At forty years old, I don’t have the answers to the universe or even the answer to why some people are just inherently evil. But I do have hope and I have some dreams for the future. I have a little girl of my own. I will fight with everything I have within me to make sure she never has firsthand experience with the boogeymen of the world.

I dream of a time in the future when women no longer feel ashamed or embarrassed because of behavior directed towards them. I dream of my little girl standing up to those guys that are making dirty jokes about her and being hailed as a hero for it. We don’t have to laugh along with them. We don’t have to be agreeable. Share your voice. Sometimes it’s all you have.

“The most courageous act is to think for yourself. Aloud.” Coco Chanel

Love Always,