No woman can live authentically if she is expected to cover up, keep secret things that shape her view of herself.
Unless you live under a rock you know about the #metoo campaign and have read the onslaught of sexual assault allegations in the news lately. It started with Harvey Weinstein and as of yesterday, several women have come out with stories of Roy Moore, a Senate Candidate in Alabama, assaulting them as teens.
Something has shifted when it comes to women, sexual assault and speaking out instead of holding onto the secret. Women are being believed. True, Republicans in Alabama are still supporting Roy Moore, but politics and biblical ignorance are at play there.
Overall, though, for the first time in the history of our country, women are able to share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse without fear of repercussion. Is it a change in society or are women tired of being silenced? Have we finally found our voice, come to the realization that our truths outweigh the patriarchies need to silence us? Are we no longer afraid of old, white men who’ve thought their word was the last word for decades on end?
Is it, as Naomi Wolf wrote this month, a “rend in the fabric of patriarchy”? Vicky Featherstone echoed this sentiment, saying she feels optimistic that we have reached a point of no return, “we have got to the top of a mountain, and a rip has been torn in the patriarchy. I’m not saying it will all be solved, but things will never be the same again.”
In my ramblings in my head late at night, I’ve pondered how women staying in abusive and unhappy marriages equates to women being afraid to speak out about sexual harassment and abuse. Did the same fear keep us where we didn’t belong, in relationships with men who didn’t respect us? In bad marriages that stifled our emotions and belittled our worth as women?
Are we seeing more than just women speaking out and up? Maybe what we are witnessing is a shift in how women will begin to live their lives. I can only hope so.
Regardless, this is my #metoo moment. This is my chance to share my story. To no longer fear anyone’s reactions and, to hopefully help others do the same.
My stories of sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of men.
I was introduced to sex at 4-years-old. My maternal Great Uncle sat me on his lap and wiggled me around on his erect penis. I, of course, didn’t know it was an erect penis but, I knew it was something he shouldn’t be doing to me.
In my tiny, unsophisticated brain, I thought he wouldn’t do that to me unless he thought I wanted him to do that to me. I was used to relatives and family friends playing with me because they knew I wanted to play. I somehow equated his actions as being due to him believing I wanted what he was doing.
For that reason, I never said anything to anyone. It was bad and wrong, but it was bad and wrong because he must have thought I wanted it. I blamed myself, not my Uncle.
When I was 9-years-old my sister and I used to walk to a corner store to buy candy. One day I went alone. The store owner told me I could come behind the counter and look at the cash register. I did. He held me down and molested me. I didn’t tell that time because I knew my father would kill him.
Below are other instances of harassment and abuse. The sad thing is, I’ve talked to many women over the last few weeks who have been victims to not one but, many instances of harassment and abuse. It seems to be a way of life for young girls and women in our country. And, I sincerely hope that we continue to speak out, put or foots down, teach our daughters to do the same and no young girl ever has to keep secrets again.
- I was raped by my long-time boyfriend when I was 16. We had been drinking, I passed out and when I came to, he was kneeling over me naked and I was bleeding. I didn’t tell anyone out of shame and self-blame.
- I was grabbed by my favorite college professor my freshman year of college. I felt safe with him, had built trust in him. He appeared to care deeply about his students. While in his office one day he grabbed my breast and said, “You can always get extra credit by playing for grades.” I didn’t tell anyone, but I did drop his class.
- In my sophomore year of college, my roommate’s boyfriend locked she and I in the dorm room, pulled his penis out and started playing with himself in front of us. He was Louis CK but decades sooner. I didn’t tell anyone because I thought he must have thought I was the kind of girl who wanted to see his penis. I wasn’t! I blamed myself for giving him the wrong impression!
- There are too many episodes of work place harassment to account for one by one. I’ve NEVER worked in an office that I was not the victim of suggestive sexual remarks or unwanted touching by a man. I didn’t tell because I needed the job and didn’t want to rock the boat.
- When I was 34-years-old my father propositioned me. He said, “You’re a beautiful young woman. Your mother is no longer interested in sex. Maybe you and I could work something out.” I told this time. I screamed it to my therapist. I told my mother, my sister, my pastor. I was asked by each and every one of the people I told what I had done to make him think I’d be interested. This time I didn’t have to blame myself, they did.
The first time I chose to speak out and stand up for myself I was shot down by people who were supposed to care the most for me. When my father died 20-years later my mother was still married to him. When I asked her how she was able to stay she told me she had to stay because, “He would never admit it to me.”
She knew in her heart it was true but, thought it was her obligation to stay with a man who had propositioned his own daughter because he wouldn’t admit to it.
What has society done to women?!?! We stay with bad men, we stay in bad marriages, we fear speaking out against men who sexually harass and abuse us.
Women have long kept quiet about the state of our lives. We’ve kept quiet when we needed to be screaming at the top of our lungs. It’s my fervent hope that change is here, that we find the courage to rage against rules set for us by old, white men and none of us ever feel the need to keep quiet again out of fear, shame or for any reason.