Over on social media (Facebook particularly) women are sharing the hashtag #metoo if they have ever been impacted by sexual harassment / assault. At first, I wasn’t going to join in, because there are so many “share this” things on Facebook and I’m really not even a fan of Facebook, but it became so powerful to me to see “me too” after “me too” in my feed. It wasn’t surprising. I can’t think of a woman who has ever shared her personal life with me who couldn’t answer “me too” to this. And yet it has affected me deeply thinking about my own “me too” experiences and those of the people in my life.
About This Project
I want to share a few of my experiences here, but first a few things:
- There are many reasons why people may not feel comfortable/ empowered / safe to share “me too” and I want to recognize and honor that. You may also just not want to and that’s okay as well.
- I don’t want to forget about the many men who have been impacted by sexual violence, as that is a huge issue as well, but to hold in this space the girls and women who have had this particular social experience again and again.
- As I wrote on Facebook this morning, I want to add the echoes of another thousand me-too’s that have touched my life. I’ve worked in group homes, foster care, with child protective services, as a mentor, in schools, with prisoners, in mental health settings and in recent years doing interviews/ writing around mental health and in all of this work I have held the stories and experiences of so many people impacted by sexual harassment / assault. These are not my stories to tell (except in the ways I’ve been given permission to share in writing) but I wanted to acknowledge these, too, because there is something about how each time it happens to someone around me there’s an echo of impact that reverberate backs to us all.
- This has happened in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein case but goes so far beyond that.
My Stories but Only a Few Of Them
Memories just keep coming back as I read everyone’s posts. There are so many, from so many years, from so many situations, that affected me to varying degrees. Here are a few in my head that won’t go away:
- Walking down the street after school in junior high and on two different occasions having strange men walking past me grab my breasts / ass.
- Getting off the bus in junior high and being followed by a group of males my age who encircled me and threatened to rape me. They did not but more than this feeling like there was no one that I could go to who would help.
- Shortly after that last-mentioned incident, watching a friend in school go through something similar. She did speak up; and both she and the boys were suspended for the same amount of time for “inappropriate behavior”.
- In that same school, a male teacher refused to hand me my school photos unless he could cut one out and put it in his wallet, which he did.
- In high school, a peer’s father was supposed to drive me home but instead convinced me to let him sneak me into a bar. I refused to drink while he got sloshed and told me how attracted he was to my best friend. She had just turned 15 and was 7 months pregnant at the time.
- The experience of having a stalker as a teenager and not even having language to explain the fear of what was going on. He showed up at my school, on my city bus route and my home (where he had followed me). He was an adult.
- Every experience I had at age 19 of visiting my then-boyfriend after he went to prison, especially when it came to male guards judging the appropriateness of my clothing and checking what I might be bringing in.
- An extremely negative harassment experience from on-campus health when I went to get STD tested for the first time. To this day I have to take anti-anxiety medication to even be able to get through that kind of exam, despite much more positive female-supported medical care since that time.
- Being an adult in my mid-late twenties with male roommates who verbally assaulted / humiliated me in reference to my consensual adult sexual choices with other people.
I can think of so many more situations, some more blatantly severe, some subtler that actually impacted me more … some from younger ages, some more recent. And most of all what I’m thinking about right now is how so much of my experience of sex/ gender/ power in this culture caused me to become numb to so much of this, about how so many of the experiences I had in high school and college and beyond are things I barely, only-vaguely remember because they were my “normal”. The earlier ones stick out because they weren’t so normal, yet, because I was still so young that they were new. Things are coming to mind in snippets and I think, “oh yes, that too” because there were so many things.
And there were so many situations that I take some responsibility for … or maybe not responsibility but awareness of the role I played (particularly but not only in situations with chosen male partners) … that because of the experiences I had when young and the cultural messages that I received I unintentionally colluded in experiences that I chose semi-consciously but that did great damage to me nonetheless. This isn’t self-blame but rather regret for how deep those things got into me that I didn’t even know it was happening. And awareness that I unintentionally harmed others as a result of the reverberations of the many “me too” times that had come before.
I don’t have an answer. I don’t think that this is the only major issue in our society today that needs to be completely explored and dismantled in the co-creation of a new society. But I see all of these “me too” situations and I just feel so much …