So Nice We Let Others Hurt Us
I thought of this as I read a piece called, “Betrayed by the Angel,” by Debra Anne Davis.
When Debra was little, a boy named “Hank C” kept jabbing his pencil into her arm as she sat in her third-grade classroom. It hurt, but she didn’t want to be mean. When she finally got up the nerve to tell her teacher, she was told, “You go back to your seat and tell me if he does it again.” She sat mum.
At age 25 a stranger rapped on her door. She opened it a crack and immediately wanted to slam it. The man scared her.
But she didn’t want to be rude.
He forced the door open and pushed her against a wall.
I want to open the door and shut him outside and then slam the door in his face, rude or not, I don’t care now. Frankly, I don’t push him aside with much determination. I’ve made a mental choice to be rude, but I haven’t been able to muster the physical bluntness the act requires.
And she was raped.
When Debra became a teacher she asked her students what their parents taught them that they would not teach their children. One student said, “My parents always told me to be kind to everyone. I won’t teach my children that. It’s not always good to be kind to everyone.”
Debra wishes she had learned that lesson sooner. Now she knows she shouldn’t always be nice.
My story neither starts nor ends like hers.
I have a memory that I wish were only a bad dream.
I wasn’t feeling well and stayed home from school that day. Soon after my mother left to pick up my cousin from school, my uncle came home. It happened so fast. He bribed me to let him in my room. I was young and didn’t understand why he wanted to do that. So I let him. He pinned me to the bed and started kissing my neck. I told him that my mom would be home any minute. He stopped and bribed me not to tell anyone. I agreed just so he would leave me alone.
I had seen TV shows where children were raped and the rapist warned that he would kill the family if they said anything, but it never happened. So I did tell my mom what happened as soon as she got home, crying through the whole thing. My uncle never touched me again.
I believe that how I reacted had a lot to do with where I grew up, in East Palo Alto, surrounded by violence. A place where you must stand up for yourself.
Like Debra, I still find it hard to talk to men I don’t know. Not because I don’t want to, but out of fear. But unlike Debra, I do speak out loud and clear because I want to be heard.
I agree that parents should not teach their children to always be nice.
This post was written by one of my students, who asked to remain anonymous.