A Marriage in the Context of Rape.

As an American girl in the late 80s, I wore a suit and heels as armor. My Wonder Woman tights were panty hose. I carried a briefcase. A smile was my sharpest tool, cutting me on the inside.

I’ve told the story of my first marriage dozens of times.

I was a 23-year-old salesperson burning to tackle the world. I was a runner—in every sense of the word. Usually I got away, with my autumn-green eyes sparkling and my long blonde hair flying.

My husband was a 29-year old farmer who looked like Ron Howard and reminded me of Opie, with his boyish hopes. He played volleyball. He owned four apartment buildings. He wore a toolbelt when he climbed down from a roof and introduced himself to me and my girlfriends. We were in Champaign, IL for a summer sales job with Southwestern Publishing.

I tell about leaving him after one short year of marriage and running back to the southwest. I freely paint myself as hurtful.

I add in the part about the therapist, who told me: “Look, you’re going to leave or you’re not. If you leave, you’ll break your husband’s heart and it will be up to him how he deals with it. Or, you’ll stay and dull your dreams and you’ll have to live with that.”

I immediately booked a U-Haul and convinced some “It can’t be done” guy to install a tow bar on my Honda CRX so I could move to Arizona.

As I packed, Ron Howard played Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” on the stereo. He said he’d help me do anything, but he wouldn’t help me leave him.

Fair enough. I was so giddy for my freedom, I’d carry my own damn boxes!

Actually, my friend Kevin Lentz came and helped me load the heavy stuff. Whatever I owned then filled a 5 x 8 U-Haul.

I fled the Illinois winter, oblivious to the treachery, wide-eyed and white-knuckling black ice across Oklahoma.

I was free!

That’s my story. There’s not much to a one year of marriage to a good man by a rebellious, ambitious, independent runner.

I was 24 when I married grown-up Opie. I’m now 54. I no longer call myself a runner.

I’ve invested countless hours and dollars in therapy. I paid for perspective. Looking back, I see the broader landscape.

I recognize my MeToo experience shattered something inside me. My boss raped me and that night I returned home to a man who knew only good.

I buried the secret I didn’t think he could handle, which made me feel I no longer belonged there. I didn’t belong with him.

In survival mode with the adrenaline of youth and the denial of the intimate violence against my young body, mind, and soul, I turned off feelings and ignited will power.

Now, in the context of the MeToo Movement, I see being raped as the internal landscape from which I functioned, and the elephant in the room I never mentioned—to anyone.

Keeping secrets is hard. When the truth is unbearable, we can even keep it from ourselves.

We can get up in the morning, make coffee, shower, dress, strengthen ourselves, strut into our boss’ office—the same one in which we were raped the night before—and declare ourselves invincible, to our rapist.

It’s like I took a magic eraser to his “error” of raping me. I soldiered on.

Isn’t that what guys do after their injuries?

I’m an American girl and I wanted to be the hero of my own story. I didn’t want to be the victim.

I wasn’t ready to be vulnerable, even though vulnerability proved mine when I was physically overpowered by a man I trusted.

In the face of my rape, I refused to give up my identity as strong, independent, unbreakable.

I was my mother’s daughter and she was a warrior.

Looking back, I’d been skipping on love’s path with my soon-to-be husband when I met a sales manager who would intrigue, irritate, befriend, teach, mentor, manipulate, and rape me.

That’s not how we think of our rapists. They’re not kind, helpful, smart, successful, family men. They don’t smile like our friends.

He did. No wonder I walked into the situation blindly. I’d been groomed.

I chose to walk out of the white picket fence life I briefly entertained because the truth would’ve made a worse mess than the divorce, which I came out of quick and clean.

I’m sorry for the pain I caused my first husband. I honestly believe leaving him hurt less than learning I’d been raped would’ve.

Men like to be heroes and fix things. Too late. There’s not a fix for being raped any more than for a loved one’s death. There’s only navigation.

