#MeToo #ToMe (5.31.18)
I’ve been reflecting on my journey through heaven and hell on planet earth in context of the #metoo movement. When the army of USA Gymnastics survivors spoke out against Larry Nassar I thought, “Wow. These girls are going to have access to the best therapy and resources to heal from their horrific experiences of being repeatedly sexually assaulted by this man. And, they are going to have an ARMY of comrades to lean on who can identify and relate to what they went through. They will have women who are extremely similar to them – i.e., athletic, competitive, go-getters, fighters, disciplined, females, etc. – who experienced this trauma as young girls and they are going to be able to lean on one another for support, guidance, and healing. What a gift.” Yes, it SUCKSbeyond belief that they went through this horror, but these women have instant support groups to help them as they walk through their healing journeys.
When I reflect on my journey, it is quite different from the women of today. My story of healing began 34 years ago. I was a junior in college at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia when I first spoke, “That’s what happened to me.” Apparently, I was a newcomer to the #tome (to me – as in that’s what happened to me) movement. Who knows? Maybe I’m the founder of the #tome movement. I talk to the world and primarily hear silence from my sisters in arms. I wonder where my comrades with broken hearts and spirits went with their potential pathway to healing once they watched the television show called “Something About Amelia” like I did.
Three young women were in my dorm room when I spoke the words, “That’s what happened to me” – my roommate and two other girlfriends. Thank God, one of these young women was a psych major. My friend Marie said, “We need to get you help.” She immediately knew where to take me – to the school counselor Mrs. Kelly. I will forever be grateful to Marie Del Gardo for being a kind, compassionate, wise friend and helping me to get help. She was in exactly the right time and place in my life to guide me.
Unfortunately, the rest of my initial healing journey was fraught with pain, confusion, sadness, disappointment, roadblocks, and frustration. Marie referred me to Dr. Kelly, the school counselor, in the spring of 1984. Dr. Kelly was the one and only counselor for a student body of 3,000 students at Mary Washington College. She helped me create a study schedule to create the structure that I needed while I felt like I was melting down. During one counseling session she told me that I had “intellectualized” the entire sexual abuse experience. I didn’t know what the hell she meant. In hindsight, it’s a fucking miracle that I was still alive. She was mortified to learn that I had experienced a 45 day menstrual cycle in the summer of 1983. A gynecologist recommended a D&C as a solution, but the bleeding still didn’t stop (another story for another time). She said, “Debbie, you were hemorrhaging!” She put words to a physical horror that I was experiencing that I was unable to express. She told me that I had to confront my father to stop this abuse which I did all by myself in March of 1984. Dad and I were driving out to West Virginia all by ourselves which was highly unusual. We were joining my mother to visit my first grandparent dying – my maternal grandmother was experiencing a long drawn out, gruesome death. I confronted Dad while he was driving and realized once the words came out of my mouth that he could have wrecked the car to kill both of us. Thank God, he didn’t.
When I came back to school in August of 1984, I learned that Dr. Kelly was dying of cancer, therefore I could no longer see her. Seriously God? I am finally getting help and now it’s gone? I was devastated. Dr. Kelly was wonderful, kind, helpful, compassionate and we had just begun my healing process. She died in the spring of 1985. Marie and I attended her funeral and I gushed water like a broken fire hydrant throughout the entire funeral for a woman I barely knew.
I also shared my story with the one and only medical doctor on campus – Dr. Overman. Dr. Overman was a gynecologist and she was very compassionate. She knew that I was seeing Dr. Kelly for talk therapy. Dr. Overman put me on Centrax which was a drug to help me cope with this overwhelming shit bursting forth. In hindsight, I wish I had never accepted the drug, because it lead me down a rocky, confusing path of prescription drugs which ultimately created another whole world of problems for me. Drugs may help, but they also create massive side effects. Dr. Overman also said that I could come to the Health Care Center anytime that I wanted to to receive peace and quiet and 3 healthy meals per day. She was creating a space for me to feel safe and to help me. What she did not know is that a male nurse on her staff named Les was a sexual predator. Over time, this male nurse manipulated me psychologically and seduced me. Yes, I may have consented to having sex with him since I was 21 years old, but I was there seeking refuge from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. He knew this information, took advantage of me, and replicated parts of my childhood abuse.
