It happened to me at age sixteen. Near closing time at the neighborhood drugstore where I clerked the front counter, the cafe owner next door poked his head in to say I was welcome to his leftover apple turnovers. I always bought one to go with my lunch.
After we locked up, I dashed over to the cafe. The owner stood in front the counter next to a heaping plate of turnovers. I crossed the room, forming the words “thank you.”
Before I could speak, he grabbed my shoulders, kissed me hard on the lips, then winked and smirked. “Enjoy,” he said as he strolled into the kitchen without a backward glance.
Stunned, I blinked back tears. Leaving the turnovers on the counter, I ran all the way home, frightened he would follow me. I arrived home without incident, but never told my parents, store manager or friends. I was so confused and ashamed. What had I done for him to think it was okay to kiss me? Why didn’t I slap his old whiskered face? Or dash the turnovers to the floor? I know I’d do both today.
My story is mild compared to the ones I’ve heard through the #MeToo movement. My heart breaks for the victims. I pray this hashtag campaign continues to expose the abusers who have taken advantage of those unable to advocate for themselves.
I encourage anyone who has endured sexual assault, large or small, to speak out. Do it immediately. If you do, you might spare another victim the trauma of living with guilt and shame. In a happy ironic twist, the cafe went out of business two months later. I never saw the owner again.