On the night I was raped, a schism shook me into full protection mode.

As an American girl in the late 80s, I wore a suit and heels as armor. My Wonder Woman tights were panty hose. I carried a briefcase. A smile was my sharpest tool, cutting me on the inside.

How much does being raped impact a woman? Each is different, but every rape is like a head-on collision. The damage varies in degree, sometimes irreparable and not always visible.

When we see cars on the street, we have no idea how much work has been done on them. The same is true of women. And marriages.

See, it’s not just the women affected by rape; it’s also the men who love them.

How Women are Reshaping Society.

“Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Women are taught to be kind. I was taught to be nonjudgmental.

That’s hard. Judgments pop like synapses in my brain. I don’t discriminate and I’m likely hardest on myself.

Still, we’re implored to “Smile!” as if it’s our badge to walk free in society.

Otherwise, we’re called out as bitches, even angry bitches.

Nevertheless, we persist as individual women who often smile instinctively, sometimes don’t mind if you wink at me, but get damn tired of being treated as objects or told we shouldn’t feel as we do.

In the 1970’s Women’s Movement, women stopped smiling, and wearing bras. They traded for emotional armor, determined to succeed in a man’s world.

In the 80’s, as I embarked on my career, my mom and I might as well have worn matching suits and carried matching briefcases.

We cheered in 1992 when Hillary Clinton said, “I suppose I could’ve stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.”

My mom and I bantered feminist sayings like tetherballs:

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. (popularized by Gloria Steinem)
Anything a man can do a woman can do… better.
Don’t send a boy to do a man’s job; Send a woman.

That wave of feminism paved the way for my professional sales career working among men, proving myself.

Women established our ability to work in a man’s world. But, when you borrow someone else’s pants, even if they’re the right size, they still don’t quite fit.

The way men built foundations, set boundaries (which they may freely bulldoze), and invited us begrudgingly—and sometimes eagerly—serves them and their agenda, even if only through subconscious bias.

We made it in a man’s world. Sure, there’s a glass ceiling and sexual harassment is rampant, but as Donald Trump inferred, harassment in the military is to be expected. His son Trump Jr. clarified that women who can’t handle harassment in the workplace should teach kindergarten.

Trickle-down bullsh*t.

Just as women made comfortable, although not equal, strides in careers and corporations, the guys we believed to be rare and living under rocks revealed themselves in the #MeToo chapter of the Women’s Movement.

“Yeah, I grabbed her by the pus…” Yeah, those guys. The bratty boys with names like Brett who threaten not to let us in the club again.

Guess what? This is a new movement of women.

We’re moving with love, yoga, hot tea, and Kundalini. We’re meeting under full moons and awakening. We’re creating a new world for women, children, and men.

We’re focusing on inclusion, understanding, showing up, and speaking truth—direct, soft, and strong, like a mother who’s had creation born through her.

We wanted in the boys’ clubhouse when we were girls. Then, we grew up and found out what’s in there. It stinks!

We’re building more than clubhouses. Women are creating families, businesses, and communities. We’re shaping societies.

Like the alt-right silently, and sometimes violently, infiltrated our institutions, women are waging a revolution. A revolution of love.

We’re burning sage and taking to the page. We’re purging toxins and cleansing chakras. We speak feminine languages. The witches are back.

We chant with our sisters and our ancestors, who stand with us as we create the new ways—devoid of glass ceilings and golden handcuffs.

Human progress. There’s no going back. Only sitting it out or showing up.

Women are showing up united, ignited, empowered, and determined. We’re here for the future of our children, country, and society.

We might even do a little house cleaning!

How Secrets Fester.

I was 24-years-old when my sales manager befriended me, told me I was smart, and soothed away my insecurities.

He gave me books to read: Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Richest Man in Babylon.

He stroked my business ego and seduced me with ideas of success—mine.

Skilled in the use of the law of reciprocity, he promoted me and doubled-down by giving me the best sales leads, or at least suggesting he had.

