When I first saw the invitation on FaceBook to post “#metoo” I hesitated. What would people think? What was I revealing about myself that might change how others see me? Questions that bothered me in the past came immediately to the forefront. I have stories to tell, stories that I carry and have been reluctant to share. What would I risk to tell them now? What would I gain?
The accusations against Harvey Weinstein initiated a conversation that reaches far beyond Hollywood. Secrets and caution and shame are being overturned in favour of open, honest, painful admissions. The news and social media are full of stories that speak of sexual and power abuses that have long hurt and long compromised too many people.
When I hear a US Senate candidate ask why it would take a woman over 40 years to reveal an incident it strikes me as a ploy for innocence that attacks the woman’s claim but does not substantiate his innocence. It may be 40 years old but if it was true then, it is true now. There are thousands of us out here carrying stories that we have held onto for long periods of time. And thousands of us who can tell you something that happened yesterday, or even today.
My “me too” story …
When I was 14 years old I was a victim of sexual assault at a birthday party. Four boys pinned me down in a bedroom where I had gone to retrieve my coat at the end of the night. They turned off the lights, pushed me on the bed and starting pulling at my clothes while they kept my mouth covered to prevent my screams from being heard. They laughed and argued about who should go first. I was saved when a friend opened the door, turned on the lights and threw those boys off me. I did not tell anyone what happened that night. I was not raped but that was the intention. My body was mauled and my spirit broken but I took it and never spoke about it or wrote about it openly until today. I am 56, making that incident 42 years ago. It is a truth I live with and one that scarred me.
I did not tell …
Why didn’t I tell? I was 14, scared and humiliated. I worried that people would think it was my fault. I may even have considered it partly my fault, that I somehow I did something to provoke them. The thinking at the time was that girls who were loose invited sex. I was sure people would think that about me, even though I had nothing to do with those boys following me into a room and attacking me. As time went on I knew that people would be less and less inclined to believe me. But that did not make it any less true.
The Weinstein case has knocked down walls and shone a big, bold light on what has been happening – in our jobs, in our personal lives, in our places of social gatherings, on our streets, everywhere. There are rumblings of this “going too far” and of people being accused and considered guilty without proof. As the days unfold, more and more accusations are reported, creating ongoing interest of who might be next and adding to the tenor of fearful exposure.
While I do not want to see innocent people’s lives ruined by false accusations, I support with absolute conviction, the right for truth to be told and wrongs rectified, regardless of when they happened. If such wrongs can ever be fully rectified. The landslide of “#metoo” posts and stories point to a systemic issue long overdue for examination, discussion and change. That we are saying “me too” in such vast numbers identifies the gravity and extent of the problem. It is the pervasiveness of “me too” that has unsettled and captured the world’s attention on a matter that has always been there.
I hesitated, but now I embrace raising my hand and saying “me too” because it’s time. It’s time to have the conversation. It’s time to reinvent social norms, demand respect and give rise to true equality. It’s time to let shame rest where it belongs. It’s time to change. If people are uncomfortable and afraid – good. Let’s get really uncomfortable.
I know that the conversation alone is not enough. We cannot allow such a disturbing phenomenon to land for discussion and focus, only to let it slide back into the obscure. My desire is that this conversation, this time, is large enough, important enough and strong enough to instigate actions that will ensure change. We have known such things were happening and real for a long time. Now is the time to stop tolerating the intolerable and do what we must for the better
Share your “me too” story. Then do all that you can to advent change.