I've always said, "Every woman has a story." They range from comments made by rude doctors and loathsome bosses to the worst possible things that can happen to women, but we all have something, somewhere on the spectrum, to share.

I've collected a few over the years (I think I just have the kind of face that encourages others to confide), though I would never share them. (My mother's story is used with her permission.) I can, however, share my own.

It's really nothing, not compared to what some women (too many) have suffered. I was a college sophomore, exceptionally skinny and awkward. I met a friend for dinner at a local restaurant, within walking distance of campus. The owner was a corpulent creep with a reputation for letting underaged girls drink beer in exchange for kisses, but I didn't know him from a hole in the wall. My friend and I sat down. The owner came up behind my chair to take our orders. And while I was ordering spaghetti, he groped me. Right there. In the middle of the restaurant.

After our orders were taken, he went away. "Did he just...?" my friend asked. "Yes," I said. And then we both did a strange thing — we laughed. We ate our food when it was served. And then we both went home and threw up. My friend called me. "Do you think it was food poisoning?" she asked. I said yes, but now I realize it was probably just an appropriate response to shock.

I remember throwing away the sweater I'd been wearing that night: Lambs wool with flecks of bright colors and dolman sleeves. He could not have seen anything down that neckline to tempt him. I didn't have anything, and besides, the neckline was too high, but I still felt like it must be my fault. I didn't talk about it for years. It seemed so random. I've gained other stories since then, but this is the one that still bothers me.

The Bible says that Jesus was often seen "in the company of women." Women, back then (and in many places still today) being considered unworthy companions. Lesser beings. I bet Jesus knew all of their stories.

If we're going to heal, we have to tell our stories. I told mine in the Prayable that accompanies this post. I encourage all of you to tell yours in the comments section. I'm listening.

He saw from the first that I was perfect.
I did not scream.
I hid his ugly secret under layers of pain
deep in my soul. I told no one.
No one, that is, but You.
Please help me learn how to trust again.

Help me to stop seeing his face
on those that hold no blame.
Tell me, over and over,
that it was not my fault.

I pray for those he might have harmed
because I held my tongue.
Forgive me.
This wound is so deep,
only You can heal it.

Touch my heart. Make me well:
Master of myself, no longer victim.

-Lori Strawn


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