Glenn Greenwald and the national conversation about sexual assault & rape

My friend Extreme Liberal posted a piece at Angry Black Lady Chronicles awhile back titled “I was sexually assaulted as a child”. With Glenn Greenwald’s obscene comments about my good friend Imani, the Angry Black Lady, I thought now might be a good time to tell my own story of being sexually molested as a young boy.

Unlike Extreme Liberal’s assault, I was, in fact, not aware that I had actually been assaulted until many years later. You may well ask, “If you didn’t know you were assaulted, how can you say you were?” You can trust me when I tell you that I have asked myself that same question.

The assault actually occurred in a public place. I was in fifth grade and was getting ready to join the school football team. As is typical, I was required to have a sports physical and the school system provided them at low cost for any boy that needed one. We simply had to pay a small fee, $10 or $15, and show up on a Saturday morning.

I showed up with my money in hand and waited in line with the other preteens in the boys’ locker room at the local high school. One by one, we went behind a curtain to receive our physical from a kind-looking older doctor, probably in his late 50s or early 60s. I had heard about the process from some of the older boys and knew to expect an uncomfortable moment when he would put his hands down my underpants, touch my privates, and tell me to “turn your head and cough”, checking for a hernia. This did, indeed, happen. Then this nice old man did something else.

“Lean over the table, young man,” he told me.

I did as I was told; he was the doctor, after all. He then lowered my underpants and without warning thrust one of his fingers deep inside my anus. He probed a bit as I squirmed, trying to be brave. He then removed his finger and told me we were through. He signed my form and sent me on my way.

I was ten years old.

I walked out and quickly brushed passed the other boys. I had to get out of there. I’m sure my face was blushing deep red. What had happened came and went so quickly that I hadn’t yet processed it. It seemed odd that he would do that. I had never heard of boys having to have that happen to them. But he was a nice old man and he was a DOCTOR. I felt conflicted because it hurt and I didn’t like it but I was going to be playing football so I needed to be tough and not a pansy. Besides, if a doctor did it, it was okay, right?

I never told anyone about what had happened until many, many years later. I never told my mother, a single mom going to school and raising a couple of boys, and there were really no men in my life to talk about it with. Besides, it was embarrassing and dirty. Still, I felt like a “wussy” for feeling like that. It was a doctor, for Pete’s sake.

In short time, I put it out of my mind. Entirely, in fact. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that the memory of that day floated to the surface. The instant it did, I realized that I had been sexually molested by an older man, a man with power and control over me and, most importantly, who had my trust. He had taken advantage of his position to satisfy his carnal yearnings for young boys under the guise of giving a 10-year old a rectal exam. So far as I know, he did this with every boy he saw that day.

It was a strange realization and I wasn’t sure what to do with the emotions that it raised. Even now, writing this as an adult, I wonder how people will view me for sharing it and I even considered not putting up on my own blog.

So, why write about it now? Unless I am in total denial, it didn’t leave any emotional scars on me. I have a normal life with a good career, a happy marriage and some mighty fine kids. Why should some privileged white dude like me have anything to contribute to the dialog about rape and sexual assault just because some pervert stuck his finger up my ass when I was ten?

I am writing about this now because the national conversation about sexual assault is a fucking train wreck. Over the past weekend, this became abundantly clear with the dust up between Imani and Glenn Greenwald over his tweet about her. The facts are there for everyone to see. Glenn Greenwald, a man with a national, hell an international megaphone suggested that Imani (with the implication that most Obama supporters would join her) would find it “justified & noble” if President Barack Obama raped a nun live on television. Another person even suggested that she would fantasize that it was her being raped.

Think about that for a minute. A national political figure is completely comfortable using such rhetoric and even defending it after the fact.

What I experienced with that doctor is only a minute fraction of the physical and emotional pain that many people, the vast majority of whom are women, experience when they are raped. I know this. I’ve had relatives, girlfriends and close acquaintances that were sexually assaulted and I have watched what they have gone through after the fact. They are humiliated during the attack and then again repeatedly after the fact by a society that questions what they did to incite it. Every person reading this knows someone who has been raped. You may not even know who they are, but you can be sure that you know someone who has gone through this cataclysmic, life-changing/life-damaging experience. It’s all around us, but we still don’t have a clue how to talk about it.

The fact that someone who calls himself a progressive can be complicit in suggesting that rape is something his adversaries would condone is beyond the pale. It is a screaming loud, flashing neon light telling us that the conversation about sexual assault in this country is completely off the rails. Make no mistake; Glenn Greenwald is simply one shining, in-the-spotlight example of it. He is joined by the person who first tweeted it and by the person who suggested Imani would want it. He is joined by every person who thinks it’s okay to use rape references to make their point about their opponents. He is joined by our media that not-so-subtlety glamorizes rape in advertising and in our television shows. He is joined by everyone who tells rape jokes or even laughs at rape jokes.

Glenn Greenwald showed his true colors this past weekend. He portrays himself as a moral leader, someone we can TRUST to show us all the horror in what others do, most specifically our president. But, his actions toward Imani showed us is that he is just as myopic and careless and ignorant as the piece of trash telling rape jokes in the lunchroom.

What he showed us, most profoundly, is that we have long way to go in this country in our national conversation about rape.

Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

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