Content Warning: This story discusses human trafficking and pedophilia. Reader discretion is advised.
Post Street– Chinese New Year Parade – The traffic devours the patience of every San Francisco driver. A choir of horns blasts the pedestrians from the sidewalks as the barricades teeter in place.
An hour and a half after the cab ride began, fire crackers still echo off the buildings while drivers grapple for every opening in the sea of exhaust fumes, foot traffic, and non-motor vehicles. The Little Darling’s Peep Show’s lights blink in contrast to the gated and locked businesses wrapping themselves up against the cool Pacific air.
“I’ll get out here.” The suit commands, opening the door into screaming curses while his fare settles before the door slams shut. He smirks as he reaches the sidewalk – he found her.
She stands at the corner waiting; peahen struts in her heels, suit, and buttercream silk blouse. The man glances at a business card from his pocket, then returns it. He found Her.
Her face never fabricates a smile for him, but she leads him past the iron gate into what looks like an old hotel. She opens a door to an office with a black leather lounger where she motions for him to sit.
“Who gave you my card?” Her lips fall into a pout as she sits on the large oak desk, averting her eyes from his face; playing with her manicured nails.
“I’m looking for a young woman.” He states without answering. “Thin. No stretch marks. Underdeveloped. Small.” He smiles and leans back, crossing his hands over his stomach.
The woman nods, then picks up her phone from the desk, texting someone. A knock at the door reveals a tiny late-adolescent with deep umber hair and fawn skin of no more than five feet tall in heels and a shimmering club dress.
“She will do.” The man stands, then turning toward the desk pulls a wad of cash from a money clip. “Thank you.”
The door slams, leaving the woman alone in the room, vomiting into a trash can. A hidden door in the wall opens, revealing a man with a cloud of hair wafting from his scalp. “Not a fan of this one?”
“I hate his kind.” She snarls, wiping her mouth. “And I hate tiny women.”
The white haired man sprawls on the lounger and laughs. “Why? Men are attracted to small, delicate, vulnerable creatures. It’s instinctual.”
“They’re attracted to them because they’re pedophiles.” She spits.
“Then why hate the women?” The man sits up and cocks his head. “You’re jealous,” he mocks. Her eyebrows attempt to narrow in response; instead only her mouth frowns. “Men are allowed to like what they like. Besides, you’re just doing your job.” Standing, he walks over, wrapping his arms around her shoulders from behind, kissing her neck. “Try not to hate yourself because you’re not one of them anymore.”
Closing her eyes, she sees herself grab the letter opener from the pen cup and stab him in the neck. His eyes bulge out as red arterial blood pulses out onto the Persian rug adorning the floor, ruining her silk shirt he bought not long ago. He collapses onto the desk as she grabs his keys to the safe in the hidden room, grabbing enough of the cash to be free of him forever. Running down the old steps and out of the building into the chaos of San Francisco during Chinese New Year.
He cups her breasts from behind as she opens her eyes. “Where is the money he handed you?” He whispers in her ear.
She hands him the roll of hundreds over her shoulder, then stands, re-buttoning her blouse.
“Good work.” He oozes as she approaches the door.
The sounds in the hallway follow her; remind her; haunt her as she walks down the steps, wondering if now is the time to step outside.
If you found yourself moved, please consider liking, commenting, and/or sharing it with others. Truly, I am grateful for the time you spent reading my work. While you’re here, if you want to learn more about what you can do to help those impacted by human trafficking, or if you are impacted by human trafficking please check out http://humantraffickinghotline.org/.
If you are in need of immediate help and are located in the United States please call 1 (888) 373-7888 or text 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”) 24/7/365
We define “apology” as “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure” as a paraphrase of multiple dictionaries.
