Me too.If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
On Sunday, October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano launched a campaign to make real and tangible the impact of sexual harassment and assault. The social media hashtag “#metoo” was created to call attention to just how many women (and men) in your life have been personally harassed or assaulted. I quickly offered my #metoo and watched as those close to me raised their own voices as well.
As I watched the call for recognition grow, as I watched others share the stories that they had kept so guarded – not just friends but celebrities and not just females. Male celebrities were sharing their stories of harassment and assault. As I watched it unfold and watched these stories come to light, I felt pulled toward sharing my own stories.
But as I wrote, I kept deleting. I had written all of these before. So instead of rehashing, again, and risking omission I am going to share my original post, again, for anyone who needs to know they are not alone. That they are anything but. That we will keep using the strength of sharing our experiences to demand attention until the people who need to hear us, hear us. That #metoo and Slut Walks and One Billion Rising marches are not going away.
The following is my original post from February, 2017.
One in three women across the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. On Saturday, February 18, 2017, women around the world will stand up for their sisters. To recognize their sisters and say you are not alone and this is not okay. I am sharing my stories for them.
1. My fifth grade class was performing Peter Pan in the spring. The false walls of the set concealed the beds that made up the Darling children’s bedroom. I did not have a part acting in the play and was instead put in charge of sets.
Because I wasn’t needed on stage, I was waiting on one of the beds until the next set change. My classmates milled about the stage area, waiting for their scenes or their cues.
He pushed me onto my back on the bed, behind the false wall that separated us from our classmates, and pinned my arms above my head. He was a year older and he was bigger than I was and stronger and he kicked my feet apart, pushing himself between my legs.
I could feel his erection through his pants as he pressed his weight against me, holding me down. He hovered above me, watching me, waiting to find out what I would do next. I lay still beneath him and looked away from his face, waiting to find out what he would do next.
He held me there for an eternity before pushing back away from me and leaving me alone with a moment I would eventually forget until a day when I suddenly remembered it again.
Not a full decade later, I would have buried that memory beneath what had become a close, seemingly honest friendship. I would find myself on his couch in his apartment, opposite him as he blamed me for the way I was dressed (in a tank top and jeans). I still wouldn’t remember fifth grade but I would wonder what was stopping him now from doing whatever he wanted. He was still bigger than I was, and stronger, and now more experienced. “I’ve liked you for years but you were always too good for me,” he would tell me, as if the confession would be enough to change my mind, to make me submit to his desires.
2. I was 16. He was a pathological liar. We lived in neighboring towns and he came to spend a rainy, gloomy day with me. We used my best friend as a cover so I didn’t have to tell my parents. We left her house and went for a walk. We found a secluded area and kissed. He unfastened my jeans and started pulling them off. I pulled them back up and continued kissing him because I was satisfied with what we were doing in that moment. He unfastened his jeans and stripped himself to his ankles. I pushed him away and started back toward my friend’s house. He pulled his pants back up but left them undone to chase after me. When he grabbed me, I told him he needed to go home.
3. I climbed on the hood of his car because we were 18 and stupid and he drove away from our friends with me sitting on the hood. At the end of the street, he told me to get in and he’d drive me back to the group. But he kept driving in the opposite direction. A mile, two, three, five miles out of town, he stopped.
“If you blow me, I’ll take you back.”
I never considered walking back. He pushed me away and back into my own seat, climbing on top of me, his erection still exposed. I let him do what he wanted to do, not because I wanted him to, but because I didn’t not want him to.
I got out of the car and he drove away and people were angry. Everyone assumed they knew what had happened. Everyone assumed I needed to be defended. Monday, back at school, my honor, that didn’t need defending, was defended.
4. I met him during our Freshman Orientation Weekend and when we moved into the dorms the following month, we were each other’s first university friends. During “move in week,” the group in charge of organizing dorm activities had events planned every day and every night. He drove me and his roommate to the drive in theater where we got in for half price for one night. The Boys sat in the front seats and I sat in the back. In an awkward display of contortionism, he fingered me behind his back as I pressed myself against his seat, under the guise of trying to see the screen. I had no idea that that night would set the stage for four more years of sexual manipulation and sex-fueled emotional abuse at his hand, manipulation and abuse that I wouldn’t recognize as such until years later. Because who would ever believe that something I (often eagerly) consented to was abusive?*
Years later, I have revisited each of these moments with each of these boys/men/males, and I have wondered, what made me the lucky one? Four times in the years before I was even 20 years old, I found myself facing a rapist, four times, I walked away from it. I am the lucky minority. I have revisited each of those moments and I have wondered what if he had made a different decision in that moment.
In the clearing in the woods behind my friend’s house, alone in his apartment, in his car five miles from town, there wouldn’t have been anyone to stop him, anyone to catch him, my word against his. I have revisited each of those moments and I have wondered what made each of them stop. I have revisited each of those moments and I have wondered why I am not one in one billion.
* This story was not included in the original post.