“It’s nobody else’s business, and I don’t want it to define me,” he said, “Plus, it makes people uncomfortable.”
Given the near-universal shame in the telling and the near-universal discomfort of the listener, as his wife, it makes me uncomfortable how we, as a community, fail to protect our little boys.
Trav tells me I’m the most beautiful, smart, sexy woman he’s ever met, and I know he believes it. Still, sometimes my husband cannot summon a desire to touch me in a way that doesn’t feel obligatory and rote. I’d be lying if I said I never wanted things to be different.
I swallowed urges to find myself a small apartment, to have a discreet affair, or to book a hotel room for just one good night of my own sleep. On his bad days, I dreaded opening the front door because I was never sure what I’d find. His secrets were now mine to keep, and the weight was heavy.
The words of his fans echoed in my head. “You are so lucky.”
As Trav continues to do the exhausting and intense work to put distance between himself and his sense of shame, it gets better for us. One by one, he shares information with people he trusts, and the response is near-universal: Somebody knows somebody who was affected by this issue. More often than not, instead of the discomfort he feared, there is a level of compassion. People love my husband.
We are good now, and getting better, but there are still moments when I never know what to do or say. So, when I fell down the Google rabbit hole last year and was routed to the old 2002 New York magazine article, I sent the link to Trav. According to the article, there was a longstanding and widespread atmosphere of willful ignorance about sexual abuse.
Rather than bringing the solace of knowing he was not alone, the article put Trav’s mind back in a little boy place, trying to sleep in the dormitory, sensing what happened in the rooms next door and wondering if and when he would be next.
“It wasn’t just me. It was the entire school’s culture,” Trav said, the new awareness making his voice wooden.
I watched my husband move back onto our couch that day, and I thought of all the other partners like me, shifting feet back and forth in their own kitchens, arms useless and keys jangling, with no social script and no map—the desire for vengeance and policy change and a way out overridden by a bigger, immediate desire for their husband, son, brother, or friend to just stop hurting.