I’m going to tell you a second story now. This is about Alice.
Alice babysat to earn extra money. She worked for families in her neighborhood, though there were few, and mostly advertised by word of mouth. Once, she answered an ad and ended up watching the daughters of a stripper who worked nights. Then, near her 18th birthday, Alice took a job working for a family who had a home business.
The mom had a thriving business, and two young children in diapers, and definitely needed another pair of hands. She struggled tending the kids while answering phones and planning business deals. Alice loved the kids—2 ½ and 1 ½ yr old boys. They didn’t talk much, but they were great fun.
Within a couple of weeks working there, Alice met a member of their extended family who frequently visited the kids during the day. One day, this family member was visiting when the mom came home. The older boy raced to the window to watch Mommy pull in, while Alice sat on the couch next to this man with the younger one on her lap.
Without warning, the man put his arm across Alice’s chest and gripped her opposite shoulder. He pulled her toward him, and she felt him nuzzle and kiss her neck. Alice froze. What was going on? What was he doing?
He pulled away. Really it had all been over in seconds. Alice glanced at the older boy, but he didn’t appear to have seen it. Mom opened the door, and Alice went home. Shaking. Reliving the moment over and over. What could she have done? How could she have stopped it? Why did he do that?
The next time he came over to visit the family, Alice gave him the cold shoulder. She never got close enough for him to grab her again. Then he put her on the defensive. He called the Mom while Alice was working and asked if Alice was angry with him for something. She put Alice on the phone and Alice listened to him explain that he didn’t mean anything by it; that he’d just gotten overcome with affection visiting the kids because he loves them so much.
No, Alice didn’t buy it either, but she still felt stuck. Now what could she say?
So she didn’t. She kept her silence.
For over a year. Other than her closest friends, who volunteered to instruct this person on personal boundaries, Alice told no one. In the mean time, this person showed up at her work unannounced, any time of the day or night, and sometimes at the park when she’d take the kids to play. He offered her a job once. While “chasing” her across the playground while the children played, he offered to double her salary if she’d come work for him as his assistant. He was a writer, too, he explained, and had to drive out to remote desert locations to do research. She turned him down.
One morning, she broke. Alice called her employer from her bathroom floor to quit her job, because she was too overwhelmed with emotion to move. Getting up and going to work made her physically ill. The stress and constant fear of this person showing up when she was alone with the kids was more than she could stand. They called Alice back and offered her a raise if she’d come back to work for them. The kids trusted her; they needed her, but Alice had to say no for her own sanity. She never confessed the real reason she quit. She never felt like they’d believe her word over his.
But who did her silence truly protect?