There’s a meme going around on Facebook. It goes like this:
If all the women (men, too) who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
** Please copy/paste.
I tend to avoid memes. I usually find them silly. This one, however, has meaning. It is truly astounding how many women are acknowledging that they have been sexually harassed and/or sexually assaulted sometime in their lifetimes.
I applaud them, because, well, me too.
It’s happened to me, too.
There is something very compelling, and in someways historic, to see so many women posting the same simple message. No details. Just solidarity. How ironic that many have suffered in silence for years, but now are reaching across cyberspace to connect with others who have suffered similarly to their experience.
I think, though, if we hope to bring about needed change, more of the story needs to be told from those willing to share it,
So here is my story.
When I was 28, a man broke into my home and attempted to rape me. He nearly killed me by putting his hands around my neck and choking me when I fought back. I managed to get free by wielding a bedside lamp across his head and screaming words at him that no “lady” would ever use. He left when he realized I was not going to relent.
The next year was hell for me. It was particularly hard for me because, at the time I was working as a crisis counselor at a crisis unit, and I was also a volunteer rape crisis counselor. I was angry that a man felt entitled to have his way with my body without my consent. I was haunted by nightmares and flashbacks of how close I came to a brutal death. I struggled to maintain control of my own life as I attempted to be a supportive counselor to others. Although I remained a supportive person for others, I was not all that successful at maintaining control of my own life. A caring therapist and supportive friends and family eventually helped me recover.
The man was caught – he was the landscaper contracted by my landlord to cut the grass around my apartment. At that time, prosecutions for violent sex crimes were not very robust. A rude and abrasive prosecutor plea bargained him down to a burglary charge that came with a 6 month jail sentence. He was granted work release, and was only in jail one day. No one told me about the work release. I just happened to see him out mowing lawns.
I went from being a victim, to being a fierce survivor. Eventually, the fierceness wore off, and I got to a place where my life was centered around the the important things of my being and not the trauma. It was not an easy path to get to that point. I talked to people who were close to me about it, but part of my healing was moving past being a victim. Talking about it made me feel like a victim. I pushed past it and got to a place where I rarely spoke about it. Until this writing, only a few people in my life knew about it, and to them it is a distant memory.
I was born a feminist, I think. I was a tomboy as a child, and I resisted all my parents’ and teachers’ efforts to get me to act like a “lady”. I was always one to be a smart ass towards men who made misogynistic comments and put-downs, and I suffered bitterly for it. If you didn’t play the games, you were mocked and belittled and called all sorts of demeaning names. I preferred that to submitting myself to being toyed with. It wasn’t fun. But as I hear the stories of other women who did play along, I think I made the right choices. Before I ever experienced my assault, I had already experienced extreme harassment. Much of it was in workplaces that should have never allowed it.
I am 55 years old now, and although things are much changed than they were when I was in my twenties, we still have some of the same dynamics that have kept women at a disadvantage for centuries. We still live in a world where men have power and women are subjugated to their control across many domains.
And we have a president, whose braggadocio on a live mic bus ride triggered my trauma, and the trauma experienced by many women across the country, in a way that nothing else ever has.
I am glad to see men like Roger Ailles, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, and now Harvey Weinstein go down in disgrace. Kudos to those women who summoned the courage to bring them down. None of these men have gone to jail, though, for their crimes. Our society still has rewarded their sense of entitlement with only social repercussions. And Donald J. Trump, an admitted sexual predator, has been rewarded with being elected to the highest office in the land.
We need cultural change. We need to change the power balances that compel women in all parts of society to succumb to the whims of privileged white men who feel entitled to exploit them for their own purposes. It’s not about punishing and disgracing individual sexual deviants. It’s about changing our social dynamics across the board that allow men to get away with the exploits of power and privilege.
The moment is now.
I am a leader in the resistance movement in my community because I refuse to let these power imbalances go unchecked as they have my entire life. It is no surprise to me that the resistance movement is being led by women, and in many cases, women over 40 years old.
WE ARE DONE WITH THIS SHIT. We are ready to show these insecure bullies what true power is all about. It is about RESPECT. And it is about PERSISTENCE.
I am one small voice, but my voice has a beautiful harmony with all the other women singing the same song.
So, yeah. Me too. Never again will I remain silent.