He trained me to close sales like a champion. My sales soared.

I felt invincible.

My manager showed up at shows I worked. In his presence, I persisted in my pursuit of dangled rewards, accolades and money.

I stepped into a leadership role, hiring and training, in the office and in the field. I made a name for myself.

My ambition and hard work were paying off.

When my 27-year-old brother died in a car accident, my manager infiltrated my family by forming an unexplainable bond with my mother.

He found an in with her while she grieved her only son. This manager and my mom spoke on the phone for hours. She embroidered shirts for him with our company logo, as she’d done for me.

Mr. Manager also pointed out my husband and I weren’t a fit, as if delivering helpful facts, rather than planting seeds of poison.

This manager often “just happened” to be working close to my territory. He’d call to check on me. And oh, we should meet for a celebratory drink. Or to analyze the sales that slipped away.

My boundaries weren’t yet buckled down. I enjoyed his company. I was eager to succeed.

I leaned into the learning curve. For the first time in my life, I felt like a responsible adult with a career and a vision.

He was my manager. I thought he was my friend. I trusted him.

He manipulated me with calculation and precision I couldn’t see, or even fathom, due to my inexperience with treachery.

One night, this manager raped me in the office where we worked, the office that felt like home, the office I ran when he was late or absent, where I interviewed, hired, trained, took calls, and began to build my career.

My manager raped me when I was 24 and the world was an open door.

I couldn’t tell you what he was wearing or what I was wearing. I only know the date because it was his birthday and my first year in the business.

I was overcome with an unquestionable urge to repress.

For over a decade, I told no one. Not even my mother.

Now, I wonder about a night she came back to my house after an evening with him.

She said he was crazy. Their friendship ended as oddly as it had started.

Although we were close, she and I never discussed it.

It’s hard to talk about the thing you’re desperate to deny.

How convenient for a master manipulator/rapist.

Did he rape my mother, too? Would she, were she alive, be saying #MeToo about a man I introduced her to?

It’s a very real possibility I try not to bite down on too hard.

Now, I know: I’m not invincible. 

I’m not going to pretend I am and go to work and about my business pretending it didn’t happen to me, pretending it hasn’t happened to others, and hoping it doesn’t keep repeating.

It’s our responsibility to talk about what’s become pervasive and perverted in our society.

Along with thousands of #MeToo sad, but true stories, I’m telling mine.

It’s no longer just about what happened to us as individuals. Now, it’s about what’s been happening to women collectively while we quietly nursed our individual wounds.

Truth only stays submerged in society for so long. #TimesUp. #MeToo.

No, we will not go quietly. That didn’t work for us.

We refuse to mirror denial any longer. 

The #MeToo Movement and The Cost of Keeping Quiet.

I am my mother’s daughter, as she was her mother’s daughter. In an age when women stayed home, my grandmother took nontraditional jobs like welding.

My mom embodied the fight for women’s rights. She also believed education to be the great equalizer. When I was in elementary school, my mom earned her master’s. While I entered college, she completed her PhD. Her checks read Dr. Sandra D. K. Kelley.

She could shred me with one look of disappointment and shoot me into unwavering determination with five words: “Honey, you can do it.”

I rose as a national sales trainer just as she lost her job. We lived together in Denver while I travelled for work. She made sure I got to the airport on time and picked me up when I flew in. She took my car in to get the oil changed, ran untold errands, and made the mundane easy for me.

My mom set aside her pride and took jobs that were beneath her, like doing administrative duties on an oil tanker and selling encyclopedias.

Sandra Kelley was a woman warrior, but even warriors succumb to cancer. She died on April 28, 1995 at age 56.

For years, I danced for the affections of a woman now gone from this world.

It took me decades to see what my mother sacrificed in the name of women’s rights: her femininity. She couldn’t afford vulnerability. All that pushing down of emotions—propelling forward when two marriages fell apart and her only son died—ravaged her on the inside.

