I am married to the most loving man. Last night, when he scanned page after page of Facebook and saw all the women saying, “Me Too,” adding their stories of abuse and rape to the swelling narrative, he wept. That is our hope for all men, for all people, because men have also been raped and abused. Our hope is for broken hearts, and awareness that leads to change.
No one is telling their story because it is fun; it is not fun to share your humiliation, and trust me when I say it is humiliating. People are telling their stories because the world needs to change. Our children and grandchildren need to grow up in a safer world than the one we did. We need a world where it’s okay to tell if someone hurts you and your friends, family, and those in power will stand with you and say, “I believe you. Let me help.”
No one ever did that for me, mostly because I didn’t tell. I didn’t tell because I grew up in a culture that believed women were created for men’s pleasure, like a nice brandy or a good cigar, and it was normal to be treated as such. Later, when I worked with college students, I began to tell my story as a rape survivor, because, as a therapist, I heard over and over the stories of women who’d been molested as children and were still trying to make sense of it. I learned that the telling of the story is the key to healing and to empowerment for change.
But still when I saw the #metoo hashtag, I posted the obligatory “me too” and that was it. Why should I continue to rehash the past? But last night as I lay in bed, and all my own stories started to bubble up, I realized that this is not about me. It’s about my granddaughters and changing the world for them. So, it is with that hope that I add my voice to the voices of brave women and men who are speaking out. Ours are the voices of change.
– When I was 14, my friend and I were in San Francisco, waiting to cross a street when we were propositioned by a middle-aged man wearing a suit. We were mostly confused and raced away when the light changed.
– When I was sixteen I was driving down a mountain pass at night and a 16-wheeler kept flashing its lights at me. I thought there must be a problem with my car so I pulled over at the nearest pull-out leaving space for a quick exit and he pulled in next to me. I rolled down my window and he rolled down his. “Is there something wrong with my car?” I shouted.
“No,” he said.
“Then why were you flashing your lights at me?”
He just gave me a leering smile and raised his eyebrows. I took off.
– When I was 17 my much older boss raped me one night after work. He was a man I trusted and liked. I thought we were friends. At that time in history, rapists were said to be men that hid in bushes, and there was no understanding of friendship rape or date rape. So, I didn’t tell anyone for four years, because I thought it was my fault. I shouldn’t have stayed after work for that drink to celebrate a special occasion. The PTSD from that event has taken years to work though.
– When I was twenty-two I was jogging down the street when a car pulled over ahead of me. I thought maybe the guy had car trouble as he flagged me over. I stopped several feet away from his car at the passenger window to look in; he was masturbating. By then I’d grown used to being treated this way. I was shaken but mostly felt dirty and angry as I jogged away.
I could never count the number of times someone grabbed my butt, or catcalled me or made lewd comments. In fact, I was recently working with a lucid 80-year-old man who tried to grab my butt as I walked by. When I told him it was inappropriate, he innocently asked, “Why?”
Why indeed sir, why indeed. This was the soup I was cooked in. This is why there is a #metoo hashtag. It’s time for a change. We need a society where girls and boys can be safe. Where men and women can respect, honor and stand up for one another. That is why I’m telling my story. It’s easy to be aghast the way girls and women are treated in other countries and I believe in fighting for them. But it is obvious that we also need to start at home.
If you want to tell your #metoo story here, I’d be honored to hear it. If you don’t, I understand and will hold you in my heart.
Believe Photo: Debbie Mitchell Pinjuv