Dr. Kelly’s (the psychologist) replacement was Dr. Chirico, a male, who was a temporary counselor filling in for Dr. Kelly while she was dying. Dr. Chirico lived in my hometown in Richmond, Virginia and commuted two hours a day for this job. Dr. Chirico helped me to the best of his ability, but he also FAILED MISERABLY. I was seeing Dr. Chirico on a weekly basis for psychotherapy concerning unearthing 12 years of childhood sexual abuse. I told Dr. Chirico about this male nurse’s attention and his behaviors towards me, because I was confused by him. Les was married. Les had children. Les had a special needs child. Les used to be in the army. Les was writing me poetry using calligraphy. Les wanted to see me dressed up for a formal school dance that was held in the same building as the Health Care Center. Les kissed me on the lips when I visited him at the Health Care Center in my formal dress.
Confusion is one of the biggest problems with childhood sexual abuse. My father confused me as a child which stuck with me through young adulthood until the cycle of abuse was broken at age 20. My father forced sex onto me against my will and told me that this behavior was “okay” and that this was another way to express love to someone. Well, the experience didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel okay. And, by the way, this special treatment and behavior was to be kept a secret from my mother. What? Confusion and broken trust were the root of my childhood sexual abuse experience. Replay and reinforce that energetic cycle for 12 years. That tape, that brainwashing, those reinforced behaviors became “normal” and familiar. Although I was living out all of this fucked up shit, I KNEW IT WAS WRONG. I just didn’t know how bad it was and how deep it was and where to go with all of this shit.
As I shared the information about “Les the Nurse” with Dr. Chirico, I could see and feel Dr. Chirico trying to figure out something. He was conflicted. Deeply conflicted. I was in the trenches of pain, depression, and confusion from childhood sexual trauma and experiencing a parallel confusing abusive situation with a licensed professional nurse who was an employee at the college where I was a student. I, a 21 year old student and customer, was being manipulated and seduced by a health care professional while under his care at the health care center while I was seeking care for trauma from childhood sexual abuse. I needed help!!! I told my counselor about the uncomfortable situation, and my licensed professional counselor went AWOL. Dr. Chirico warned me to be careful with this nurse, but his warning did not make sense to me. I felt confused. I didn’t understand manipulative energy back then. Les was being nice to me. Les was showing interest in me, but I was uncomfortable with this specific type of attention.
In hindsight, it feels like Dr. Chirico chose protecting his potential career with the University of Mary Washington by not reporting “Les the Nurse’s” conduct to the appropriate authorities over helping me – a 21 year old vulnerable student under his care navigating a challenging relationship that paralleled the sexual abuse with my father. In recent years, I received a University of Mary Washington TODAY magazine and there was Dr. Chirico smiling on the front cover. He was retiring and, indeed, had a long and “distinguished” career at my alma mater. I wanted to write him a letter and let him know how his decision to NOT report this sexual predator “Les the Nurse” affected my life. Dr. Chirico was a gatekeeper. Dr. Chirico failed me.
Dr. Chirico was just one of the many people who were not ready, willing, and courageous enough to help women like me experiencing sexual assault in 1985. Mass consciousness has changed thanks to all of the brave female survivors stepping forward and speaking out from the #MeToo movement. Thank you Universe and thank you Goddess energy for all of the brave women like me, the #MeToo survivors, and the USA Gymnastics survivors stepping forth and saying “No more. Been there, done that. Move the fuck out of my way. I’m living and healing. I matter.” #MeToo #ToMe.