I have struggled with apologies for as long as I can remember. At one point I was the person that said “I’m sorry” in response to everything. What I found out the hard way is that being trained to apologize for my existence results in others devaluing me. Through school I repeatedly was forced to apologize for my own existence to those bullying me as the only way to escape physical, psychological, and emotional harm. Later, people I called my friends, potential romantic partners, and individuals I did date took advantage of this same pattern. Here are some examples of things and people I have apologized for/to in the past:
I have apologized to someone that attempted to rape me and succeeded in sexually assaulting me. I apologized for “keeping calm” while I figured out how to get away from them safely because this “implied consent” and sent “mixed signals” to them despite me saying “no”, “no, stop” out loud, repeatedly.
I have apologized to someone that cheated on me for the entire duration of our relationship for not focusing on their feelings and the person they had cheated on me with the whole time.
I have apologized for having panic attacks that other people caused on purpose.
I have apologized for my existence in spaces where I was made to feel unwelcome.
I have apologized for being too sensitive when hurt by humor and for not finding bigoted jokes funny.
I have apologized for not being what strangers expected based on descriptions provided by others.
I have apologized for many things I should never have apologized for and rather were reasons the recipient of the apology should have been apologizing to me.
Those are a few examples that I will never repeat. The thing is, at the time I genuinely believed that everything I experienced was my fault. In everything that went wrong and every experience I had I always saw the common denominator as myself. I still struggle with this.
What Defines Types Of Bad Apologies?
Apologies should be done because the individual providing them feels genuine remorse. Part of this means not using apologies to manipulate those around you. There are 3 “Don’ts” of apologies (see above), I’d like to address. These include the “I’m sorry you feel that way“, the “never add an excuse“, and the “never expect an apology“.
The “I’m sorry you feel that way” is rarely used in cases of actual empathy or sympathy if the speaker is indeed the person that caused the listener to be upset. This phrasing should never be used in response to someone being genuinely hurt and attempting to discuss their feelings or thoughts on a subject. Using this phrasing belittles the individual you are speaking to and attempts to erase their experience by devaluing it while elevating the status of the “apologizer”.
On the other hand, the advice of “never add an excuse” is often over generalized and used to abuse individuals that are attempting to defend themselves. The difference is there’s never a “I’m sorry, but…” when people are attempting to defend themselves against abuse. Instead, the phrasing used will focus on the logic and/or reasoning someone used as an indication that they should perform the behavior and a recognition that this information was received incorrectly. I have unfortunately dealt with people that would suggest saying anything beyond the words “I’m sorry” including what is being apologized for counts as an excuse.
People using apologies to manipulate, belittle, and otherwise damage the individual making the apology are ubiquitous throughout society. Many people that do these behaviors do so without recognition of their actions, instead focusing on their own emotional experience. The last piece of advice plays into this.
I lived by “never expect an apology” for a long time. Instead, I was the one apologizing every time I felt like someone needed to apologize to me and I wanted an apology, but knew I would never get one. Why? Because obviously whatever happened was my fault and therefore I should be the one apologizing since it couldn’t possibly be anyone else’s fault. Here’s the thing: it’s okay to want an apology, but you need to be okay with not receiving one and knowing how to respond if that’s the case.
Remember the phrase, “actions speak louder than words?” Sometimes people don’t know how to apologize using words and instead they do so through actions. It’s important to be receptive to this alternative method of apology, especially for appropriate offenses. Apologizing through action involves recognizing an uncomfortable situation or a pattern and stopping recurrence. For minor offenses nonverbal apologies are often enough. Alternatively, nonverbal apologies combined with verbal apologies take on synergistic amplification of the perceived sincerity.
Sometimes handwritten or typed apology notes are the way to go. These provide an indication to the recipient that the cause for apology has been contemplated. It also means that the ability to view and evaluate the apologizer’s response.
Rifts In Relationships
Apologies and forgiveness are meant to repair relationships and bring the divided parties back together. If someone wrongs you, does not see it even with some assistance, and does not apologize of their own volition you need to ask yourself: should this person be in my life? Apologies require the recipient to be receptive and the apologizer to be willing. So, the answer is maybe, maybe not. The relationship should be reevaluated.
