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An Apology Thirty Years In The Making

“If someone puts their hands on you make sure they never put their hands on anybody else again.” 
~ Malcom X

I was sitting in a suburban shopping centre cafe with my husband Ben a few days ago. As I sipped my tea a man came into view who looked familiar. He was older than when I’d last seen him. Thirty years older. But I was sure it was him. He was wearing a suit, his hair was grey and thinning and he’d gotten fat. But it was him. Let’s call him James (which is not his name).

In that moment I became so angry that I wanted to race over and punch him. Which is not like me. At all.

I didn’t do anything though. I watched him walk away.

Later that night I googled him and then found him on Facebook. He’s successful in his field. Married now. With two daughters. One in her final year of school and one at University. That made up my mind. I sent him a friend request and he accepted straight away. Then he sent me a message. I still looked hot, he said. Did I want to meet up for a coffee?

We ended up video messaging. At first we chatted about our College days, which is where we’d met. He asked if I was single. I told him I wasn’t. He told me he wasn’t either but that didn’t mean we couldn’t have some fun.

Sigh.

I asked him if he remembered the time we’d gone to a College football match on the first day of a long weekend of sport, races and balls. I’d just started going out with him, and this was our first proper date. I was in my first year of College and he was in his last – a big man on Campus whom everyone knew.

He drove me to a sports field on a sunny afternoon. We’d just parked and were getting out of the car when a friend of mine walked past wearing a huge scarf around her neck even though it was hot. James laughed and grabbed the scarf off her. Underneath was a series of small purple bruises. Perhaps you know them as hickeys. Or as love bites. She was embarrassed and tried to get the scarf back from him, but James kept holding it away from her while he kept up a barrage of teasing and increasingly lewd sexual comments. A crowd gathered around us.

Finally, I tugged the scarf away and gave it back to her and she fled, in tears. ‘Why were you so mean to her?’ I asked James. ‘What has she ever done to you?’ The crowd was still watching.

‘She’s a slut,’ he said. ‘She deserved it.’

While I was processing that comment he asked if I’d ever had a hickey.

‘No’, I said.

Before I could do anything he slammed me down over the car bonnet, pinned me with his leg and hands, and attacked my neck with his mouth. It hurt. A lot. My adrenalin went into overdrive. I yelled at him to stop and fought to get him off me. But I was slight and he was huge. My hands were pinned, my legs were pinned. No matter how much I bucked or writhed it was like a butterfly flapping against a bull. The more I struggled the more he bit and sucked on my neck while the crowd of mostly young men cheered. No matter what I did I wasn’t strong enough to make him stop. I was powerless. When James finally stood up he was victorious. He dragged me to the car’s side mirror and showed me. I had a violent purple and red bruise on my neck the size of a small orange. It throbbed and my whole body ached. I was dishevelled and humiliated. The crowd dispersed and then we were alone.

‘Wear it proudly,’ he said. And then he took my hand and started walking to the game with me in tow. I was in shock. Tears ran down my face but I picked up my handbag and stumbled along beside him.

As we neared the entrance gate we stopped and he wiped my face with his handkerchief. ‘Why are you crying?’ James said. ‘It was just a bit of fun. It’s a hickey. No big deal.’ He bought us both an entrance ticket and then left me with some of his friends while he fetched us drinks.

I was shaking, and I didn’t know what to do. So I stayed. Later a girlfriend found me and gave me a lift back to the dorms. I had bruises on my hips and my arms, one on my thighs and that huge shameful one on my neck. When James came around a few days later I told him I had zero interest in being in his company again. When I asked him why he’d done it he told me I was an uptight bitch, and that I couldn’t take a joke. He couldn’t work out why I was so upset. I was overreacting, he said. Crazy. A nut job. As he walked away he called back over his shoulder that I was a slut.

I struggled to reconcile that I had ever found him attractive.

I bruise easily, and that hickey took months to fade. I did what I could to cover it up with scarves or makeup, but I was called names by other students and even some of my male lecturers drew attention to my neck, making jokes about it. And about me.

I’d never felt so belittled, humiliated or ashamed. Worse, on that sunny afternoon, I’d felt what it was to be truly powerless for the first time in my life. I’d had no capacity to affect an outcome, no voice, no ability to have a choice. When James had held me down I’d felt unsafe, I’d been hurt, he wouldn’t listen and I couldn’t make it stop. He could have done anything to me, and it was all beyond my control.

So I told James that, thirty years later.

‘Is that why you dumped me?’ he said. ‘Over a joke? It’s not like I raped you!’ He had raised his voice, angry. ‘And you reconnecting with me now – is this your pathetic Hashtag MeToo moment?’

‘I’m still angry,’ I said. ‘I hadn’t thought about this for thirty years, but yes, I’m still angry, because what you did wasn’t right. It was assault.’

‘Get over yourself!’ James said. ‘Geez, I thought you connected because you wanted to hook up.’

‘No. I reconnected because you have a daughter who is the same age as I was when you did that to me. How would you feel if someone did that to her? How would you feel if she was pinned and helpless, struggling against a bigger man, being humiliated while other people stood around and watched?’

‘I’d bloody kill them!’ he said. And then he looked at me, and a strange expression came over his face. ‘I’d kill any bastard who tried to hurt my girls.’

‘I was the same age as your daughter,’ I said. ‘I asked you to stop. You didn’t. It wasn’t right then. It isn’t right now.’

After which we sat in silence, looking at each other via our screens.

‘Sorry, Nic,’ he said eventually, his voice quieter. ‘It was the era. It was just a bit of fun. I might have gone a bit too far. I didn’t mean anything by it.’

