Forgiveness is such a powerful action. I call it an action, because it takes conscious effort to go through the process of forgiveness. It doesn't just happen by itself, and it is actually an attribute to which we should all aspire. The result of an unforgiving spirit is bitterness. And bitterness only adversely affects the one who is bitter. It does nothing to or for the offender. So, I've chosen not to remain bitter about circumstances in my life that called for me to forgive some very egregious acts.
When I was a young 15-year old, I worked with my brother, Johnny, at a Jewish bakery on Route 9, in Natick, Massachusetts. He and I had great fun working together and frequently caused our boss to think he was losing his mind! Johnny and I would sing silly little songs, but when the owner came out from behind his office door, we would immediately stop singing. He would growl, "I hear singing out here. Who's singing?" Of course, Johnny and I would say, "No one is singing out here," and the man would go back into the small space he called home from 8-5 Monday through Saturday. The other employees learned to play along, which made our day so much more enjoyable.
It was while working at the bakery that I met a couple of Johnny's friends (I will not mention names). These boys had girlfriends, and we would all hang out together, go to the beach, play music and just have a great time together. Everything was going along just fine, until one day when I was riding in the back seat with the two boys, and Johnny and his girlfriend, Ruth Ann, rode in front. Suddenly, the boy closest to me tried to force himself on me. He was slender and wiry, but boy was he strong. I couldn't understand what I had done to make him think that I wanted him to do that! I fought him - hard! Finally, my brother heard the scuffle and stopped the car, letting my attacker have it right in the nose!
I had been so innocent. Having been raised in a religious home, where there was happiness and security, I was extremely frightened by this boy, who seemed to think he had the right to accost me. It boggled my young mind to even imagine such a thing happening to me. As soon as I could, I ran into my house and went straight to my room. I prayed and prayed for God to forgive me (for what, I don't know), and to also forgive the young man that so easily attack me. But I had to forgive him. I did. But I could never look that boy in the face again. Soon after, he stopped coming around. I suppose his guilt got the better of him. But this was only the beginning . . .
When I was 19 years old, we had a new neighbor move in down the hill and across the street. He rented an apartment above the main house, where the Pansieri's lived. They were a really nice family with some of the cutest kids ever!! Now the renter was not related to this family. One day, Johnny and I met him while walking home from school. We stood and talked a while and discovered that we all loved music. Johnny and I played guitar (Johnny far better than me), so this man invited us to his apartment for drinks. Drinking age was 18 back then, so it was perfectly legal! Over the course of the evening, I began to feel sick. The apartment was just an efficiency, with everything all in one room, so when our neighbor friend asked if I'd like to lie down awhile, I quickly agreed. He and Johnny continued singing and playing guitar, which had evidently lulled me into a sweet slumber.
Unfortunately, I was abruptly awakened by this young man, who was in the process of tearing off my shirt! I was absolutely dumfounded. I called out for Johnny, at which time, the guy said, "He can't help you; he went home!" Well, I knew that couldn't possibly be true, because Johnny would never leave me in that situation!! I told the young man that he was a liar and started kicking him for all I was worth. This just made him madder than ever. Finally, I kicked him squarely where a man least likes to be hit and, to my surprise, he went down with a thud. I ran out the door, down the steps and up the street as fast as my fee could fly! Sure enough, there was Johnny with a smile on his face. I asked him why he left me, and he said, "He told me you guys had already been together several times and asked if I could leave you alone." I was so horrified! I told Johnny what a huge lie that was, and he swore to kick the living daylights out of him. I begged Johnny to wait until the next day since I didn't want the other neighbors involved.
After school the following day, we took the shortcut up to this neighbor's apartment, where Johnny planned on confronting him. Sure enough - he was gone - lock, stock and barrel - moved completely out of the apartment!! I was even more angry at that point. Johnny just told me that we could be thankful he was out of our lives for good. But I always wondered if he ever tried that with someone else.
That was the second attempted rape I had to forgive. And, yes, I forgave him. I kind of felt sorry for him that he couldn't get sex any other way!
Now, I know by now you're probably bored and wondering how this could happen to one person twice in such a short time! Well, you guessed it. There was one more time. Yes. But I was 20 now and working at a police station in the office. One of the girls I worked with was, shall we say, perfectly willing to accept the advances of men. The problem was, I didn't know that about her when she asked me to go on a blind double-date with her and one of her many boyfriends. So, I agreed to go, since I wouldn't be alone with this stranger. We had planned to go to a popular sledding place on Speen Street in Natick. The night was very cold, there was about eight inches of snow on the ground, and the moon was full. We all laughed and had a great time going up and down that hill, getting more and more exhausted with each climb.
The last time my date and I climbed the hill, I asked what happened to the other couple. He said they told him they need to get going, so I said, "Well, I'm about to freeze to death myself!" So, we took one final slide and headed for the cars, only to find that there was only one car. My co-worker and her date had left us! Somehow or other they left, although the four of us had come in the same car. After my previous experiences above, I was definitely spooked, but I was so naive that I just asked him to go ahead and take me home, since it was getting late. He said, "Sure," and jumped into the driver's seat. I was still trying to get the snow off the bottom of my pants and my boots, when out of nowhere, this guy grabs my head. He had me by the hair, and I noticed his pants were open and he was exposed. I screamed - LOUD!! Then he got very, very angry and said "You've been asking for this all night!!" Oh my gosh. All I could think of was, asking for what??
I was frantic, trying to think of something to say that would make him stop. I was using what little physical strength I had left to push him away. I began to pray - "Oh, God, help me. Give me the right words to say to make this guy stop!!!" Then, it dawned on me -
"Do you know who I work for? Don't you know all I have to do is tell my police captain about this tomorrow, and you'll go to jail??" He immediately let go of me.
I have no idea why I didn't jump out of the car at that point, but I didn't. Young and stupid, I guess. Instead, I insisted that he take me home. And he did. But he stopped at the end of the road saying that was as far as he was going. I got out, shaken and cold, and he left. He could have murdered me that night. He could have easily overpowered me, and with the threat of police involvement, it's a wonder he ever let me go. But he did. I don't recall ever telling my parents. Maybe I was afraid to; I don't know. All I know is, I've always wondered what it was about me that gave guys the impression that I was an easy target. I guess I was vulnerable because I wasn't street smart at all. An idealist at heart, I guess I thought everyone was good. Did I forgive that monster? Yes, but it took a long time.
At some level, I guess you could say we give up a piece of ourselves when we forgive, but what we get back is much more valuable. Peace, to me, is much more rewarding than revenge and bitterness. Someday, those who hurt us will have to give account for their deeds. And I, for mine. In the meantime, I'll keep on leaning on God for the peace and grace He gives to me.
Geez Susan! What an incredible story. I'm sometimes embarrassed to be male. We are animals at the core and sometimes so ignorant and self-centered that we will do the most sickening things without any thought. I'm not making excuses for the morons who accosted you. I'm saying that women have been putting up with this since the beginning of time and it's not that much better today. The threat of punishment is simply not enough to negate the urge to dominate a woman in the most severe way. I wish there was a way. I'm not one who is always eye for an eye but in this case it may be the greater punishment would be complete castration. Nothing cuts to the quick of a man more. I'm sincerely sorry this happened to you.