A man emailed recently in response to something I’d written about street harassment. He was so glad, he said, that his college-age daughter never experienced anything like that. Less than a day later, he wrote again. They had just talked. She told him she’d been harassed many, many times — including that week. She hadn’t ever shared this, because she wanted to protect him from her pain.
For all the stereotypes that linger about women being too fragile or emotional, these past weeks have revealed what many women already knew: A lot of effort goes into protecting men we love from bad things that happen to us. And a lot of fathers are closer to bad things than they’ll ever know.
“Two of my daughters have told me stories that I had never heard before about things that happened to them in high school,” Fox News anchor Chris Wallace mused on air last Thursday, as he urged skeptical viewers to carefully consider the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford.
If you are a father who hasn’t heard these stories, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They’ve been pouring into my inbox almost every day.
To the father of the young woman who was assaulted by the student athlete she was hired to tutor: She never told you because she didn’t want to break your heart. But she told me, in a long email, because the memory of it was breaking her own heart and she’d spent five years replaying it.
To the father of the junior high student who was pinned down and undressed at a gathering 30 years ago: She didn’t tell you because she didn’t want to see you cry. But she told me that she still remembers every detail.
To the father of the teenager who was raped at a party. You don’t know about this, because she was certain that if you knew, you would kill her attacker and go to prison, and it would be her fault.
To the father of the son who was assaulted by an older man: I wish I could tell you more about what happened to him, but he wouldn’t tell me, and he definitely won’t tell you, because manliness is important to you, he says.
To all the fathers of all the silent victims: Your children are quietly carrying these stories, not because they can’t handle their emotions but because they’re worried that you can’t. [Continue reading…]