There was nothing else to say.

We ended the chat. I unfriended him.

It was an incident I’d long forgotten. A conversation I never expected to have. An apology thirty years in the making. But I’m glad I got to reconnect with James again and finally have him see things from a different perspective. My perspective. It felt good to finally be heard.

Much love, Nicole xx

Hi! I'm Nicole Cody. I am a writer, psychic, metaphysical teacher and organic farmer. I love to read, cook, walk on the beach, dance in the rain and grow things. Sometimes, to entertain my cows, I dance in my gumboots. Gumboot dancing is very under-rated.
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21 thoughts on “An Apology Thirty Years In The Making

  1. Dearest Nicole,
    I prefer to look at myself as quite a gutsy lady, especially cos I speak my mind ,but what you did right there was such a brave thing. You went head on with a monster in the past. I m pretty sure I wouldn’t, and I got a few. Those who try to scare ,control ,dominate and even emotionally violate you knowing there is no male guardian to have your back. It’s very hard to make them see it from your side cos of the strange feeling of entitlement most men have. Honestly I hope he s a changed man , atleast for his daughters.

  2. Very powerful. I was molested by an uncle at ten years old. Never have been able to confront him. But i did do therapy. I am strong today at 65!

  3. Thank you for sharing this. It reminded me of a situation I was in when I was at university. Very similar to what you experienced. I was given a hickey as a joke/challenge and I too, bruise so easily. Of course this was all viewed as a “bit of fun”. I was so embarrassed. Mortified. I am so pleased you received an apology and I think you may have helped “James”, perhaps he will change the way he views women. I hope so!

  4. Let’s hope the spark of recognition of being the personification of the type he hopes that his daughters never meet, will burn deeply and change him for the better. I bet he will visit this blog so let’s hope he makes good on being a much better human to those without power.
    Love
    Kate

    1. I hope so too, Kate. For a man to love his daughters that much I believe that he can change. I’m holding him in my prayers and meditations. Nxx

  5. Closure. I am glad you managed to achieve that. I pray that it gives hope to all those others who can’t get it. Love and hugs

  6. Thanks for writing such an important piece Nicole. As Maya Angelou says, you stand up for all women by speaking your truth to that man and sharing it with us.

  7. Powerful. #MeToo.
    You created a teachable moment that hit home. It seems like it has changed him. You are amazing. I’m glad you received the apology. Not everyone is given the opportunity or are able to be that brave to confront their attacker/s. It’s amazing how many people walk around with no regard for others and only realise when “their own” are threatened. Golden rule. It’s that simple. What is it about arrogant entitlement? But especially over another human?
    Those of you on the blog who have had the courage to tell your stories – I salute you. My heart goes out to you. You are amazing.
    Sending love to you, Nicole and you all in this space. xoxoxo

  8. Wow! Good for you. Your story helps many others. I began my blog whilst undergoing grief counselling and it was the best thing ever – reading posts like this confirm that. Thank you 🌟

  9. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. You are so brave for standing up to him. You are an amazing woman! Stand tall and hold your head proudly – you are worthy, and you have worth. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Feel sick at the thought of what you and others have endured but thank you for sharing this follow-up. It takes such strength to confront someone. Truly hope this brings peace and closure. You are such an inspiration Nicole! Every single day! Sending the biggest hug x

  11. Thank you so much for your Apology blog.
    I was assaulted when I was in Uni by someone I trusted. It changed me for a long time. For decades, I did not even see men. Like, literally, my brain did not acknowledge half of the population that was passing by. When I did notice one, I was afraid. ” It was the time ” or as I heard back then ” boys will be boys.
    I’m so grateful that we are moving forward, by baby steps, through awareness.
    Much love for you!

  12. 50 years ago I was walking home in the dark after going to see my Maths tutor.
    I was only a few streets from home and I felt safe.
    A car followed me and the youths catcalled and yelled obscenities at me.
    I ran around the back of a house that had the interior lights on and hid behind a woodpile.
    I heard the car stop and they eventually found me. I was attacked and raped by 3 youths.
    They only stopped when the outside light of the house came on. I stayed hidden.
    I did not see their faces and I don’t know if I knew them in the daytime. I still don’t.
    I felt as you did that I was violated and I felt ashamed by the whole thing.
    When I got home my mother drunk as usual said ‘Oh you must have asked for it’
    I am glad you finally have some closure Nicole but the memories never fade do they?

    1. Oh, my friend! You know, don’t you, that you certainly didn’t ask for that. I’m sending you hugs, and I hope you can feel my pain and outrage for you and what you have suffered.

      I’m so sorry for your experience, and for all of the experiences that so many of us have had.

      I have to say that I was deeply surprised at the feelings that sprang up in me when I saw this middle-aged man who’d visited such humiliation on me. This was not the worst thing that ever happened to me from a sexual violence perspective, and like every woman I’ve had more gropes, leers, advances and intimidation that I care to remember and that haven’t really stayed with me. But this memory was so vivid – I think because I never got the chance to talk about it, to process it, and I never did anything with that anger, which has obviously sat inside me all this time, waiting for its chance to be heard. It felt good to be heard and seen, and it did give me some closure.

      Even ‘James’ comment about me wanting to ‘hook up’ with him spoke to me of the way he still views women. I hope some of that changes now that he sees his daughters as women too.

  13. What an emotional roller coaster…. Good for you to making him see the situation from a different perspective. Just a shame he could only see it once you made the comparison to having been the same age his daughter is now…… But he sees it now. That is good. Big hug to you♥️

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