This post contains language related to sexual harassment, assault, and rape.
My heart both breaks and fills every time I see a #metoo post.
It breaks for the people who have been targeted, for the survivors. In 2010 I began my work with sexual assault survivors, and every story breaks my heart.
At the same time, my heart fills with compassion and gratitude for the people who are coming forward, speaking their truth, assuring others that they are not alone, that they are not the only one (particularly as many survivors aren’t in a place they feel comfortable, safe, or ready to come forward). This inspires resilience. It creates a more open culture, increasing awareness, and shedding light on an issue that some feel is taboo, should be discussed behind closed doors, kept in the darkness.
I’m not going to pollute this post with his name – the famous man whose lewd crimes sparked the resurgence of the “me too” campaign. I don’t want to give him any attention; I want to remember the survivors’ names, the ones who are innocent and who were targeted for no reason. I wish we practiced that with any crime – remembering the victims/survivors, not the perpetrator.
I do think there is one incredibly important thing we tend to miss. Some of the language I’ve read (not just in this campaign, but in general) continues to be about women standing up against men who rape. Who assault. Who harass. I can understand why – as I said, this campaign is in response to a man targeting too many women (too many = any number above zero). The purpose of this campaign is about empowering women to come forward and to know they are not alone.
At the same time, we must remember that this is not exclusively a male versus female crime. It can be. Most of the time, statistically, it is. However, women can assault men. Women can assault women. Men can assault men. Any gender can assault another gender. This does happen, it happens often, and it is generally under-reported. It is so deeply important to bring this into the conversation because when we make it about men versus women, we ignore a huge part of the population: a group of people who often feel silenced because their circumstances were different, who sometimes feel like their assault didn’t count, didn’t matter.
Not only is this true for men abused by men, women abused by women, and men abused by women, but for many others:
If you didn’t report your harassment or assault to the police, that’s okay – it still matters.
If you didn’t go to the hospital, it still matters.
If you didn’t tell anyone, if you’ve never spoken a word about it, it still matters.
If you said yes then changed your mind and said no, it still matters.
If you were a child and didn’t know what to say and said nothing, it still matters.
If you were dating or married to the perpetrator, it still matters.
If you were drinking alcohol or using drugs, it still matters.
If you were wearing revealing clothing, it still matters.
If you have been called “promiscuous” before, if you have a long list of sexual partners in your history, it still matters.
If you’re not ready to post “me too,” or are never ready to post about your history of harassment or assault, it still matters.
Nothing gives anyone the permission to hurt or to shame another: nothing on this list, and nothing I haven’t mentioned because the list could go on forever.
To everyone posting – you are incredible for speaking your truth and helping others to work through theirs. To everyone not posting – it is okay to process your experience without going public, and please know you are not alone. To everyone who has not experienced harassment or assault – please continue to be supportive of those who have.
If you are looking for support regarding your own or a loved one’s sexual assault, the BARCC hotline is open 24/7 and is completely confidential: 1-800-841-8371.