Money in the Bank #100HappyDays

Day 46:  Having available funds makes me happy.

In my last post, I mentioned that my garage door wouldn’t open.  Well, a repairman is solving that problem literally as I type this…for the (not really) low, low price of $425.  It turns out I needed both tension springs replaced (one of them broke, which is why the door wouldn’t open) as well as new cables and rollers (because mine were corroded–yuck).  The parts are originals, and my house is almost 20 years old, so it makes sense that they failed.  But damn Gina!  They can’t make indestructible garage parts yet? #homeownerproblems #goodlawdthatsalotofmoney

Now, please don’t think I’m jumping for joy at paying damn near five hundos for this repair job.  Y’all know I’d rather spend that money on makeup and snacks!  But I am thankful that I had the funds to cover this unexpected expense.  I worry about money constantly, but my worries aren’t nearly as severe as they could be.

There are plenty of people here in America today who are struggling to find money to get their next meal or clothes and shoes for their kids.  Across the globe, people are walking miles for clean water and dying from curable diseases because they don’t have access to basic healthcare.  So, I’m happy that I had the funds in my bank account to cover this expense.  I’m not rich, but I do have enough, and that’s a lot more than some have.

(And for the record, if anyone wants to donate to the “Ashley Loves Makeup and Snacks Fund” you are more than welcome to PayPal/Venmo/Chase QuickPay me anytime!)

Forgive. Forget. Move on. 

Trigger warnings: sexual assault and rape. 

The story started off normal enough. Man meets woman. Man is charming. Woman wants a friend. Man and woman set boundaries for their relationship, agree not to go too far. 

Then…things change.

Woman invites him over to hang out. Man starts to kiss her. 

Woman says, “Stop. We both agreed to wait.”

Man keeps going. Puts his hands in her sweatpants.

Woman says, “Stop!”

Man keeps going. Sweatpants at her ankles. His pants completely off.  

Woman yells, “STOP!” 

Man KEEPS GOING. Held her down by her wrists. Used his knees to open her thighs. 

Woman cries. Begs…

Man finally stops. Says, “Oh, you’re serious? I thought you were playing a game with me. I thought you liked it rough.”
Woman cries. Shakes uncontrollably. Struggles to breathe. 

She finally musters the strength to say, “Get out.” Locks the door behind him. Cries alone for hours. Sees the bruises on her wrists and thighs. Showers in an attempt to wash them–and him–away. 

She calls a friend, who stays with her until she cries herself to sleep. 

After that night, man apologized. Said that he didn’t know she was serious. Claims he was a victim of sexual abuse himself, played the sympathy card. 

Woman continued to talk to him, tried to forgive…forget…move on. Eventually, she couldn’t take it anymore. Hated to look at him. His touch. His presence. What he took from her. 

She tried to talk to him several times about what happened. He told her she was making a big deal out of nothing. 
Woman talked to her pastor and lawyer. Wanted to press charges on him because as a former youth leader, she felt she owed it to the girls she mentored, to show them what to do if they were ever in this type of situation. 

Lawyer advises against it. Says it wasn’t rape anyway, only sexual battery. That in most rape cases, every aspect of the victim’s life is fully exposed. Woman drops the charges to avoid public humiliation. 

Pastor explains how coming forward would have a negative impact on the church. Confronted the man, who called the woman a liar. Encouraged the woman to handle this without legal means, through prayer and forgiveness. Kept man out of the pulpit for about two months as “punishment.” Asked woman to take a break from being a youth leader, called it a “mental break.” She never went back to being a youth leader. 

It’s easy to say, “Forgive. Forget. Move on.” Or, in the words of the pastor at her church, “Forgive him, just like Jesus forgives us.”

But how can you forgive when your rapist is in your church, dangerously close to other women and girls? How can you forget when he works at your job and your employers don’t know (or don’t care) that he’s a registered sex offender in another state? How can you move on when you have 61 mutual friends on Facebook?

She blames herself. Her past relationships. Her desire for a friend, not a relationship. That she didn’t research him before (so she’d be aware of his two other charges of sexual battery, one against a minor). Her mother’s rape, convincing herself that history repeats itself. 
These events took place a year ago. She still feels ashamed. Embarrassed. Broken. Like she failed her girls. And herself. 

And she’s not the only one. In the US, a sexual assault takes place every 107 seconds. 68% are never reported to police. Four out of five are committed by someone the victim knows

So she keeps keeps quiet. Avoids him at church. Keeps her guard up at work. Watches poetry and yearns for the freedom to share her story.

Her story is the story of many of us. Too many women (and men) are forced to live in the shadows of their sexual abuse. Asked to do the impossible…

Forgive. Forget. Move on. 

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault or rape, visit RAINN.org or call 1-800-656-4673. 

Mistaken Identity

A few weeks ago, some of my neighbors stopped by my house to return some mail that had been mistakenly delivered to them instead of me.  I rarely get unannounced visitors, so I curiously approached the door–perhaps it was a teenager doing a fund raiser or a friend who happened to be in the neighborhood.

I opened the door, said hello.  A white man and woman stood on my stoop.  Their faces quickly went from placid to surprised.

“Are YOU…?”

“Yes, sir; this is my home.  How can I help you?”

A quick explanation of the mail mishap and they were gone, leaving me with a Women’s Health magazine and feelings of resignation.

This interaction was, unfortunately, not a first for me.  People have been surprised at my Blackness more times than I can count.  Perhaps it’s the unassuming first name.  Or maybe the lack of accent–my extensive public speaking background nipped that in the bud real quick.

But multiple times in my life, I’ve spoken to someone on the phone and heard a shocked, pleased, or even disappointed exclamation of “I didn’t know you were Black!” during our first in-person meeting.  Or gotten a look of confusion in a doctor’s waiting room when I stand after my name is called.  Each time, I roll my eyes and add the interaction to the list of acts of subtle racism thrown my way.

Why do people live with stereotypes–usually negative–of what Blackness is?  Why, after meeting me in person, do people feel the need to remark on how “articulate” I am?  Or how I’m “not what they expected?”  Most people probably don’t even realize what they’re doing–and they definitely wouldn’t call it being racist.  However, stereotypes about Black people are so deeply ingrained that most of the population doesn’t even recognize them unless they are explicitly pointed out.

Sometimes, the stereotypes have terrifying–even deadly–repercussions.  A Black woman was held at gunpoint because a white neighbor thought she was breaking into her own apartment. Luckily, this woman wasn’t injured or killed.

…However, this Black man wasn’t so lucky.

Neither was this Black woman.

For those who continue to mistakenly believe that we live in a post-racial society, look around you.  Look at your own actions.  Scrutinize your reactions to and interactions with people of color.  You don’t have to wear a white hood, rep the Confederate flag, or say the n-word to be a racist.  You don’t have to be a billionaire raised with the finest of things to have privilege.  Remember this each time you open your front door and the person on the other side acts like you belong there.