George Davis | Beneath the lipstick and mascara
There was a time I was astonished by the number of women I knew personally who had been victims of molestation, either as children or as adolescents. That sense of shock has ebbed away over time, given the extraordinary number of friends, family members and love interests who testify to having been violated, most often by persons close to them.
And while the shock has gone, I remain repulsed at the number of fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, clergymen, mentors and friends of families who've robbed numerous girls of their innocence, while consigning them to a life of difficulty in their interaction with the men they encounter as adults.
Molestation does not only have an impact on a woman's desire for, or enjoyment of, sex. Make no mistake, it has significant effects beyond that. But let us stay with the sexual aspect for a bit. How many women do you know who have steady partners in stable relationships but confess that even after a decade in the relationship, sex is something they have to motivate themselves for, given the ugly scars of their initial intimate encounter with a man?
Women have told me that they find themselves in their bathrooms staring in their mirror, basically giving themselves a pep talk ahead of sex with the man they love and have been with for several years.
One friend shared that she repeats, "I can do this," several times while doing a deep-breathing exercise to calm her nerves ahead of what she sees as a period of suffering necessary to maintain normality in her relationship and keep her partner happy. All because of the harrowing experience of being intimidated and exploited as a child by adult men to whom she looked for guidance and mentorship.
And how many women do you know who will confess that they see sex as something to be endured, not enjoyed, simply because they see the act as a violation of their body? And how many men have ever been in an intimate situation with a woman where they can't say certain things to her during role play, because the woman gets flashbacks of similar things being said to her as a child by an adult man?
Several women have said to me that they sometimes wonder if the things that happened to them as children actually never transpired and were simply the product of overactive imaginations. Some have even blamed themselves for the wickedness they suffered, reasoning that if they had not done this or that, the monsters wouldn't have preyed on them.
I confess to having a great difficulty understanding those lines of thought. I've asked a few women in the past, how can something have had such a damaging impact on your life and yet you believe it was a figment of your imagination? I've also asked them to explain how they could believe that the evil visited upon them was caused by something that they, as mere children, did.
The fact that so many women shared these same perspectives about the molestation they suffered has convinced me that I don't need to understand it for it to be true. I have come to accept that in the context of the reality that these women face, my understanding of their explanations and the coping mechanisms they use is unimportant.
To say women are strong is to grossly understate things. The horrors that so many lived through as children, yet overcame to make something of themselves as adults, is remarkable by any measure.
My job as the father of a five-year-old girl is to protect her so she can escape the fate that has befallen so many little girls before her. I desperately want to protect her from the predators who may lurk in the classroom, at swimming class, at ballet, at gymnastics, or even the sick freaks who are themselves parents of children with whom she may be friendly.
There are so many men speaking to us from the platform of radio, television and newspaper, the pulpit, lecture theatre and political soapbox who have committed unspeakable crimes against our young girls and young women. They have violated bodies but will never be strong enough to damage souls.