As mothers we try to keep our children safe and free from harm, and then when the next generation comes along we try to provide the same kind of protection to our grandchildren. We even want to shield them from some of life’s emotional blows. But at some point we are often made painfully aware that our love and our best efforts are not always enough. They get hurt physically and they get hurt emotionally. When we – and they – are lucky, they recover and use those difficult times to learn from and to grow.
But as was made clear to me anew by the publication of my daughter Dorri’s powerful and heartbreaking essay, “Defriending My Rapist,” published in The New York Times online on January 13 and in print on January 15, I was not only unable to protect her from a horrifying experience when she was only 13 – I never even knew about it until many years later. Sure that it was her fault that she had been attacked, and also sure that if she told her parents we would go to the school and demand that the boys involved be held responsible for their actions, and that she would then be bullied at school for having “told,” Dorri kept this secret for years.
We knew that Dorri was having a troubled adolescence, and we tried to help – by speaking to her guidance counselor in junior high, arranging for her to see therapists, providing positive family experiences. But until Dorri was 26 and had sought out a therapist herself, she never unburdened herself of the long-repressed secret that was causing so many problems in her life.
By going public with her story 37 years after the attack, both with her essay and her appearance on Dr. Drew’s television show, Dorri wants to tell young people (boys as well as girls) that if something like this should happen to them, they shouldn’t blame themselves, and they should go to an adult who can help them. It’s never the victim’s fault, no matter what she wears and what she does – it is always the attacker’s fault.
Dorri has received hundreds of responses to her essay and TV appearance, many of which came from other victims who also never told anyone -- boys and girls who are now adults. So many say that the incidents and shame nearly destroyed their lives, and many said that Dorri had inspired them to finally talk about these traumas.
I hope that my grandchildren never have to undergo anything like this – but that if they do, that they will be able to ask for – and to get – help.
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