Unless you have been on a social media cleanse (lucky you!), you’ve probably noticed numerous posts beginning with “#metoo” lately. This tag originated with Tarana Burke, a survivor of assault who was looking for a way to provide “empowerment through empathy” in her community in 2007. Like Burke, the young people of color in her community were struggling with the healing process. The campaign became a way to reach places that other people wouldn’t go so that these conversations could find a platform. Sexual assault affects people of all ages, color, and backgrounds.
This post will make you angry. This post will make you uncomfortable. This post contains our stories, our experiences, our every day. I hope that reading it will help you to see you aren’t alone or help you to find resources to have these conversations with others.
“After I was raped at 13, there was a rumor going around the school that I’d had sex. I chose to let my parents believe that instead of telling them I had been raped. I didn’t have the language or relationship to tell them what had really happened. They took me to a therapist who asked me what had happened. I wouldn’t tell him either, but I was adamant that I hadn’t had sex. I’m sure they were incredibly confused and worried.”
“My dad’s best friend sexually assaulted me when I was a teenager; my dad chose to defend him and not me.”
“I feel like my experience isn’t on par with others’ and doesn’t really ‘count,’ even though I know it does. I don’t remember anything and am not actually sure what happened. I had two drinks, which is not a lot for me—I later tested positive for rohypnol—and woke up in bed in an apartment I didn’t know. And I NEVER would’ve done that. Ever. It’s a weird feeling to know that something happened and you weren’t cool with it, but not know exactly what; however, I’m very thankful I have no memory of what did happen. I can’t imagine how painful that would be to get over.”
“I had to go to the university OBGYN for STD tests because there was no telling what the guy had, and I was scared since I had no idea what had been done to me. Only a friend of mine at school ever knew because I was so upset when I got home. I ran into the guy a few years after college and ended up shaking and in tears in the bathroom.”
“I dated a guy when I was in high school. His dad was a doctor who worked with my mom. They thought it was the cutest thing that we were together. What they didn’t know was that every time we were alone he pressured me to have sex. Like grinding-up-against-me, hands-down-the-pants pressured. One day we were in his bedroom and he had me pinned to his bed, pants being pulled off and ignoring my ‘I really don’t want to do this.’ His mom walked in on us. Proceeded to call me a number of names. ‘Slut’ was the kindest one. But she saved my bacon as I was able to hightail it out of there.
My parents were (are?) very progressive, and sex was not a shameful thing in my house. I’ve still never told them about what he did or why we broke up. And I probably never will. I count myself lucky his mom was (a) super nosy and (b) super bitchy.
The only thing I did wrong was not kick that a-hole in the crotch the first time he ignored my ‘no.’ And yet, some 30 years later, I don’t talk about it because of some innate shame.”
“A friend’s youngest sister committed suicide in college after being drugged and assaulted. It happened at a prestigious university, and her sister would see the guy often on campus after it happened. From what my friend told me, her father was not very sympathetic to the incident and almost made her feel as she asked for it.”
“A co-worker grabbed my breast and told me he wanted to ‘t***y f***’ me. He also told me that he got an erection every time he talked to me. I reported it to HR and the head of the company. They gave him a week off and told him not to do it again. They didn’t even move us out of the same district. I still had to work alongside him, go to meetings with him, etc. I met with a lawyer, a female, and she casually said, ‘Yeah, they did the bare minimum of what they legally had to do.'”
“In second grade, a classmate dared me to grab an eraser he held over his crotch while we were supposed to be working. I can’t remember what I said, but I know I was angry because I got in trouble for disrupting the class. Seven-year-old me didn’t know that I needed to tell the teacher.
I have a history of being called ‘bitch’ for calling men, and women, out for harassment toward myself or anyone I see being harassed.
If we start holding people accountable, imagine how the paradigm would shift, and we could reduce assault and harassment. #imaginethat”
I see you, guy (and gal) who is frustrated that this has happened to someone you know. Here are some ways to help:
- Don’t support misogynistic jokes (staying silent doesn’t count). Speak up when you hear one.
- When you hear a guy talk over a female, say, “Hey, I think she was saying something.”
- Same goes for “mansplaining.” Give credit where it’s due.
- If you, guy, mess up and a woman tells you you messed up and it makes you feel like crap, don’t put it on her to make you feel better. Learn from your mistake, apologize, and do better.
- If you’re in a position of power in any situation, use it to protect women, too. The “Boys’ Club” mentality needs to go away already.
- Catcalling also needs to die. Check your friend if he hollers at, whistles at, or approaches a woman as though he has a right to expect a date or phone number.
- When you hear harassment happening, try this: Responding to harassers.
- Do not blame anyone for “tempting” people with what they wear. Stop the shaming. Just. Stop.
- Talk to your kids about consent and how to be responsible for their own expressions of sexuality.
- Which means you’re going to have to start talking about sex. And anatomy. Why is it weird? Because you’re making it weird! Give the right parts the correct name so that you can have a conversation about what’s OK and what’s not OK.
- Acknowledge the story you are told. Ask the person confiding in you, “What can I do to help and support you?” One great response I saw on Facebook was: “I hear you. I believe you. I love you. And I’m sorry for what I’ve done, whether indirectly through complicity or, even though gay, directly. These weren’t the initial order of my thoughts after seeing so many #metoo posts in my timeline. And I have many more thoughts, but I don’t know that this is a moment for lots of male voices beyond the basics above.”
I told you that reading this would make you mad. I was mad while writing it. I ugly cried reading the stories shared with me. I rage against the patriarchal machine every minute of every day, because the sum of it is that the majority of the bad stuff up there was done by guys, who are often protected by other guys. We ladies aren’t off the hook, though. We’ve got voices, and we can use them to help those who can’t lift their voices up.
I’ve held space for people who needed to share their stories. I’ve held the hand of a friend who filed a restraining order against her partner. I’ve picked up friends from their homes when they no longer felt safe. I’ve been threatened for sticking up for people, for rejecting advances, for calling people out on their hurtful behavior.
Listen, assault and harassment continues to happen. Every. Damn. Day. I dream of the day when a victim doesn’t feel ashamed about what happened and the jerk-face who committed the assault gets slapped with a heaping dose of justice. I dream of the day when people aren’t assaulted. Until that day, I’m going to shout, “ME FREAKING TOO!” and “I SEE YOU!”