#Metoo

I’d like to start with a cautioning that this post will have highly personal and traumatic event described. Please know I am ok. If this is something you would rather not know please skip this post. Thank you for taking care of yourself too.

What we are talking about is the #metoo movement and the amount of sexual harassment and abuse (read more here). This hashtag has gone viral, and humans are speaking about this taboo subject in order to show support and help all of understand the extent of the problems. Here is my experience and the reason I am a #metoo.

When I moved across the country to Jacksonville, NC in 2009 to be with my now ex-husband I never could have anticipated what was to happen. My ex was in the Marine Corps and stationed at Camp Lejeune. Having just completed my degree in Portland I moved across the country to live away from my family and newly built support system of friends. All I had was my husband, who being a rifleman, spent a lot of time away from home.

I spent a lot of time on my own the first couple months until I found a job, only really making it out of the house for groceries and early morning disc golf before the humidity kicked in. Life became normal I suppose. Weekdays all alone, every episode of Lost, lots of functional training workouts in the house, and internet research of adorable cats, fail videos, and how to get my tap water clear quicker than 5 times through a Britta filter.

It came time for my annual check up…

My whole adult life I had gone to the clinic for my exams, so I was used to seeing different people for this awkward experience. Back then the annual exam was typically a breast exam, the stethoscope deep breath thing they do, abdominal taps for who knows what, and the dreaded duck bill lady part exam. Bleh.

This year was my first exam with a male doctor. I didn’t feel comfortable going to the military base doctor because I hated passing over the giant gate at the base entrance where I knew I could be locked in at anytime for any reason and with no ability to do anything about it. It creeped me out. Turns out it probably would have turned out better.

The nearest doctor who accepted my insurance off base was about 45 minutes away. The roads were all pretty quiet in that part of the country, so getting there was pretty easy. I went inside and gave the receptionist my name to check in. They took copies of my cards, and eventually I was lead to a little room just like all the other little exam rooms I’ve been in before. Sterile, brightly lit, nondescript decoration that leant toward the morose I was about to experience.

The exam goes pretty much as all the others do. The doctor does the stethoscope thing, the belly tapping thing, the circly breast exam thing, and the awful duck bill pap smear thing. As I lie there on the table with my legs still in the stirrups the doctor catches my eye as he slowly takes off his gloves. I begin to relax a bit believing he is about to tell me the exam is over and to get dressed.

*Please stop reading here and skip down past the lines of asterisks if you would prefer to skip the icky part…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instead he holds my gaze as he slowly and deliberately puts down the glove on the table, moves his freshly ungloved hand back towards me, and still holding my eyes sticks his finger in my…what’s the polite way to say this? My, umm bud da bum…yup. In my exit only, never even attempted to experiment on my own, and don’t want anyone in there b-u-t-t. Butt. All while maintaining eye contact. At first I wasn’t really sure what was going on. My initial reaction of “Umm, what is he doing?”  Goes into the horrified “Oh holy bananas I feel something I’m not supposed to feel and this is NOT OK AND I’m F-R-E-A-K-I-N-G OUT!!!” My heart is beating out of my chest. My throat closes up. My voice is as lost as all those socks I’ve never gotten back from the dryer (#jokesofdeflection), and as it turns out my fight or flight response in this instance is to freeze.

I am cement.

Unable move, speak, breathe. Not ok. Not sure I will be.

And just like that, SWOOP, he pulls back out, takes off his other glove, and tells me the exam is over. He wants me to get dressed and meet him in his office.

If I could shake I would, but I am numb. Somehow I manage to get dressed and with my pulse beating so loudly it’s about to jump out of my skull I hazily walk the few steps to this man’s office where he is sitting with a FUCKING smile on his face. I don’t know what else to do, so I sit down. “So, do you have any questions?” he says. My eyes are welling with tears, my heart beating so loudly now I’m sure he can hear it, shame and terror on my face, but still somehow every thought that comes to mind HOW COULD YOU! HOW DARE YOU! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? WHY DID YOU? YOU VIOLATED ME! I HATE YOU! stays stuck in my throat. I can’t even manage a “no.” I shake my head and am given permission to leave.

I am sick. I practically run out of there, and as soon as I’m in my car I burst into deep mournful sobs of a person who has suffered a thing that can never be undone.

For at least an hour I sit there in my car crying, screaming, sobbing, hating myself. I try and figure out if there was anyway I could have misinterpreted what happened. “Maybe they do that normally over here? Maybe I just imagined it?” I think to myself. But no, the experience of this was real, and after later extensive internet research I can find no evidence that this is normal, especially ungloved.

