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“Why didn’t you make him stop?”

kidding3Not sure how to rate this entry. Let me just assure you that I am not  making light of a serious subject. I’m simply trying to illustrate a symbolic revelation. I hope it doesn’t come across as too weird.

Tonight, one of our neighbors brought over a bottle of wine to share with us accompanied by her new dog, Utley, a 3-year-old Australian Shepherd she adopted to take the place of her 13-year-old Aussie that she recently had to put to sleep. Utley was taken from an abuse situation and is working on adjusting to his new life, and if anyone can socialize another dog, it’s my dogs. They don’t hold back in their enthusiasm for a new friend.

We sat and chatted, trying not to interfere with the dynamic as the dogs did their dance. Wacky Jack, the Weimaraner, yipped and barked and tried to get Utley to take away his bone from him. Murphy, the old lab, rolled around on her back and roared out deep a-WOOFs. Utley hid behind his mom’s chair. Murphy got up and we were encouraged and laughed when she came over to me, and with some effort, got up on her hind legs and grabbed my leg with her forepaws. Arthritis in her hips has slowed her down lately, but Murph is a big leg-humper from way back, especially when you’re playing pool. Whoever’s turn it is will be at her mercy and she makes it much more challenging to complete a shot.

When Utley still was not impressed with the other dogs’ antics, I got down on my hands and knees and tried to engage him in some fake play. He started to emerge from his hiding place when I felt Jack’s forelegs clamp around my waist as he attempted to mount me from behind. Thinking he would give up after a few seconds, I didn’t resist but when I tried to stand up and couldn’t I became concerned. I had strained a muscle in my leg earlier today and knew that I didn’t have the strength to pull away from him. Uncomfortable laughter came from the others in the room and I began to feel a little humiliated. Finally, he let go.

Later on, when our guests had left  after an ultimately successful first meeting of the dogs, the subject of Jack’s “attack” came up.

“Why didn’t you make him stop?” asked Mama N.

“Why didn’t YOU make him stop?” I replied, feeling that I had somehow done something inappropriate despite my physical inability to stop it.

Strangely, images of Jodi Foster in “The Accused” popped into my head. Everyone saw what was happening, yet they just laughed and let it go on. I felt confused about what I should have done differently. I thought maybe I had invited the assault by being in a situation that was highly charged with dominance, but shouldn’t I have expected that the others in the room, when they began to become uncomfortable themselves, would have come to my aid?

I once asked a couple of friends who had both been sexually abused when they were younger why they thought it had happened to them. Was it something they did? Were they dressed provocatively? Did they lead him on? I could not understand why it had never happened to me. What had I done differently? In my mind, I was somehow superior to them because I had never been assaulted. They told me they didn’t believe they had caused it to happen. It was simply a matter of opportunity for someone else who didn’t know any better to dominate them. In both their cases, it had been someone they’d known and trusted.

In my “panic” with Jack, my mind had scrolled through a list of thoughts: What had I done to deserve this? Was I in the wrong place at the wrong time? How can I get away? Why won’t someone help me??

I do not mean to diminish the real horror of sexual assault by comparing it with being humped by my dog in the midst of play, nor do I want to make it sound any stranger than it was, but I think I gained some understanding tonight of the powerlessness one feels when unable to disengage from an act of personal violation, the confusion that results when good intentions are trampled on, and the distrust that forms when no one will stand up and defend you.

To my two young friends who tried to explain this to me, as well as the many others who have experienced this trauma, I apologize for my past ignorance. I will try to be more compassionate from now on.

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