The Fear of Speaking Up

Bill Cosby has been the center of much debate this week.  Quite possibly this iconic father, comedian, role model, and lovable man may just have gotten away with the most abominable behavior in his lifetime.  What is really going on?  We’ll probably never know unless he was to be straight up and confess to all of this.  It’s always been one woman accusing him of rape here or there over the years.  The cases disappeared, and we moved on hoping that all the stars remained  aligned, and an icon still shined brightly.

But these women could no longer be silenced, and they found their strength in numbers.  Although I can’t know for certain that Mr. Cosby is guilty, I do know about male power and subterfuge.  I know it as a victim.  Not of rape.  It was an uncomfortable violation, and other than a few people close to me, no one knows.  I never reported the incident.  Until today.  Here.

The perpetrator is an optometrist who I believe remains in practice in our greater community.  Before I reached the eyesight-failing age of forty, I used to take clients to this doctor and figured when the time came, I would seek him out for my eye care as well.  He was always courteous, accepting of the people with disabilities whom I brought in and appeared to be a man of integrity.  My first visit went well.  The two year follow-up was quite a different matter.

As I leaned forward in the examination chair, staring into the big goggle-like lenses and trying to determine whether number one or two was better, I felt a “third leg” on my left leg as he honed in to flip the lenses.  There was no mistaking that the doctor had an erection!  I suddenly froze in utter disbelief and even laughed to myself out of the shock and absurdity of the whole thing.  I wasn’t young and pretty.  I was forty three and frumpy. 

What to do?  What to do?  I wished I’d  had the balls to spring up out that door and yell out what he’d done.  But I  wasn’t born with that equipment and have never grown a pair.  I sat in fear and shame as I looked at his familiar pictures and accolades all over the walls of the exam room.  This man was a pillar of community and church, a family man, a well respected doctor.  Who would believe frumpy me over him?  Instead, I moved my leg every time he got closer.  I finished the exam, and I left that office to the cheery goodbyes from the receptionists.  I felt worse because not only was I a victim of this man, but I was a scared rabbit.

I haven’t let that incident cloud the rest of my life.  However I’m not proud of being silent about it.  I suppose it’s never too late, but I can’t imagine starting anything up against this man.  I think I’ve kept hoping to see someone braver than myself come forward.  I was willing to be a corroborator, but not the revolutionist.  It makes me feel as small and powerless as I did back in that doctor’s examining room all those years ago (thirteen).

I’m quite sure I haven’t been his one and only victim.  My husband questioned me as to what many people probably think: “why would he get an erection like that?”  My answer was easy:  it’s all about power.  He probably relished that frozen moment when I realized he was doing something very wrong.  He gets off on the fact that he can do this repeatedly, and live to don his white jacket the next day and the next day, because who would believe a woman who couldn’t prove anything?  

So I’ve stuffed my shame and violation and silent complicity with this perpetrator deep down only to have it resurface strongly as women come out against Bill Cosby.  I know the feeling of not being able to stand alone against someone powerful.  Is it right?  Hell no, because these abusers continue on.  The community divides.  Some call the victims sluts and whores ad nauseum.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a loving wife or a prostitute.  NO means NO.  At the very least, I hope we can agree on that.

About andreamarjulie

Just trying to navigate a life circumvented by chronic migraines. Sometimes I write about managing with those, but at other times I am prone to deviate a bit.
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