In parts 1 and 2 I dealt with me violating someone and tried to clean up the mess I made. But I have done things that were worse. I did not stop someone who raped a baby in my presence. This is the story.
As an advanced medical student, I was supposed to attend births. Tiring but most impressive are both understatements.
Feel free to skip the gruesome details, the next two paragraphs.
In one case, right after the birth, the ward-nurse took the baby for checkup and summoned the three medical students and a few nurses to follow her. She washed the baby and on purpose almost dropped her (a terrible, completely unnecessary test, supposedly to check for reflexes) and went over her skin and without warning, forcefully and very fast pushed a finger deep into the newborn baby’s vagina.
Until today, I remember the baby’s reaction. All her muscles stretched from shock, then for a second, her whole body went pale and then she started crying while screaming at a high pitch, turning very red. “Why did you do that,” I asked the ward-nurse. “To see if she has a vagina,” she answered coldly. This is pure rape, I thought.
No one else said a thing. She was a person everyone was scared of. Her constant attitude seemed to be: one wrong word and I snap your neck. Before entering her ward, other students had already warned us about her. One would think that abusers maintain themselves by pretending to be sweet – not her.
A few days later, after the weekend, I reentered the ward and walked over to the mother of the girl. It was easy to find her, her very sweet husband and baby on her side. Her bed was in the middle of the room and they stuck out like a sore thumb. They were the only black people in a sea of white sheets and a dozen pink faces. (I know Blacks from Suriname, but those are much lighter.) They were from Central Africa, needed a connecting flight at Schiphol Airport, when the contractions started and ended up in the prestigious academic Amsterdam hospital. In other words: they were there completely unconnected and powerless. I greeted her and asked how it was going, desperately hoping that all was well. It wasn’t. The baby had no bowel movement and the doctors could not find anything wrong with her. Well, I knew the cause, but I dared not to say anything.
Had this been rape informed by hate for Blacks, for women or for babies in general, or a combination? It was impossible to tell. But evil it was for sure. I thought: this nurse needs to be stopped, but I was in a panic. I surely could not win from such a person. I would be kicked out of the faculty, and never get a job anywhere. My life would be destroyed like she destroyed this little girl’s life. It took me weeks to go make an appointment with her superior. I remember him, a man. I could hardly talk, from fear. I told him a little bit what had happened, but my voice was barely audible. He said: I’m sure it was not so bad. The fool. Please investigate, I whispered. Now it’s his responsibility, I thought, but I was sure he would not do anything with my visit.
Baby rapists never work in old-age homes. How many years did she continue to work there? How many lives did she ruin because I did not stop her?
The above was about not stopping a baby rapist, but I did something even worse – gasp. I failed to warn against a mortal danger.
For context, first a brief history of the onslaught by the AIDS virus. First people died from terrible diseases that seemed somehow contagious. Then a virus was found. There was no cure for decades. Prevention became paramount. Now, infection can be undercut chemically and near-cure is possible, but prevention is still best.
“Safe sex” became very important when confirmation of an infection with the AIDS virus was still a death warrant, known to be caused by viral transmission through blood transfusion, sharing of needles and unprotected sex, especially for people at risk. They were at the time: certain ethnic groups, men who had sex with men, intravenous drugs users (once the virus had entered their communities) and recipients of unscreened platelets (hemophiliacs) or blood transfusions, and … their sexual partners. (By now, every casual sexual encounter is risky.)
However, I understood that there was another group of people at risk. Many people who for the first time try a one-night stand. They are inexperienced, scared and naive. Typically, they fall in the hands of people who are the most-experienced in sex. They know how to charm, reassure, lie, persuade, just “to score a virgin.” And they are high risk, because they have sex constantly. I will share an example.
A young lesbian woman I knew, wanted one time to try sex with a guy. Curious. She knew a very nice gay guy and they tried. Three weeks later he called her that he was tested positive for the virus. She went for tests. Don’t worry, said the nurse, what’s the chance? Hardly anyone is infected. The nurse was wrong. When you had unprotected sex with a high-risk person, your chance is high. A week of terrible waiting. The test tube with her blood broke; she had to give a second blood sample. Another week in unbelievable fear. She was infected. Once-in-her-life sex did her in. This is high-risk.
I was just a medical student. I felt too small to write to medical journals or health organizations that they should also warn people inexperienced in sex. After years, I met an AIDS specialist and told him. He waved the suggestion aside. I let it go again.
How many people got infected and died because I did not publicize that they were at risk? O, I was not really at fault? Read the following.
The above is a fair summary of how I did damage and failed to protect people against damage. I’m not one of the worst, but terrible things have happened and I played a role in them.
And this is true for most of us. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. marked: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transformation was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Renowned Holocaust Scholar Sir Ian Kershaw held: “The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference.” Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a rare German church leader who challenged the Nazi regime, famously said: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” And Eli Wiesel alleged: “A lack of caring enables all evil, including the Holocaust.”
It’s time that we throw away our TV. We need to stop “killing time” and instead use our time to stop the killing. When we are tired and down, we do not need entertainment and snacks. We need to rise to the occasion and seek others to ascent the barricades and fight evil.
A high priority must be to stop sexual violence. I hope that these #bymetoo blog posts may inspire others: to get realistic, to fight and stop abuse and prevent evil, and to heal and promote healing.
While #metoo immediately created a true storm the world over, #bymetoo has not been picked up in the past days. It’s easier to listen to and empathize with victims and condemn villains, than deal with victimizers repenting and taking responsibility. The latter is for the future, it seems – unfortunately. May it be soon.