Today as a “me too” I want to curl up in a ball. No wonder I like working from home, don’t have to risk the harassment or assault. Isn’t that terrible?
Then I’d just like to punch someone. Hard. (Never have been able to do that, even in my dreams… ). I wish I could go to a warehouse and throw plates at the wall or something. Or use a baseball bat to hit something, over and over again.
So many emotions rise to the surface when thinking about sexual assault. And many other emotions and feelings do the opposite, they bury themselves deep inside, becoming depression, introversion or “dis-ease.”
For years, I described something that happened to me as, “He made a pass at me.” I couldn’t even say he sexually assaulted me because it would mean I was labeling a father figure as an abuser. It would ruin the picture of fatherhood in my mind. It would break up the family. It would hurt the daughter that he had. I really wanted to minimize it, lessen it, for God’s sake anything to make the memory of the incident go away.
But you can’t. That is the problem with sexual assault. Once it’s happened, it’s happened. It changes you.
It changes how you think of the assailant. If it’s an adult man, like it was for me (sadly, more than once), it makes it hard to trust adult men. In my case, white men in positions of authority … businessmen, doctors, father figures. Because that’s who they were, the ones that harmed me. Someone I thought I could trust. Then I learned I couldn’t. In all cases, I had NO IDEA it was possible it could happen with them. Totally shocking.
Fast forward to today and my dealings with men, especially those in authority. On some level, and quite honestly, I just don’t feel safe. Because at any moment, without any signs, they can “make a pass at me,” harass me or hurt me. And what hurts is that I cannot know they won’t. If they hold that position of the “father figure” or “professional” or “authority figure” I’m really on my guard. And yet, I meet many, many men I really like and respect. Do I trust them though? Deep down, no. Sadly, I do not. I don’t think it’s safe to. At least not up until now.
Even just a few years ago I was showing my resume to a potential client. When he looked at my resume that listed my clients, very notable, high-profile leaders, he asked me, “How did you get these clients, Barbara? Did you sleep with them?” I was completely shocked. You think it’s okay to say that? I dropped my head. Shocked. He actually repeated what he said and I replied, “No, I didn’t. No I did not.”
Maybe he thought it was a joke. It’s not. What in the world makes you think it is okay to demean my abilities, my job, my career, and my talents by reducing them to some sexual favor to land a client?” That’s disgusting. NOT funny. And, I didn’t laugh.
Honestly I don’t even want to write this or post this because for some damn reason it’s embarrassing. Humiliating. Why do we do that, shame ourselves? Not that I thought this was my fault, but I wonder what made him think it was okay to say that to me? What made it okay for my pediatrician to molest me? What made it okay for my father figure to sexually assault me? What made it okay for a female boss to stand up at her desk and openly proclaim she would totally “f” a particular famous woman because she was so pretty. It’s SO not okay.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always been a pretty open, bubbly person. But this kind of thing, assault or harassment, it changes you. You dim your light because you see men (most in my case) mistake this as an open invitation to be flirty or physical and you want to avoid that at all costs.
I’d love to be as open and bubbly as I feel, but I simply cannot do that in many situations. In avoiding that at all costs, I guess the “cost” is not being myself.
There’s one good thing about getting older. I feel less likely to be objectified, “hit on” or assaulted. As much as I’d like to be young and fit, there’s a feeling of safety as I become older and probably less attractive to some. I know my age or physical appearance doesn’t necessarily prevent any harassment, assault or attack, but it “feels” like I’m a little safer. The eyes and attention are going to the younger, prettier ones. God help them. WE must help them.
Truly, this whole thing just disgusts me. It’s happened to too many amazing women and girls I know. It has taken a toll that I am not sure we will ever truly understand.
The little bit of light I see is that people are openly saying, “me too.” Some, for the first time. And some men are writing how upset they are to realize what has happened to (mostly women but also men) and what they will do to stand up for and with women. I can’t express how much that means to me. (And yes, I know assault also happens to males, but not being one I don’t want to try to speak for them. Males haven’t confided in me, but many females have. So I honor your experience no matter your gender or identity and I’m focusing on what I know and have experienced.)
One can only hope that in the future, young people will think this kind of outrageous behavior is as foreign as a cave man grabbing a cave woman by the hair and dragging her into a cave. And yet, I know that cave men mentality still exists today only wrapped in a modern scenario. But, you get the idea.
Normally I try to be as upbeat and positive a person, to find the silver lining, but right now, I think I just need to feel sad. Or angry. Or depressed. To wear the most comfortable, softest clothes, wrap myself in a cozy blanket and stay inside. To just feel all the feelings buried down, stuffed down, hidden away. It’s frightening to even imagine letting them surface, but I know I must.
So, wherever you are in the process of this revolution, this re-evolution, I honor that. However you define it, doesn’t matter, it’s yours. However you feel, it’s your’s. It’s okay to feel that.
Sometimes I can only figure out how to help myself if I imagine a child with the same problem. So, if a little girl came up to me today and told me she had been assaulted, I would look her in the eyes and listen with my whole heart. I would tell her that I am SO sorry this happened and she did nothing wrong. I would tell her that I would do everything I could to take care of her. That there is no shame in this. That we will tell someone what happened. That it is okay to feel however she feels. And that she is a beautiful, perfect little girl who deserves all the love in the world. She deserves to feel safe. That she does not stand alone. I would tell her, “Me too.” So, whatever you would tell that little girl … tell yourself.
In the meantime, you’ll find me inside on my cozy couch, in my softest clothes, working my way through this journey. These incidents don’t define me. They changed me, but I’m still doing okay. Most days I’m actually pretty good. So, it does getter better. Somehow.
To those who said, “Me too” I wrap my arms around you and tell you that I love you and I admire your courage. We will get through this. Somehow. Some way. And some day, less and less people, less and less children, will be saying, “Me too” and we’ll know from this outcry we had some little part in that. That future must come to pass, and I actually believe it will. It’s a RE-Evolution of humanity.
More of us are no longer going to tolerate harassment, assault or abuse. We won’t keep quiet. We won’t isolate. Find SOMEONE to tell, anyone. Don’t keep it inside. If you’re a “me too,” remember, you are not alone. We are with you, standing beside you, standing up for you. Even when you feel you don’t have the strength to stand, lean on us, we’ll stand for you. We’ll listen, believe and stand with you as you find your way back to your true, empowered self, in your own time, in your own way. But, you are not alone.
And however you feel, this will change over time. It may get worse at times, but over time it is likely to get better. There is hope here. There is progress. By the millions of beautiful souls saying, or honoring, the statement “me too.”
I’m with you. I’m so sorry this happened to us. But, it is not who were are. We are so much MORE than this could ever be. I stand with you in love and in awe, knowing your future is bright. Especially when we collectively shine our light.
Me too, anch’io
Your Intentional (RE-evolutionary) Co-creator
PR expert and author of Feeling Loved, A Ted E. Bear Story
P.S. Here is Aunt Kitty’s take on “me too.” (My southern, straight talking alter ego who is an amazing life coach!)
Special thanks to one man in my family who was the role model for males who love and respect females and never cross the line. I am forever grateful to my kind, loving, amazing, respectful, best brother ever, Lee Webber. I love you and am forever grateful for your love, protection and never ending belief in me. He’s my role model for men. (Sadly he passed away many years ago and I miss him every day.)