Betrayal cuts us to the core, typically because it involves people who we assume deserve our trust. I learned this firsthand at a young age and have since seen it in all of the different arenas I’ve worked in. I want to share with you this early experience which taught me trust is a precious commodity and not something to be given based on assumption.
“Don’t worry,” said John to my parents. “I’ll make sure she stays safe when she works for me this summer in Boston. No creep will come near her!”
I was young, three months short of turning sixteen, and eager to work in the city for the summer. No more camp counselor jobs! My parents were reluctant to let me take the train into the city and be on my own. I managed to convince them to do just that when I asked an old, dear family friend if I could work in his jewelry store in downtown Boston, close to the train station. I was so excited when he said “yes”, and they agreed to let me go. It was my first stab at independence, and I was thrilled by the prospect of freedom.
The betrayal of my young trust came fast and quick on the day I started work. Thrilled by my first sale, I rushed to the back of the store to have a pair of earrings gift wrapped for my customer. John, the owner, shared my excitement and gave me a big, burly hug. In a flash, his hands reached up my dress and down into my underpants. He was a groper, eager to fondle the new employee. I was in total shock, sickened by this physical betrayal.
His wife ignored what was going on as she finished gift wrapping the package. She even stepped back for a moment to admire her handiwork. In a cloud of disgust, I ran to the front of the store, put the gift-wrapped package into a nice bag and handed it to the waiting customer.
The senior salesgirl, who was all of twenty, knew exactly what had happened. My face said it all, and her experience working for the owner had left no doubt in her mind. “Welcome to the club, Elaine,” she said sympathetically. “This is just a summer job for you. You don’t have to take it, so just quit and walk away,” she advised. “You don’t need this job like I do.”
But I couldn’t walk out after just one day because I didn’t know what I would tell my parents. As humiliating and devastating as this betrayal had been, I just couldn’t tell them. After all, the owner and his wife were their longtime friends. Would my parents even believe me?
I made the decision that summer to deal with things myself – I made sure to not put myself in a position of vulnerability again. It didn’t occur again, but the damage had been done; the betrayal was one I had to cope with and bounce forward from.
If you’ve experienced something similar and aren’t sure how to “bounce” forward, learn more about what you can do here.