Mary's letter: A #MeToo survivor's story

Published: Nov. 1, 2018 at 1:57 PM EDT
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The #MeToo movement went viral a year ago as a hashtag used on social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.

More recently, it gained attention when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward when now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was a nominee for the position.

NewsCenter 16 is not taking a position on the claims made by either.

What we are doing is telling you the story of a 70-year-old Mishawaka woman who says she was so inspired by Blasey Ford’s bravery that she is now ready to come forward and tell what happened to her more than six decades ago, when she was a small child.

She reached out to me, saying she wants to help others get through what she spent years trying to forget. This is Mary’s #MeToo moment.

Her letter begins, "Dear Ms. McFadden, I am reaching out to you to express myself in the shared matters which Dr. Ford testified to."

70-year-old Mary Hatchley remembers well being molested when she was just 7 years old.

Life wasn't easy. She came from a poor family in Bremen, lost her older sister when she was just 5, her beloved dog was shot by a neighbor and then two teenage neighbor boys took her to a vacant lot where they told her they built a hut. The unthinkable happened.

"No sooner had I entered, one grabbed me by the arms and the other by the legs, they stripped me of all my clothes and laughed. Holding my legs began to do awful things to me. I tried to kick away but he screamed at me. Fear overcame me and I'm unsure how much time passed but the one who held my arms suddenly had a change of heart saying, 'That's enough, let her go.' "

So, when she watched Dr. Blasey Ford testify, Mary says she felt for her. I asked her if she could relate to Dr. Ford. She replied, "Oh absolutely, very much so. Very much so, I felt her pain that no one believes you."

Mary thought it was time to share what she had only told her adult sons and her doctor, hoping to help others still living with shame they were not responsible for.

"My parents didn't believe me, and so I just felt like it was my fault and internalized it," Mary said. "I felt such a betrayal

and I think maybe (Dr. Ford) felt that same pain as I did. What you remember is what's done to you. And you may not remember all the things surrounding you, but you remember what happened to you.

"You just remember the hurt, that is in the forefront of your mind. You always remember the hurt. The surroundings, I don't think it makes an impact. Time can erase some things, but when you're molested or raped or whatever, that stays with you."

When you step into Mary's warm home, you are surrounded by angels. She's never forgotten losing her sister, Irene, or the faith Irene taught her by taking her to Sunday school each weekend.

She says, "Irene has always been very close to me, and I feel like she's my guardian angel, so when I see an angel I always remember how protective she was of me."

She said Irene was so devout she won a bible for knowing the most bible verses -- a bible Irene gave to Mary before she died.

She says the day she lost Irene broke her heart. Children couldn't go into the hospital back then.

"I put my hand on the windows and I said, 'I don't want you to go live with Jesus, Irene. I want you to stay with me,'" she recalled. "And so she has, she stayed with me all my life, and no matter how dark life ever got, she's always been there."

Mary says the childhood assault took away part of who she was.

"I didn't try as hard in school," she said. "I thought if I came to a difficult problem, I thought it was because I wasn't smart enough or I didn't belong in that class or whatever. It just sort of set me back."

I asked her if the assault took a part of her away. She responded, "It did, that's the perfect way to say it."

Sadly, Mary was assaulted again as an adult by a co-worker.

"I froze in fear," she said. "Releasing me, he told me never to tell, no one would believe me anyway."

And she didn't, believing again that no one would believe her.

Mary is strong woman, in spite of what happened, and her faith is part of the reason she was able to heal. And even though her parents didn't believe her, she loved them.

"Today, I kind of realize that they were still grieving for my sister’s death and they just couldn't cope with another," she said.

And she has forgiven her attackers, one of whom has died. But she says you must speak up and get help.

"If you are molested, if you've been raped, you have to know that you are loved by people and don't be bitter, but forgive because that's the road to healing," Mary said. "Find someone that you feel close enough to that you can open up about this and you know that will understand."

Mary also feels akin to the #MeToo Movement and says those abused must stand together.

As for the nonbelievers, she says, "It's heart-wrenching, it's just heart-wrenching that people are so insensitive today that don't take enough time to listen and care. We need that, we need more sensitivity to each other, to be a better people as Americans."

Mary shared her story hoping to help even one person out there who may have been abused.

If you have, do not stay silent. You can reach the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE and find out more about the organization

. By calling or messaging them, they will put you in touch with someone in your area who can help, regardless of how long ago your assault happened.

Don't be fearful of saying #MeToo.