…I told her everything. My mother, in all her cultural wisdom, told me not repeat what I had learned to anyone. I was heartbroken because I was being told, “We cannot help her.” I get emotional and angry now as a write this and even 35 years later, My Mom went on to explain that her parents were people of money and means (a doctor and a nurse) and that they could and would take care of the issue their way. I felt helpless. I felt anguish. Imagine how I felt when I learned of why my friend had attempted suicide many years later. She felt abandoned. Her destiny would include a long-life struggle with mental illness (Dissociative Disorder, Multi-Personality Disorder, Anxiety and Alcoholism), and a need to relocate thousands of miles away from Brownsville somewhere on the east coast. In the fall of 1983 I believed this experience to be an isolated one with my friend. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that her brother had continued to be a predator with other women and girls. He now sits in a federal prison as a sentence for his crimes and sins. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that other classmates had sexually assaulted friends of mine. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that a close family friend, a younger female, had been molested by the neighborhood boys for years and that one of those boys graduated with me from high school. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that the victims and survivors of these harrowing experiences had not said anything or much about their molestations and assaults because they were told to be quiet, not bring shame to themselves or their families, they were told that they could not ruin the predators’ lives that way, by speaking truths. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that only one of the predators was held accountable for his crimes and sins and the rest had been given the privilege of going to college, finding good jobs, marrying and having children. . . they were allowed to live their lives unphased and untarnished by their actions. They, to this day, have not atoned for or been held accountable for ruining the lives of their victims.
So when I am asked if I believe the current state of allegations being made on the national stage, I ask, “why shouldn’t I?” After all, my experiences have deceived me. I believed that because I did not personally see it at the time it did not happen. I failed to factor in that this type of behavior happens in the shadows, in the dark, in abandoned fields, on empty beaches, in unsupervised classrooms . . . away from discovery. But that does not mean it did not happen.
I learned as the years passed and my experiences grew that societal ills and evils exist everywhere, whether in a small south Texas town or in the halls of college dorms back East. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that perversion, sexually maladaptive behaviors, sexual assault and full-on, brutal gang rapes happen to victims and survivors of every gender, creed, religion, sexual identity, income, education level, class or status. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that predators come from every gender, creed, religion, sexual identity, income, education level, class and status.
Despite all these bad things that DO happen in the world, regardless of whether they are obvious and blatant or out of sight, nuestra gente uses dichos like :”No hay mal que por bien no venga” to help us all cope with what life may inevitably throw our way. I want to believe that for those who have survived, their experiences were not in vain. I want to believe that when the time comes to do right by them that I will follow the lead of another dicho, “Haz bien y no mires a quien” will give me and those around me the courage to speak truth to power. I want to believe that now when so many around us need us so much to stand up for what is right, that we will. We all know que “exigir ex facil, senalar es facil, delegar es facil, ordenar es facil, quejarse es facil, pero dar el ejemplo es lo dificil.” So, it is time we start to be the change we want to see in the world. Today, be someone’s hero and shed light where there is darkness. Today, be a voice for the voiceless. Today, reach out to your friend and let them know that this too shall pass and that you will stand by them to squelch their fears., Today, stand up for those who have been told to be quiet and been called liars.
Manguera Memories is a series of short stories that will be published in a book this year with proceeds benefiting La Prensa Texas. Read past stories at LaPrensaTexas.com