Kristina Furey

Why I stayed silent (that time)

“To know of a terrible injustice is a tragedy, but to know of a tragedy and not speak of the horrific injustice is, in itself, a crime against humanity.”--Yehuda Halevi


I had just performed Dianna Ross’ “Upside Down” for some, end of the year talent show.  I had changed my clothes and fixed my hair, in a teacher's bathroom, in the Arts Hall, behind the stage side of the auditorium, before heading on stage. I left my stuff in a bag, in that bathroom, as did some other people. I was thrilled, as it was the last performance of the year and within a month, I would be graduated from high school.  I was happy with my performance and on my way to retrieve my bag of stuff, when I turned the corner and noticed the group of guys hanging around the bathroom. My instincts told me they were up to no good and I assumed they were rummaging through the bags of stuff and stealing. My keys were in my bag and I thought, if I go over there now and confront them, I'm more likely to get my keys. As I walked down that hall I could feel my body becoming more compact, like it was preparing for whatever blow may come my way.  This wasn't the first time I had to summon up my braver self and she seemed to weigh about 20 pounds more than her less sure counterpart. The guys parted as I began to walk into the bathroom and it was then, that I realized, one of the guys was peeing in the toilet.  I turned around, and walked back to the other hallway and stood in the corner between the two. As I walked away from the bathroom, I said over my shoulder, “Okay, I did not need to see that! Could you tell me when he's done, I just need my stuff”.  


I remembered an old cartoon strip.  Picture, of the back of a man in a trench coat.  In the front he was holding the trench coat open.  Apparently, showing the woman standing in front of him, the full Monty.  Her retort, “Oh, no thanks. I've got one at home just like it”. I was commending myself for handling the situation as well as I did.  Well, I thought was, handling it…


“He's done!' Someone or a couple someones said. So I went to retrieve my bag.  As I went to pick my bag up off the floor, I heard the door slam behind me. There was no doubt in my mind, I was in trouble.  Thank God, it was just one of the guys. I believe it was the one that was peeing. I didn't recognize him for anyone I had seen before.  I learned later in a comment he made that he went to another school. He walked toward me, saying, “We have got to hook up!” He was about to grab me. (I've often wondered just what happened to me mentally in the time that followed, between those words and me getting out of that room. Some other part of me took over.) I grabbed a curling iron that was in my bag, yanked it out as I demanded, “Open that door!"  He turned around and began to turn the knob. He said, “It's stuck, they’re holding it from the outside. Here, try it”! So I started yelling, something like, “You better let go of that door and let me out right this minute or your friend is going to get hurt.” I turned the knob. The door opened and I was out, walking down the hall and I was off to find my friend.  I think I said something to my friend when I found her… Interesting to me, my memory is fuzzy on events before and after the incident in the bathroom. I do however, remember being verbally harassed, very briefly, by the guy that had been in the bathroom. I think he was trying to save face with his friends. That happened maybe all of 15 minutes after the incident. I do think they may have been on something...


An aside: I was taught to assume the best of others.  I tend to think one person is just a sampling of their surroundings and experiences. I look at this incident and other ones I've been subjected to, as clues to where we are as a society and symptoms like this, indicate to me, an unbalanced society.  I tend see us as fractals of that society and it's my belief that an unbalanced society, is indicative of the individuals in it. It appears to me, that we need balance in our society and the way to get that, is by respecting each member enough to value them and their quality of life, the way we value ourselves and our own quality of life. When each of us trust that we are equally valued and protected under our nation's laws, that's when we become balanced as a nation. That said, if the choice were mine to make, I would make sure those appointed to our highest level of court, those set in place to keep the balance of our society, were without a doubt, without suspicion.  I realize life is unfair and I am sure it would be hard for Kavanaugh to be so close to that promotion and not receive it, especially if he is innocent of the charges, as he says he is. For the greater good of our society, I think it wise, a more suitable candidate be appointed. If Ford is remembering and telling the events as they happened (I have no reason to believe she is not) I commend her courage.


My story continued: I have wondered what would have happened if I had come forward with the events of what took place in that teacher's bathroom and within that back hall…  I expect it would have shook things up in that school, the community and made the final month of my senior year, hell for me. I was disgruntled at being there and had only come to that school one year before, with the attitude, “I just have to do my time here and then I can get on with my life”.  It was that same mantra that I repeated as I decided to let it go and just deal with the anxiety it caused me.


One more thought: There was a senior football player in that school, my senior year, who broke into the school as a “boy's will be boys” kind of “prank”.  As I heard it, he was expelled, unable to attend graduation and lost a scholarship, as well as acceptance to college.  I have this memory of him, earlier that school year, when he was still on his course to greatness and astounded, that I didn't know who he was, as he filled me in on the details of everybody's all American...  I wonder sometimes, if he ever found his way, after that stupid mistake he made… Maybe I'm just trying to justify that letting the incident in the bathroom go, was the right decision for me. Maybe I need to do that so I don't feel as if I failed myself in some way... but something in me felt that I was okay, my body was unharmed at least. I wanted to believe I was strong enough to take what I felt was the higher road as I had been groomed all my life to do. Also, it's like if someone stabs you and walks away, once you get that knife out, you don't want to pick it up and start jabbing it back in you or hand that knife to someone, say "help me" when you are uncertain if they will or if they will start stabbing you with it, maybe even invite the original assailants to join in... Now that's just me and the way I was taught growing up. It doesn't mean it's right but I don't think it's wrong either. I think it's up to our judicial system and all those appointed, along with those that appoint, to honor society and the positions they are in by doing the best they can to balance the justice in our nation. So we can all feel safe and trust, that we can ask for help and get it. I don't feel comfortable with the idea that someone's life is over because they didn't receive the guidance each one of us should get on human rights, equality and why it is important, we each weigh our choices carefully to promote a just society. I realize, I myself have followed others down paths in an attempt to fit in and utilized poor judgement in those moments. By the grace of God, I somehow got through unscathed and not because I deserved to but given those second chances and some time to grow, I got better at choosing. (until tomorrow comes and I'm faced with all new challenges but hopefully I will make good decisions.) I have played my own part in distasteful behaviors towards others, that I doubt you will ever hear me talk about or post here. Way I see it, We can't go back but we can go forward and when we know better, really know better and have the ability, we do better. It's up to us to do what we can from where we are and build on that. I keep challenging myself, to do the best I can to educate people, when I witness acts of ignorance and injustices. I try and I try to stay open to the people that take time to kindly educate me.  We are what makes up our society and our choices are what we are made of. If I could go back to, just post, the bathroom incident, I would walk away just the same. I would never report the incident but I would contact the boys by mail soon afterwards and let them know, how their actions affected me. I would ask them to consider how they would have felt had they found themselves in that position, alone, surrounded and faced with the possibility they would be raped by guys bigger than themselves. I would ask them to consider the idea of females in their lives, that they love being faced with that. I would tell them, they made a mistake. A mistake that they might have lost their futures over and found themselves in that exact scenario (a bathroom, alone, surrounded by men, only in a prison system), had things escalated. I would assure them that I, having experienced that and the anxiety it created in me, would not want that for anyone else and since things did not escalate, I will just leave them with a warning for now but I have written about the incident in my journal, for my parents to find, should something happen to me and so I could show up in court, in the future, should they be part of anything like this again.

I leave you with this speech from the beloved TV show, "Lost" "Live together, die alone speech"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr1Gjwf_kWg JAck

 

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