I came late to learning about the whole #NotOkay movement on Twitter and only because I read Chuck Wendig’s blog post “Not All Locker Rooms, But Yes, Some Locker Rooms.” He links to the article about women tweeting their first sexual assaults and warns that reading it could be triggery. Yes, it was triggery. And while I could dwell on the many times I have been harassed or humiliated because of my sex–and believe me, I will– what I remember most intensely is this young woman I met on a temp job who was obsessed with The Dukes of Hazzard.
After all these years I can’t remember her name so I’ll just call her Annie. I met her during this weird awful time when I had dropped out of college because the money ran out and my credits got all fucked up. I got a temp job with the State of Washington, validating petition signatures.
I met Annie’s father first. He sat at the same table as me. He was talkative and mentioned that he was a retired teacher from the same high school that one of my best friends, Terina, had gone too. It was during the lunch break when I first met Annie. She was friendly and sweet. She talked about the show The Dukes of Hazzard and how she was a member of their fan club and how Tom Wopat had actually answered one of her letters. I thought that at twenty years old she was a little mature to be hung up on a TV show that went off the air years ago, and the actors who played those Duke Boys, but I was happy to make a new friend.
The talkative retired teacher guy joined us at the lunch table, and I learned that he was Annie’s father. He invited me to come to their house for dinner sometime so that I could get to know Annie better.
One of the activities that we had to do during the work day was to get up every hour on the hour and do stretches. One day during the exercise activity, Annie’s father reached over and deliberately touched my hand. I looked over at him and frowned. He immediately stepped back into his spot and smiled and said “Oops, sorry, that was an accident.” Of course it was no accident and I was creeped out by it.
At lunch, Annie once again told stories about The Dukes of Hazzard and how Tom Wopat had written her and how she still hoped to get a letter from John Schneider. It was starting to feel really freaky that she talked about The Dukes of Hazzard every damn time we talked at all, and she was talking about these guys like she was a love-struck 14-year-old. It seemed like Annie was stunted somehow, psychologically, like a part of her had stayed a teenager.
That night I called my friend Terina, the one who’d gone to the high school that Annie’s dad had taught at. I mentioned him to her.
“Oh yeah, I remember him,” Terina said. “He taught Driver’s Ed and was rumored to be a pervert.”
I got a chill in my spine. “Explain.”
Terina said the rumor went that he had called one of his students into his office after class and that he had started touching her, rubbing her arms, and that she had run out of his classroom, crying.
“Huh, it’s funny that you would say that because during one of our exercises he deliberately touched me and then pretended it was an accident.”
“Yeah, right, it was no accident.”
“He invited me to go out to his house and have dinner so his daughter and I can become more acquainted,” I said.
Terina said, “I wouldn’t go over to his house.”
I didn’t want to go over to their house anymore either. Especially since I had no car at the time and I would be dependent on Annie’s dad driving me to get there and back. I had to come up with some lame-ass, cringe-worthy excuse of why I was suddenly backing out of their invitation. I hated myself a little bit for that, but only because of Annie.
I was now worried that maybe she was being molested by her father. Or at least picking up on a subconscious level what a creep he was. Because her adolescent obsession with the Dukes of Fucking Hazzard had to be some sort of coping mechanism for past or ongoing trauma. Every single day of the job’s three week duration, Annie talked about the Dukes and her being a member of the fan club and the letter from Tom Wopat. Every single day. In all other respects, she seemed like a normal young woman, a little awkward, a little “uncool,” but shit, so was I. But I can tell you one thing: my adolescent crushes were over and done with. And I sure as hell didn’t talk about them every day.
I still wonder was there something I could have or should have done? It’s not like I could ask a woman I had just met “By the way, is your father sexually molesting you? Because you know, he touched my hand during exercises and my friend says there was a rumor at the high school that he was a total pervert and you, girl, are way too hung up on The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Could I have gone to the police or to social services with my suspicions? Yeah, right. That would’ve been a cute conversation. “Her dad touched my hand and my friend said he’s a pervert and his daughter won’t stop talking about The Dukes of Hazzard.”
I’m thinking that would not have worked out too well.
But that realization did not eliminate the sickening feeling in my gut and the crawling sensation over my skin that there was something seriously wrong in that household. Maybe Annie’s mother knew it too, because Annie also told me that her mother really wanted her to go away to college. But Annie was scared to leave home. So every time Annie brought up this topic, I encouraged her to go to college. To get away. “It might seem scary right now, but this is an opportunity of a lifetime. Go, go, go.”
When the temp job ended I was relieved as hell, even though it meant that I had no more income and I had to keep looking for another job, because at least I no longer had to deal with worrying about Annie, and being around her father.
But there is not a year that goes by where I don’t remember Annie. This week I’ve been thinking about her a lot. Wondering if she’s OK. Wondering if she took the leap, made it out of that house, and got into college.
God, I sure hope so.
What would you have done in this situation? Have you ever had the feeling something was wrong but didn’t know what to do abut it? Maybe had to accept there was nothing you could do? Talk to me in the comments section.
Photo credit: Katerina Kovalev via 123rf.com