In many ways, I’ve marched behind my mother—two marriages in my wake, a couple of degrees earned late, and grief that threatened my desire to fulfill my destiny.

I carry my mother’s strength and I’m meant to be, do, and own more. Be more at peace in my own skin. Do what’s right for me, not just to prove my power. Own my feelings and truth.

Own this moment in history—mine and the collective. We’re our mothers’ daughters, but we’re so much more.

A friend of mine told me her mother wasn’t on the front lines of the fight for women’s rights. In fact, she advocated for no change and thought women like my mom were insane for trying to shake things up, jeopardizing the sweet position her mother held at home with the kids. She loved being a housewife. What?

I’d never considered that mindset. I didn’t know this friend when I was a child in the 70s.

I believed every woman felt the calling to rise out of her current circumstances.

I also couldn’t fathom that my friend’s mother would feed her scraps of judgement on homosexuality and therefore invite my friend to hide hers—even from herself—until her mid-30s.

We’re our mother’s daughters, but we’re not our mothers.

Every movement, every step of progress, brings challenge.

To compete with and find our place in the workforce dominated by men, we often became like them, never letting them see us sweat or struggle or cry.

That “never send a boy to do a man’s job; send a woman” still implied the job belonged to the man.

We’ve journeyed far enough down the historical line to prove a woman’s place is wherever she wants to be and works her way into.

However, along the way—maybe as backlash to the women’s movement or maybe a salute to Disney’s influence—little girls weren’t told they could be President or queen, but that they were princesses. Pink became the perpetual color of a generation of women who could be my daughters.

Too many either didn’t know or forgot the lessons of our mothers. I heard young women in my own family laughing off flirting bosses and other men who were clearly crossing the line.

I know educated women in their 30s and 40s who chose to vote with their husbands and invested less time researching issues and candidates than researching their next vacation or home decorations. Because their husbands knew better?

Use it or lose it applies to our voices and our votes. Just because you showed up doesn’t mean you voted your conscience or what’s good for your kids, especially your daughters.

The Me Too Movement was born after we individually and collectively tried to brave the worst of circumstances.

Here’s the sickest truth I know: the man who raped me likely raped my mother.

I can’t prove it and since she’s deceased I can’t ask her, but I’ve never seen my mother shaken like I did after the night she went out with him.

She was a woman warrior—the kind who would’ve sworn before that she would make sure a rapist would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Many years prior, she’d won a discrimination law suit in my hometown when a less qualified man was hired into a job she’d applied for with the school system.

In 1988, I continued a friendship with my manager and continued working for him after the night I tried to forget—the night he raped me.

Shortly after my brother died on December 10, 1989, this man—let’s call him Dick—called my mother’s house to speak to me and ended up talking to my mother for over an hour.

I didn’t know then, but I can see it now. Dick began grooming my mom in the way a career criminal and master manipulator grooms a grown woman who’s fresh into the storm of grief over the death of her only son.

I can’t go on with that story because even now I want to deny what I know is true—how my trying to be strong was wrong.

I did my best. Still, I think: what have I done?

What have we done? Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too.

Men are the culprits (typically), but have we, at times, been complicit by keeping quiet?

No longer. This is our time. I applaud Andrea Constand, Victoria Valentino, Ashley Judd, Dr. Ford, and too many others who share all-too-familiar stories.

Every voice matters because truth matters.

Because Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar, Bill Cosby, and other men who abuse their power can’t be taken down by just a few women.

However, the collective rising is a mighty force.

We’re feminine and fierce. We’re vulnerable and strong.

This is our time. We collectively call out the BS so the Me Too Movement can move us into honest, challenging, and courageous conversations that pave the path forward.

Now, we’ll scream if we must. We will be heard. The daughters of future generations will be treated with respect and dignity.

Women have the power to change society. Like the women who came before and the women who came before them.

We say Me Too. We call BS. Enough. Times up.

No more princesses. Now, we rise as warriors and queens.