By Margaret Diggs with Dave Franco
A woman breaks her 30+ year silence and takes back the power
My name is Margaret Diggs. What I’m about to share with you may seem like four short stories from my life, but what you’ll really be reading is someone finally breaking free of guilt, shame, and embarrassment.
I was somewhere around 12 years old playing in the bedroom of my girlfriend, Wendy, who lived next door. We had been hanging out on her bed for a while when she left to go to the bathroom. As soon as she left the room, her 15- or 16-year-old brother came in, locked the door behind him and quickly jumped on me, trying to kiss me while letting his hands go wild. Even though I was just a kid, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I was in a fight to save myself. He groped and kissed and yanked and pulled, and I fought and kicked and scratched as we wrestled on the bed, and then fell off the edge to the ground.
Finally, I was able to get out of the room, run through their living room, and cry in their foyer, hoping Wendy and her mom didn’t see me or ask questions. Once I got myself together, I left their house, ran home, and prayed I could hide my emotions long enough to get to my room upstairs and cry in my bed. I never told a soul what happened, not my friend, parents, or siblings. Although he and my brother were best friends, I felt fearful that no one would believe me—it all seemed too crazy.
When I was around 16, I broke up with a boyfriend I had dated for a few months; it was a relationship where I refused to give him my body—and he didn’t like that. A short time after our break up, I went to a party that, unknown to me, he was at. A friend told me that he was upstairs and was asking for me to come up and talk with him. Although my better judgment was to say no, I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. So I went up. The first thing he said to me was, “I want you to know something. No one leaves me without giving me a piece.”
Although my better judgment was to say no, I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. So I went up.
He took a hold of me, pushed me on the bed and began to take my clothes off. What happened next can only be described as a brawl—him to save his reputation, and me to save my body. By the time I was able to get out of the room, my shoes and some of my clothes were missing; I was bruised—he was too. In tears, I found my friend and she gave me her sweater. To this day, I have NO idea who drove me home. I could not tell you where this party was and who else was in the car on either trip to or from the party other than my one friend who invited me. It was many, many years before I told anyone some of these details.
When I was around 17-years-old, the music teacher at the junior high I attended, invited me to see his new home he had purchased in our neighborhood. Although I interned with him for a few summer projects and he and my mom were “friends,” I was a little suspicious of him because he always seemed to be undressing young girls with his eyes. I told him the only way I would come over was if his wife was there, and that I wanted to meet her.
Finally, after several requests for me to visit, he set it up to where she would be there. I agreed to come, but praise and thank God, I had the sense to bring my girlfriend, Denise! When we showed up, he said his wife had stepped out for a while. Thinking fast on his feet like most predators do, he found a way to separate us, and when I found myself alone with him, he pinned me up against a brown kitchen cabinet, smashing my head against it, and there, he held my face and smothered me with the most disgusting, appalling, disrespectful, sickening, revolting, nauseating kiss. What is this??? Do I deserve this for coming over? What will I tell Denise? Will I tell her or hide it?
Terrified, I slapped him in the face, pushed him off, and ran out of the room. I told my friend nothing. In the moments after an assault, there is some sort of seeming safety in silence.
In my freshman year at Boston College I had two roommates who fought bitterly every time they were together. I couldn’t stand the drama and requested new housing. The only place open was in the senior dorm. Right after halftime during one of the football games, I went back to my dorm apartment which was empty because everybody was at the game. When I walked in my room, my phone rang. It was one of the senior players of the team. “Did you hear I got hurt?” he asked. He lived on the first floor of my building and was laid up. He told me where he was, that he was in pain, and asked if I would bring him Tylenol. I don’t know how he knew my name; I don’t know how he got my number. And I didn’t know how he knew that I happened to be home during one of the games.
I was a little reluctant—it just seemed so sketchy—but being a freshman, I grabbed my Tylenol and pushed the elevator button for the first floor. When I arrived at his apartment, the door was cracked open. As I walked in, his large arm came from behind the door and grabbed me hard and brought me down to the floor. He smelled like grass and had no interest in the Tylenol. High on something…he was slurring about some thoughts he had about me. It was awful! I remember thinking, He has a girlfriend! Why would he do this? Please, God, get me out of here or send someone to witness this and help me!
When I finally crawled out of the apartment, I was in shock. My lip was bleeding, and we were both out of breath... me and a muscle-bound stud three times my size who never did get his way. But of course, it was a full on assault, and I was physically and emotionally in shambles. Yet I never said a word. It was unbelievable, embarrassing, and I could not even form the words to retell it.
But time has moved on—more than 30 years have passed—and now it is time to break that silence. I have realized that in my silence I have agreed to a power imbalance. I have essentially given him or them, control over me for all these years. Their actions made me shut down and shut up, and feel guilty—but I will not allow that anymore. I am speaking out, and I don’t care if I’m believed or not, or liked or disliked, blamed or not. I’m too old not to live the rarified air of truth. These things happened. Don’t believe me? It’s not my problem.
Their actions made me shut down and shut up, and feel guilty—but I will not allow that anymore.
One in four women have been sexually assaulted (some say 1 in 3). Most will never say a word about it. But I encourage everyone to begin to tell their story. Just the act of telling takes back the power from them, these thieves of innocence. And I promise you, the more you tell it, the more other women will feel encouraged to tell their stories, and the greater the community of sisterhood will be. What comfort there is in numbers.
Lastly, I don’t want you to miss the miracle in my story. Each of the men that assaulted me were huge in comparison to me. I was a mere kid the first time. My ex-boyfriend was over 6 feet, the football player was huge and strong, and the music teacher was a grown man, 20+ years older than me. How I was able to hold my own in those situations baffled me at first. But I am not baffled anymore. God was with me. There is no other way to explain it.
Are you struggling with speaking out about being a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault? Please know that you are not alone. Please consider visiting I Will Rise, which is Rock Church's sexual abuse recovery ministry.