 

 

 

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Finally I call my husband and choking through the sobs I try to explain what happened. When he gets home he holds me and tells me it’s going to be ok (after I convince him that he can’t kill the doctor because then I’ll have to deal with all this alone while he’s in jail). In this moment I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. He listened to me, supported me, and in the end, didn’t try to fix it or blame me for what happened.

The feelings of shame and self hatred were strong. Knowing that the feelings were irrational and unhelpful didn’t make it better. What did make it better were affirmations, regaining control over my boundaries, learning to speak up for myself, and learning to forgive even when someone does something unspeakable.

As an oversharer and an extrovert it was such a challenge to have something I didn’t want to share; a secret. This was something that made me feel isolated and alone. Feeling embarrassed and ashamed to talk about what I had experienced forced me to overcome this in new ways. I had to to become comfortable in my skin again, and that meant learning how to deal with this minus my external support system. Exercise, filling idle time with positive experiences, and moving forward with exploring who I was now all helped.

I wish I could describe what it feels like to experience that kind of violation so that you could understand without actually experiencing it.  Alas, words are a rudimentary tool for such things. The truth is though, that even if I could it wouldn’t really make it better for either of us. Knowing that other people have and continue to experience abuses like and so so so much worse than mine doesn’t make it better. Nothing can undo these things. Nothing can dull the pain or recover the trust better than time.

This experience was so traumatizing that I somehow managed to block it from my memory completely for several years. It came flooding back in one morning about 2 years ago, and I had to deal with it all over again. Luckily this time I had better coping skills. I was able to recognize that I did nothing wrong and that no reason could fill in the blank of why. It didn’t matter in the end. Realizing I am a good person, and that I can decide to have faith in people regardless of mistakes, choices that caused me pain, and even trauma.

Where I ended up is a place that I think is just as vital as having this conversation and is also a place where we aren’t allowed to have as far as social norms. Yes, I was taken advantage of by a man who made an active decision to do this to me. No, he is not a bad person. In my world there is no such thing as a bad person.

There is no way anyone can understand our own path better than ourselves, and if I were to judge this man as bad from this one interaction I would be missing the point. It’s my place to judge me and my actions, not others. In our society men (and many other groups) are treated as predators until proven innocent, but often don’t get the chance.

They miss out on  chances to be known and proven as worthy individuals based on the way they look or present themselves, but look at my story. I judged this person to be trustworthy based on superficial circumstances and it turned out very badly for me. What’s to say the person on the street is any better or worse? If I don’t give those around me the chance to teach me about who they are and why they do the things they do I will miss out on my own chance to learn emotional diversity, balance, and trust. I will miss out on chances to know and hold my boundaries. I will miss out on so many wonderful people.

My world is one where trust is required every day and without cause. If you show up, I consider you trustworthy first and decide after getting to know you if that trust was placed wisely. I have to protect myself, know what is okay for me or not, know how to say no, but mostly I have to know how to be vulnerable in the face of danger. Life as a professional cuddler is anything but safe according to social standards, but here I am, 4+ years in, still never ended one session early, never had to stop anyone from a serious personal violation against me, and by placing my faith in those around me I have gained more than I could possibly express.

So many people come to be and tell me stories of how they have been treated as someone unworthy of even basic human decency because of superficial bullshit. It breaks my heart. Yes, SO many people have been taken advantage of in endless ways. No, that doesn’t mean that everyone needs to be viewed through the microscope of shame, judgment, and guilt.

Each of us needs to create safety for ourselves. Each of us needs to be responsible for our self care, our healing, our reactions. Life is trauma. After speaking with thousands of people I have deemed this much to be true: we all suffer. Every single one of us. Let’s talk about how we can love, learn, and grow from each other instead of putting up walls when we get hurt. Let’s get back up, and try, try again. Let’s be the reason the world is good.

My call to action: 

When/if someone expresses a trauma to you in person, online, over the phone, etc, listen.

Hear them.

Thank them for their willingness to be open about something so challenging.

Accept them.

Know they are the same person they were before they told you.

Don’t try to fix it.

If you are someone who needs to do something, ask. “How can I best support you? Is there anything I can do? or Are you aware of anything I can do to help?” are all ways of phrasing this that are unlikely (but not impossible) to make it worse.

If you feel victimized in anyway please feel welcome and encouraged to comment publicly below or send me or someone in your life a private message.

Let’s talk about all the things we keep in the shadows.

My purpose for starting this blog, and my continued reason to write is to shine light on the dark parts. To overcome fear and insecurities and    to  be     vulnerable. If you are here, you know this by now. I am Samantha Hess. I am real, and I love you exactly as you are. No one needs to earn that in my world. I hope I can get others to join me in this. Are you with me?

 

 

 

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