To some, it’s just a trending hashtag. To others, it is the opportunity to end a silence complot that has allowed perpetrators to continue being on the prowl among unsuspecting potential victims.
All of the me too posts showing up on my timeline have brought back memories I’d long shoved to the very back of my mind, like old things I’m undecided to let go of because of the inconvenience of having to sort through them, and the pain they will, inevitably, evoke.
This movement is a collective sigh of relief, that no one single person who’s experienced sexual harassment, or sexual abuse, is alone in it. That we can finally breathe without fearing that the words we have been holding in for so long will spill out and taint the world when we speak them.
Still, some folks would rather not be inconvenience with such stories-not right now. Right now there is too much to deal with already. Someone on my Facebook timeline said “Why do they (the women) think that this is the best time to let the world know these things? What is it going to solve? Our country has enough with the political issues and natural disasters that we are facing. Now this? It’s ridiculous!” with obvious contempt.
As these Hollywood stories started trickling into the spotlight one by one, I began to feel a twinge of unease. I, unknowingly, resented those women, at first. Until, I realized why.
I felt like them revealing their truth, was intentionally triggering me into reliving my own and how dare they do that? I am not ready, yet! How dare they do this to ME?!
So, I understand the person’s view on my timeline. I would even go as far as to say that there’s a chance this is someone who’s experienced sexual assault, or sexual harassment, but isn’t ready to say “me too”. So, instead, she feels annoyed by other people’s revolutionary acts of speaking out.
It isn’t only because the thought of sharing one’s story and being doubted, or accused of doing it for attention, is scary as hell! It is also because once we tell it, it is out there for others to interpret and manipulate to their level of comprehension, or liking.
What people tend to do with stories like these (especially, the perpetrators) is undermine them. Accuse their victims of misinterpreting situations and that what they are saying is not what happened at all, further victimizing them by making people doubt their stories. So, some of us are not ready to put ourselves through that. Not yet.
However, even though, I am not ready to tell my story, I am-at least-ready to admit that it happened to me too.
I was molested, not once, or twice, but repeatedly over the course of my childhood. As a teenager I was sexually harassed by someone I had to see on a daily basis. Then, as an adult, I was groped when I drank too much and passed out at a trusted friend’s house.
And you know what? Guilt is pervasive in those situations. EVERY single time, I took the blame for it, even as a child, I felt a deep sense of shame and guilt each time it happened-Just typing about it, I am overcome with an incredibly deep sense of sadness.
This is how I imagine the person on my timeline must be feeling and she isn’t the only one. There is a countless number of women walking around carrying this dark secret, like a brand on their back showing who their stories are owned by because for as long as we keep our secrets, those who trespassed on our bodies own our story about it.
They live knowing that we feel ashamed enough of their actions that we will not dare let anyone else in on them. For as long as we keep silent, they hold the rights to that part of our story but once it is shared, it becomes our truth. And our truth is that we didn’t ask to be a part of something so violating and so pervasive that its consequences seep into every area of our life, every decision that we make, every little way in which we choose to do things in hopes of guarding ourselves from it happening again-or it happening to someone we love.
Just yesterday my fourteen year old daughter looked at me with frustration and, in a reproachful tone, said “Why are you so paranoid? Why do you have to be such an over-protective parent?” because I wouldn’t allow her to spend the night at a friend’s house.
Instantly, I felt shame for the secrets I keep that influence me to be this way but I am not ready to share them. Not yet.
Countless women are, at last, taking their “me too” stories off the shelf, dusting them off, and revealing them to the world for all to see! For some, that is an empowering thing.
For others, their wounds are still raw, too tender to touch and be put on display. So, they will remain silent until they feel strong enough to do so.
And that’s ok, too.
There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming.-Shauna Niequist