A story of complicity and injury

Well, THAT snuck up on me. You know how something really bad happens and it bothers you under the surface for 20 years and then wham, you suddenly get really upset about it for no apparent reason? That happened to me. It makes me wonder what else is just lurking around and waiting to bubble up. The human psyche is fascinating...no doubt about it.

It started with a Facebook argument over immunizations. I was on the side of, it is irresponsible to rely on the herd immunity of others, and I don’t CARE about that Lancet article that the journal retracted anyway. What I care about is the really sick little children I’ve personally seen with preventable communicable diseases. This argument always infuriates me, and the person who made the original post unfriended me, which made me mad, but only because I couldn’t finish my argument. Just to be a pain in her ass, I sent her a new friend request, but then I realized: I don’t like this person and don’t want to see anything about her ever again anyway. I don’t like her, and every time I see her post I get a bad feeling. Why?

Then the wham happened. I remembered that, many moons ago (20 years), when I was 17 years old and starting college, one of my professors hit on me. Hard. Offered me an A in exchange for physical favors. I didn’t need any help with my A and felt a little uncomfortable, but I felt like I had no right to feel uncomfortable because I also liked the attention. Mostly, I was extremely confused.

This erstwhile Facebook friend is a professor there, and she knew about all of this, in addition to getting wound up in a relationship of mine that went very badly. Apparently, I’ve been pissed at her too for two decades, for not doing her job and reporting this guy for hitting on kids. I felt like a badass adult at 17, but I was a kid. The older I get, the younger I seemed then.

Now, as a nurse, I understand too well the concept of complicity. I see how it allows abuse (of people, of systems) to continue. Facebook professor was complicit. Ironically, she is a poster child for standing up against abuse of women. I don’t know what she was thinking. Maybe she thought it would be humiliating for me if she ratted on her colleague. More likely, I think she probably feared retaliation and for her own job.

Nothing horrific happened. I wasn’t held down and raped. It was nearly all mind-fucking. But somehow, it added another piece of evidence to the part of me that says “you are worthless; you don’t deserve to be treated with respect.” I think that deserves a pout or two. Mind-fuckery and abuse of power are more damaging than most people seem to realize. Certainly I wrote this situation off as unworthy of anyone’s attention, even mine. But it apparently was damaging.

FWIW I fired off an e-mail to the current department chair after I remembered all of this, but as with most of these situations, I don’t have evidence. Especially after 20 years, I don’t have evidence. But it doesn’t matter. I finally said, “This happened, and it was wrong, and it had a bad effect on me.” Now I can cross that off the list of ick—the list of things that just make me feel crummy from time to time.