Making sense of it
If you read the below, please understand that I am not saying that I think sexually abusive touching is any less serious than penetration - the thoughts are my interpretation of what I thought then.
Last week I read in our local paper that you'd been charged with five counts of rape because you digitally penetrated women who had come to you for massages.
I have not seen you for 20 years. I inhaled sharply and thought, "Oh no, not K. He was my friend." But in the next instant, as I exhaled I thought, yes, he was, but I know he was like that."
You were introduced to me by our mutual friend, Kate, who loved you so much she wanted you to be godfather to her daughter. And I could see why. You were open, friendly, nothing obviously sleazy about you. A real sensitive new-age guy, it was like having a best girlfriend with a penis. There was nothing I couldn't tell you.
I was a 19 year old woman who had been raped and I was pregnant. You were sickened, appalled and so sympathetic. You used to express concern for my fatigue, and say that you were taking me off for a day where I could just sleep and be cared for by you. Oh, K, compared to what I'd had, you seemed like a godsend. I couldn't believe anybody could be so kind - and you never wanted anything in return.
You took me out for lovely meals, you had me over to your house for cooked meals, and you never laid a hand on me. I remember your easy smile, and the way you would purse your lips and nod intently when you were listening to me.
You said you could give me a massage that would take care of my lower back pain. You told me that it would take several hours. I didn't know how I felt about it, but I trusted you so I accepted. I remember the flicking of warm oil against my back. K, I remember you sliding your hand through the back of my legs and massaging my perineum and labia. You said that the vaginal muscles are connected to the back muscles; you kept up a continual stream of friendly patter as you did this. I was embarrassed, but you know what? You were my friend. I knew you would never do anything to hurt me. Even to think that what you were doing was wrong would have
felt like committing gross disloyalty to you. I don't know - if you'd penetrated me as you did the other women, would it have been easier to define it as wrong? Maybe, but I also believe I would have then trusted your interpretation of the act. Good god, I'd been raped. Why would I worry about a bit of touching, especially from somebody I trusted?
After I had my baby you gave me another, much shorter massage. I really felt I didn't like the touching, though I would never have said that to you. It was the last one.
You know, K, for 20 years, I have not thought about it, the touching. I have only ever remembered you favourably. I tend to retain people who've been kind like precious stones in a terasure-chest in my heart - you were one of them. You were the man who bought my children gifts. One night when we were watching television together, you stroked my breast and asked me if I wanted you to stop. When I said yes, you did. I couldn't get over how good that was. I asked you why you didn't come to the hospital to visit me when I had my baby, and you said "I did, love! You were asleep; I gave you a kiss and left." I nearly cried, I thought that was so sweet. One night you invited me and several other people over to your house for dinner. You'd cooked a great meal, and you pampered us. It was only at the end of the night that we found out it was your 36th birthday. Typical you, spoiling us on your birthday.
Yet, even while I say this, I feel as if, having been used to romanticizing you for 20 years, I'm overpleading the case for your goodness. I'm drawing on the memories of a desperately screwed up, emotionally hungry 19 year old.
I have been more disturbed by this than I would have cared to admit. It's felt like cold water dumped on sleeping history. I have been talking to my 19 year old self about the okayness of her ambiguity; she has not wanted to relinquish you. But I think she does want to now, because what you gave her was tainted. It just hurts.
K, it doesn't make sense to me to think that you poured all that energy into me just to cop a couple of feels on the massage table. I still don't want to believe you sexually assaulted me. But perhaps it was not just assaulting me that you derived a sense of power from? Maybe the power came also from knowing that this shattered girl would eat out of your hand. Maybe it gave you a sense of dominion to be my helper, my carer, the one who was "there." The sexual assault was thrown in because you could. A local sexual assault worker told me this week that you had a long career of manipulating vulnerable young women. It just wasn't obvious to me then. I want to think you really cared about me, because you put energy in that you didn't have to. But I thought last night, "If nothing else, assaulting women and giving them a clinical explanation - having that explanation prepared - is incredibly and disgustingly manipulative."
You bastard, perhaps I was too young with too may skewed boundaries to know that what you were doing was wrong, but not so these other brave women. Did you think they were stupid?
K, I would love to know what you were thinking. Was it a case of " I can be nice and lead these stupid cows to the slaughter and pass it off"? For god's sake, one of the women's husbands was in the next room. Arrogance? Did you think that as long as you were nice, there was no harm in it? Are you SICK? While the touching couldn't have brought you any immediate gratification, did you get off on it later? Did you like to have women in positions of vulnerability so you could assault them? I know I'll never have the answers to these questions, but right now, I crave them. I'm trying to make sense of it. I feel in some respects as if I've had to go back to school and relearn everything I know about abuse and perpetrators. As if sexual assault is about gratification; some rapists do not even have to cum - it's enough to know they've violated and degraded their victim, or gained their power fix.
I cried the other night, because I thought about your kindness to me, and I felt a desperate hope that you aren't suffering too badly. And then I thought, "Louise - YOU - worrying about the suffering of a repeat rapist??" Shows how much I loved you, K. And I explained gently to the young woman in me that if you are suffering, then that is a consequence of your behaviour.
I would once have thought that it was my fault, that I was a dirty whore for attracting creeps. But it was not my fault. It isn't my fault I accepted your kindness. YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE. And when it really came down to it, I know you didn't really care about me. You became disdainful after you knew I wouldn't sleep with you, and where once you'd sworn to defend me against my ex-partner, you took me for a drive one night after he'd beaten me, and you blamed me. You acted as though you were sick of me.
Get stuffed, you bastard. Get STUFFED. It's taken me 20 years but I've woken up.