How to Be...Loud.

Day 11 of the Yoga Girl #yogagirlchallenge is another Random Act of Kindness but this time she asked that we unite together and join her in raising awareness for a cause that’s important to her. Today in Sweden (@yoga_girl’s home country) it’s Trosdockans Dag (day of the rag doll) where people gather to give voices to children who are victims of sexual abuse by screaming together so that their voices are heard.

I did this.  You are welcome to view the warbling-screaming-soemthing on Instagram and Fable’s subsequent reaction.

What I began thinking about after filming my scream was a memory I hadn’t visited in a while. When I was teaching at the University of Hawaii at Manoa I taught a very early class (7am) and usually ambled in with all the other students at approximately 6:57am.  One morning during my last semester teaching I found the door to the theatre unlocked and walked in, a little surprised.  Usually I unlocked the door being the first one in the building, along with the gaggle of students who followed behind me, but today it was open.  I figured the custodian had beat me there and walked through the building up to the lab theatre and turned on the lights.  I set down my gear and began to prep for class when one of student rushed in and said, “my friend is in trouble-something happened and she’s downstairs in the woman’s dressing room crying.”

I followed him out of the theatre and down the stairs to the dressing room.  In the corner of the room, huddled in a little ball was another one of my students, a sweet, quiet girl I really liked. She was sopping wet, shaking and sobbing with her head tucked into her knees.  I had no idea what the fuck was going on.

I walked towards her. Her friend sat next to her with his hand on her back, not knowing what else to do or say.  I didn’t either.

“Honey, what’s the matter?” I asked. “Are you okay?”

She shook her head ‘no.’

“Can you tell me what happened?”

She shook her head ‘no’ again.

I looked at her friend.  “Can you tell me what happened?” I asked him.

He looked at her and then back again at me. He wasn’t sure he should speak.

“Please” I said, “I have to know what happened.”

He looked at her again and her head, still tucked between her knees, bobbed a tentative ‘yes.’

He took a deep breath, “Someone attacked her,” he finally said, ‘when she was in the shower.”

The hair on the back of my neck prickled and I sucked my breath in quickly. Instinctively I stood and looked around the dressing room.

“He ran away,” she said, still refusing to lift her head.

I walked over to my girl and sat next to her.  I wanted to touch her, hold her, help her in some way but I had no goddamn idea what to do. A boyfriend crisis? A bad grade? That, I was expecting.  Not this.

“I need to call the police,” I told her.  “And an ambulance…we have to make sure you’re okay,” I said still not having a clue if I was following protocol, making things worse or helping. “Are you okay with that?”

She barely lifted her head.  “I don’t want anyone to know-“ she said, “please don’t tell anyone.”

“Can you tell me what happened though?” I asked. Once again, I floundered. “Please, tell me what happened so I can help,” I said.

She tilted her head to look at me.  Her hair and clothes were wet as if she’d run straight from the shower to the corner of this room.

“It’s okay,” I said.  “Take your time.”

She sniffled and took a deep breath.  “I decided to run to class today,” she said. “I’ve been trying to run before class a little each morning, to work out-you know, and today I ran to class and while I was waiting outside, the custodian arrived and unlocked the door for me, he went upstairs and I went to the dressing room to shower and change. I went into the shower area to turn on the water when all of the sudden the door opened behind me and this guy was there-not the custodian.  He walked towards me and told me to take off my clothes. I screamed and he grabbed me, told me to shut up and then reached for the buckle on my jeans and yanked my pants down.  I screamed again, right in his ear, and he let go and ran out.” She began crying again and her head returned to the familiar place between her knees.

My mind raced. My heart physically hurt as she began sobbing harder, the after-effect of saying this out loud. I knelt in front of her and placed my hands on her shoulders. “I’m going to call the police and an ambulance,” I said softly. “I need to make sure you’re okay and they have to know what happened. We’ll stay with you until they come, okay?  You’re safe now, I promise.”

She never came back to school. I called her two weeks later to check in on her and her mom promised to pass along my message, telling me only that she was going to consider counseling but likely wouldn’t return to school until the fall, if at all.

It’s been three years now since this happened and I can only hope that with time, professional help and a supportive family that she’s been able to work through the trauma she experienced. I hope that the vibrant, confident woman whose once strong voice was quieted that day, has found it again.