Side or direct – Me, Too 19

Sometimes, it’s the side-eye and other times the direct eyes.  It is menacing men, four, five, ten and twenty years older, who try to befriend you and bed you, sometimes in that order, sometimes at the same time, and sometimes its straight to bed to sample or own you for an evening or a decade.

It is the grown-ass man pulling your young girl self on his lap for no good reason. It is the smirks and winks and visual assessments that assert that your female teen form is his to covet or possess. These looks make you feel uncomfortable and icky and are markedly different from how you feel after receiving appropriate flirting from peers.

It  is the college professor for whom you baby sat, whose wife you met (and liked), taking a detour  through the dark deserted park instead of taking you home, trying to get some cause you’re  so young and so fetching and he’d bless you with an A and sterling recommendation for that special fellowship if you’d just give him a little bit.

Resistance was futile.

Names have been eliminated because they aren’t remembered (the trauma and distance or time erased them). Names won’t be shared because you remember them all too well and want to protect the women and children to whom these men belong(ed).

It is the guy at your high school who you go out with thinking your common interests will overcome your ethnic differences until he tries to get some and is upset at your rebuff because his father suggested that because you are black you’d put out and end his virginity.

Resistance worked but came after the hurt.

It is catching a train you didn’t intend and being ridden until it ended and you got off and made your way to the campus clinic.

It was being the right-on sister volunteering and doing her duty at the office in a derelict part of town (you should have known better) and no one showing up to lock up the building and escort you to the then dark and dangerous station back in the day when the tracks were elevated (why did you believe they would just because they told you they would).  They didn’t show but a rapist did as you were locking the door.

Resist and you’ll die from the knife stuck against your neck.

It is the x-ray stare that unwraps the clothing and other protective layers you are wearing.  The stares came in your mini-dress phase and in your maxi-skirt phase. They came when you were size 12 and when you were size 22.  In your two cornrows with oversize glasses (don’t notice me phase) and in your polished woman (handling my business phase).

You didn’t know in your innocent, naive and girlish days that you shouldn’t go there or trust damn near anyone male, even the people in whose care you were entrusted.

As a grown woman, you didn’t know until you learned through experience that someone could profess to love you and still rape you.

You didn’t know that whether said in a whisper, “no” or screamed, “NO, NOOO!” words weren’t forceful enough to make someone stop.

You didn’t understand that the young attract the bad and the ugly incubus(es) and not just the good people.  You didn’t know how to sort one from the other.  Wolves in sheep’s clothing. Devils in disguise.

I don’t know if this is coherent.  I can’t make this tidy and calm. I am so angry, hurt, and dismayed that I want to spit, kick, throw something, strip my civility and compartmentalization that have kept the indignities, assaults and rapes separate from the rest of me. I thought I’d buried all of this deep within but now there’s been an earthquake and it’s all split open…fissures are oozing memories of what and when and who and how.

If a gentle, kind, soft-spoken white woman like Dr. Christina Ford cannot be believed, what hope could  a woman have like me who is not soft-spoken, who is not white, who is tall and voluptuous, who speaks directly without hesitation? Who will believe that I was fragile? That I was wronged? That despite moving forward, I was harmed.

I opened up and visited a friend and unburdened myself and…Her, too. 

I have nothing more to say about this now…






About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

Leave a Reply

19 thoughts on “Side or direct – Me, Too

    • Candelaria Silva Post author

      Therapy, with the right therapist, is helpful. A couple of years ago, I went to therapy for something else and some of this stuff came up. I realized that I didn’t want or need to speak about it then. I didn’t want to relive it and I think I’ve gotten past most of it but then, it all resurfaced. Believe it or not, I wrote the post and let it marinate. Almost erased it but it keep coming back to my mind in what has otherwise been a week of joy and love. So…I hope therapy gives you what you need.

  • Lori Stiefvater

    This is coherent on a visceral level. My experiences are different as are the reasons I remain silent but I understand. Even though I feel like I was kicked in the stomach thank you for sharing.

