I'm just going to say it: I don't trust you. But it's not like you haven't given me plenty of reasons to doubt, both personal and collective experiences that have mounted and left me wary. Perhaps my ability to have confidence in you is buried somewhere underneath the rage radiating from the pain you've caused.
- Inga N. Laurent is an associate professor and director of the Externship Program at Gonzaga University's School of Law. She returned to the faculty this fall after spending nine months researching restorative justice in Jamaica as a Fulbright scholar.
There have been so many broken promises, a lifetime of them. There have been far too many nights — when I had to cross the street to avoid walking past a group of you, when I had to clutch keys as a weapon, and there are always nights, as well as days, when I am forced to be hyper-vigilant of my surroundings, calling my friends to let them know that I made it safely because there is an ever-present possibility that I may not.
There have been so many times when you have felt entitled to use your body to check mine, showing me my "place" with hands that grope, arms that pin, throats that scream until voices give way to violence. There have been far too many high and drunken excuses; innumerable incidents of bad behavior masked behind the use of substances.
There have been so many opening conversations where I have simply served as a repository for your fantasies. My body turned into an object solely for your enjoyment as you shower me with "compliments" about things you want to do to me or what my lips look like they are capable of doing to you — pick-up lines used as lances to pierce every part of me. There have been far too many instances when... and when... and when...
At some point, I don't exactly remember when... I guess I sort of just gave up, far too weary from the exhaustion of simply being a woman in this world. I have mastered staying fairly well hidden away under layers of protection — layers that manifest in many ways, both known and unknown to myself, including constant struggles over power, making light of love, and the keeping of at least an arm's length, a comfortable and removed distance. Ain't that reality enough to break your heart? It's surely broken mine. I promise that there is certainly a piece of me that wants to know all of you better, a portion of me that sees the complexity within you, a depth that I do not often allow myself to fully envision.
Believe me, I know that this was never a fair fight, for you were schooled in the ways of being a "real man," brought up in the art of repression. Now, because of those pervasive and oppressive lessons, we all must suffer as we unlearn what no longer serves us well. I promise that I am doing my best to acquire new skills, like discernment, learning how to place my faith in those of you who are also doing your work, learning how to appropriately recognize, navigate, and account for the power you wield. And I have empathy for us all, as we work together to smooth out and soften some of these rigid definitions of masculinity that have restricted us. However, do not make the mistake of confusing my compassion with weakness. My awareness has never guaranteed my safety, and so until I sense your effort to make a tangible shift, I'm #sorrynotsorry but I may still be pretty difficult to reach. ♦