Attempting to apologize using manipulation tactics will hurt relationships and drive parties involved further apart, particularly if a wrong has occurred. It’s important to be able to recognize these manipulation tactics when they arise, such as the examples previously mentioned.
When manipulation tactics are used, and/or the individual demanding the apology is doing so as a means of manipulation, it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship entirely.
It is important to note that sometimes a person may need to ask for more information before they can understand what they did wrong and apologize. That need for more information should be taken as a tentatively positive sign. Let the rest depend on the outcome.
Apologies And Boundaries
I mentioned that it’s okay to want an apology.
The way that people apologize can help you set boundaries with those around you. As an example, there have been times in my life where I was faced with the need to reevaluate friendships where manipulation tactics disguised as apologies have been used toward myself and my life partner. In these circumstances, I kept wanting an apology for the behaviors these individuals exhibited with communication as to the offenses. Only then could I be confident that these friendships were worth salvaging.
In cases where someone demonstrates their lack of respect and manipulation attempts in writing, actions or spoken phrasing, I can only control myself. I can choose not to respond and I can choose how to provide information regarding my own emotional state moving forward. By wanting an apology, but not expecting one, I have set a boundary that removes these individuals from the previous privileges of friendship until a rejoining moment, such as an apology, can occur.
This needs to be okay. If you remove someone from your life or from the privileges of friendship this needs to be respected. I’m not suggesting abandoning professionalism, the inalienable respect all humans deserve, or common decency.
If someone does not show you gratitude for your efforts, what does that mean? What if they demand gratitude from you, but do not show it in return? What if they express gratitude in words, but their actions do not match up?
Dictionary.com defines privilege as “a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.” I am a very private person. It takes a long time to get to know me and those that succeed I make every effort toward maintaining a friendship. Here’s the thing about privileges: they can be taken away.
Take a moment and think about the last time you had to break up with a friend or a friend broke up with you. Do you know why it happened? Did it happen despite apologies? Did one party refuse to offer forgiveness for the other?
Even the most socially blind among us notice when someone stops contacting us entirely when before there was constant communication and support. That said, not everyone recognizes why friendships end and after time has passed, it is within reason to reach out to attempt to reconnect with the understanding you may not receive a response. Don’t spam the person and don’t continuously reach out. Respect their boundaries.
Being your friend is a privilege, but it is also a privilege to be friends with someone else. If any friendship does not involve two individuals treating the other with mutual respect that acknowledges this, then it is unlikely to be a friendship worth keeping.
Especially if the dynamic of forcing another individual to apologize is observed.
This is not meant to garner undue sympathy for, or excuse these behaviors. Instead, I want to use this as a springboard for the thought, “it’s about them, not you.” You can’t control other people. You can show them compassion and understanding. You can communicate with them. You can hold boundaries with them. Hopefully they recognize this pattern and break it, but in my albeit limited to my own life’s experience, this takes attempting to explain the behavior, severing contact, and not speaking to the individual with the assumption that it may be indefinite.
I can’t expect apologies from anyone. I can’t expect people to change their behavior or recognize how what they did was wrong. I only have control over my own actions and the way I choose to interact with these behavior patterns and the individuals expressing them. I choose to understand the reasons behind the behavior, but it is not my responsibility to fix anyone.
When Do I Apologize?
I apologize only for things I know I’ve done wrong and am remorseful for. Besides this, I do apologize for my actions if the results did not match my intent. But my apologies are offered less often – not out of pride, but rather self-preservation. I have learned standards for apologies that I hold myself and others to. As a few examples of these standards:
I do not use apologies as manipulations and do not tolerate it in those around me.
I provide and accept apologies years after once time and introspection has passed. These apologies should not have justification or excuses – as time goes by all that’s left to mend is the pain. Situations and words are distorted and lost by faulty memories – all that matters is the expression.