  • Pamela D Jones

    Candelaria, thank you for sharing your story on this platform. I am so proud of you because I know how hard it was for you to relive these atrocious assaults. You are a great woman, friend, mother and sister. I admire your strength, wit, and poise. May you continue to stay lifted and empowered!

    Hugs & Kisses!

  • Joygiver

    Well Candelaria, I must say… I had to read and reread several sections. I asked myself, is she speaking of herself or from the female experience. Neither gave me any peace. In the beginning, when the words felt lighter, I was reminded that there is a sickness in many men that allows them to victimize innocent (or even not-so-innocent, doesn’t matter) women and girls. An appetite and hunger that gives them an entitlement to our flesh, beauty, innocence and sometimes soul. And then, we are supposed to appreciate it like they’ve given us some gift. This post reminds me of a confessional conversation that I had with a friend over Tex-Mex, but somehow this feels darker, heavier and more painful. To all of it I say, release your pain. Speak your peace. I make the assumption that if you have to consider whether it is all out and you are over it, that the answer is no. I believe when it is all out, it will just be gone… or will it. I don’t get to decide for someone else’s life, but as we are called to empathize and bare each other’s burdens I try to imagine what healing looks like. I wish it for you and all other #Me Too’s.

    We all have our stories, if we’re honest. Some of them are so normalized that we don’t know that we’ve been assaulted. Other’s we dismiss away, because boys will be boys or it’s the right of passage or perhaps someone of the same gender is “sharing” with us and may want us to think that they are “caring” for us. One of my most painful thoughts is that on one hand some raped us out of hatred and disdain. On the other hand (as you spoke of) there are those whose care we are entrusted to that are supposed to love and nurture us.
    Some, we are forced to find a way to continue to love. It takes so many forms and all make me sad and angry and through it all we lose pieces of ourselves. My comfort comes from knowing that God’s grace is sufficient to pick ourselves up and carry on, but we must muster the courage, strength and desire to move on. I applaud your strength and courage.

    • Candelaria Silva Post author

      Thank you for such a thoughtful response. I agree that some actions are so normalized we don’t even think to complain about them. I do believe if you name it you can heal it. I’ve named it, shared it, and lived with it and beyond it for a long time. I continue to work toward being love in action and pray that we toxic masculinity is eliminated and that we are all healed.

    • Helen Credle

      The reply piece from “JOYGIVER” touched every fiber of my being. I read, and read, and reread her words of enlightenment. Every nook and cranny of my experience and that of others was expressed, described in a way that caught my heart of understanding. My question to take the conversation a bit further is? what is this special entitlement that men seem to think they have? where does it come from? What is so challenging for US as women to say NO? Thank you Ms. Giver of Joy you’ve got me changing the way I look at “IT”. Thank you Candelaria for opening the doors to this conversation. Entitlement by men what is this dynamic???

  • Desiree

    Beautiful piece. But it causes me to reflect on how this life has so much pain in it, pain produced by pain that came before. But how can all the pain be addressed? Words have to be one way. And I think this is something your piece and comedian Hannah Gadsby’s stand up show “Nanette” have in common, the way story is used. The message, the openness of heart, is for yourself, others who have suffered, people at large (which helps them understand) and also for the perpetrators or potential perpetrators. Seeing the effect of actions opens people. Seeing is one way that heals that inside that perpetrates and also strengthens compassion so that we humans become better at love. Good work.

    • Candelaria Silva Post author

      Thanks for much for your thoughtful and heartfelt comments. I read some where that if you “name it, you can heal it.” I think this is true. I also must reinforce your observation of “pain produced by pain.” It just goes round and round unless we interrupt and try to be different. I know a young man whose father was an absolute pig but the son is not. He decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps.
      Hannah Gadby’s Nanette is brilliant and combined so many emotions plus the truth. She showed how the truth is avoided when only part of the story is told. I’m encouraging everyone I know to watch it, as you encouraged me. Keep pushing love and truth.