I keep hearing “Why didn’t she speak up sooner?”
I spoke up. I was 7. The abuser was a neighbor. Nothing was done. I thought it was my fault, that I was not a virgin, and that at age 7 I was pregnant. I did not understand puberty. I spoke up to my mother, who dismissed it.
So I did the only thing I could: I tried to protect myself and my four year old sister. I told her never ever to go near that neighbor. And I never went near him again.
I was taken for a well child check a month or two later. I didn’t say anything but I thought that surely the doctor would have noticed if I was pregnant, so I must not be.
I grieved on the school bus, thinking that I was the only girl who was not a virgin. I was wrong about the not a virgin, but I also was probably wrong about being the only girl.
I didn’t even realize that hello, I was seven, it was not my fault, I didn’t even understand what was happening. I didn’t understand until I was in college and heard a radio program about how women who are raped feel guilty. Here is a poem about that realization: The bacon burning.
So do you think I spoke up after that? Why would I? No one helped me and I was silenced. I learned this lesson: no one will help and I am on my own. I did speak up in medical school: Make a difference.
Where is justice? And do you really want us ALL to speak up now? About ALL of it?
When I was in my early teens, a friend of my parents french kissed me. He said, “I wanted to be your first french kiss.” Hello, I avoided him after that and did I want a french kiss from an old friend of my parents? He had a PhD but no boundaries, no emotional intelligence and poor ethics.
Shall I go on? In college I worked in two labs: both fruit fly labs. In one the graduate student was professional, courteous and quickly gave me a raise. In the other, I never saw the professor again and I was ignored. I went to resign from the second. The PhD professor said, “What do you plan to do after college?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Do you plan to get married and become some man’s cow?”
Oh, really? Do you Mr. PhD professor refer to all married women as men’s cows? Would you have the same conversation with a male student? I quit. I don’t like you or your lab and that sort of comment reinforces my dislike.
In medical school we had two female physicians on the faculty. One was married but no children. Residents joked about her, that she had the balls in the family, because they were both physicians. The other was not married, an OB-gyn. We asked her to speak to our Women in Medicine group about children and career.
“If you want to be taken seriously as a physician, you should not have children.” she said.
I asked, “What if we have a house husband?”
“No man’s ego could stand up to that,” she replied.
I have children and a career.
I had worked in a clinic for a year and another provider talked to me. “Do you know that they are paying the other physician (male) twice what they are paying you?”
Oh, really? I set up a meeting with the administration.
“Oh, the male physician is the clinic director, that’s why we pay him more.”
This was a lie. I had been in the clinic for a year and there had never been one word that he was clinic director. The next year they standardized paying us by RVUs: his salary went down and mine went up. And so justice was done, right? No, the male physicians are given jobs such as head of hospice or medical director and extra money. Do they work harder? The jobs are not offered to the women physicians.
A male physician at the hospital was made chief of staff. He asks me in the hall, “Do women physicians just quit because they want to stay at home with children?”
“Do you want a serious answer?” I said. He looked surprised. We went to an office and I discussed that almost all the hospital staff were women at that time and that they have a different relationship with female physicians than male physicians. Most of the administrators were male, white males.
So really, do you want all the women in the US to speak up? Maybe we all should. The above is not anywhere near an exhaustive list, it is a start. This is just from thinking about it for two days. I can fill pages…..