The long line to board the ferry resulted in a chat with the young woman next to me. First about the horrendous amount of “walk-ons”, then bemoaning that being at the end of the line there would be no seats and we would probably be sitting on the floor for the journey. It was January 1st and everyone was trying to get home.
As we started loading I said this would be the time to splurge on the ferry’s buffet lounge, sit at a nice table and eat some decent food. She said she couldn’t afford those types of perks. We boarded and the entrance to the lounge was right there. I said, “Let’s go, my treat!” She smiled and followed.
We got a table and food and started to talk. As so often happens with me, I quickly heard her heartbreaking story. It wasn’t hard to guess, she had a cloud around her.
I tried to give her hope; to say is does get better. But does anyone in a hole with no ladder feel there is truly a way out?
Then I told her about the shark. Being a sexually abused child is like having a leg bitten off by a shark. Painful, horrendous, disgusting and life altering. And guess what, for the rest of your life you won’t have that leg. It will never grow back. But here’s the thing, we can give you crutches to get around. Then we can teach you to hop. You’ll be like a rabbit! If you’re lucky at some point we’re going to fit you with a fake leg. You will walk again. Then in time we’ll get you some fancy options. One of those legs to run with and even one you can wear when you go dancing. Most of the world will never know the shark stole your leg.
Now the hard truth. We can’t give you your old leg back. It is gone forever. This is your new life. Not perfect but doable.
So my advice. Stop thinking about the shark. Stop thinking about your old leg. Stop. Your life has changed forever. Start thinking about how you’re going to run and dance with the new leg.
But who was I to talk, just an old woman who lost her leg to a shark decades ago. She could see I was fine. I don’t think she noticed the reflection of an echo held behind my eyes. Very few would ever see that sometimes late at night I still dream of the days when I had both legs.
To see this damaged young woman made me mad. How can we let child abuse still happen? You’d think we would have fixed the problem by now. When will enough be enough?
When are we going to purge the sharks?