I apologize in that awkward English language way as a sign of sympathy, but reserve when I do it to be driven by compassion. Accepting cultural norms in the face of contrary life experience – yay!
I still apologize to people more frequently than I should, despite efforts to practice otherwise. I still struggle with deciding when enough is enough in unhealthy friendships. I still struggle to stand up for myself after years of training that tells me anything I say counts as an excuse, therefore invalidating the apology that I never should have said anyway.
I never expect an apology, but I don’t suggest the absence of one be “water under the bridge”. It’s important to surround yourself with individuals that remind you what healthy relationships look like – mistakes, apologies, forgiveness, absence of manipulation, absence of physical/sexual/psychological abuse, and mutual respect.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. Without you these words fail to complete the reception portion of communication and instead hang out idly on servers somewhere. If you found that this content resonated with you, please like, comment, and/or share with someone else you think will appreciate it.
This review is going to be a little bit different for a couple of reasons. First, I received this book from the author after receiving an email asking if I would read it and consider reviewing it on my website and in my LiveTweet format. Upon reviewing a summary and the website my answer was a resounding yes. This was my answer because the author is not alone. It was good to know that I’m not alone.
Summary (Caution – Mild Spoilers):
In her memoir “But I Am Here” Bettencourt uses prose poems and free verse poetry to tell the story of her abuse, how it impacted her life, still impacts her life, her attempts to get help, and when she had to make the choice to tell her husband and the world.
The book begins with reflection as an adult, then transports the reader into the mind of a child. In each section the reader lives through Bettencourt’s eyes as she tells these stories without ever using names. Each section concludes with a reflection on the experience from the adult perspective based new insight gained through healing.
In this powerful, moving memoir I ache for the author and her experiences. I feel very passionate about protecting children and helping those that are survivors of sexual abuse. The author does not use complex language, nor does she need to. She hides information appropriately to ensure that the reader experiences each moment the way she experienced it. This amplifies the experience of the book.
I found I had to take several breaks due to the intensity of the material. The book does not hide its content warning. It’s on the front cover. There are resources in the back for those that read it and need help processing any emotions or past trauma that may come up while reading the book. All of this is extremely well thought out.
The amount of vulnerability involved in this writing and the amount of information shared by the author is incomparable to books like “Helping Her Get Free” or “Perfect Daughters” due to the accessibility of the information. Both of these books discuss forms of abuse experienced in childhood and how that shapes adult behaviors with heavy analysis. In contrast, Bettencourt brings the reader inside her own head. We are guided through her thoughts and experiences overtime to see how she got into each head space without going into the academic view point beyond helpful information any reader can understand. This makes the book accessible to a very broad audience.
I am sad that more was not mentioned about the experience of disclosure to loved ones. I believe that part of the purpose of the book was the disclosure. This is both painful and makes complete sense.
In terms of my own personal experiences and what the book brought up for me, I will be brief. For survivors of childhood sexual assault/abuse it is a hard read, but I felt a deep connection. The book takes great care in the reflections shared to connect with the reader’s experiences and own journey, whether these realizations be new or old. It does not try to explain the realizations – they can all be explained to the reader on their own journey by the resources in the back or through therapy.
“But I Am Here” is a painful, beautiful read. Reality is stranger than fiction and child sexual abusers are a great example.
I believe this book is absolutely relevant to anyone, including members of the LGBTQA+ community, who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. There is no mention of LGBTQA+ individuals in the book, but this does not impact my opinion on this matter.
Grammar & Punctuation
There are a few spelling errors that can easily be corrected in future printings of the book. These errors do not interrupt the overall reading experience.
For More Information On Getting Help
You can visit online.rainn.org or call 1-800-856-4673 (US) – these are mentioned in the back of the book.
Want To Read More About The Author? You can visit the book’s website here. For each copy of the book sold through the publisher’s website the publisher will donate $1 to the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. You can follow the author on Twitter here.