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More Than #Metoo

by J Leigh 4 years ago in activism

#Toosoon to Ask for Even More to this Movement?

Social media is in my head. It’s the train wreck I can’t stop myself from looking at, or the venue of marketing for my company, so a necessity, I say. Some days it’s the politics I can’t stomach, the absurd clickbait people I love and admire share, or other days it’s filled with the worldly horrors of mass shootings and natural disasters that I used to be able to escape by not watching the news and hiding on my social media. Not any more. I vacillate between eye rolling at oversharing and the need to add my voice, to believe there’s a purpose and people care what my inane opinions are... the struggle is real, as they say.

But these last few weeks the struggle has turned in to something more. A phrase I have fought against feeling and a place I didn’t want to ever go back to has been thrust into my daily thoughts and I now confess—

I am back to a place of feeling like, ugh, a victim. Two small words permeating my newsfeed have shaken me to the core, every day. Seeing post after post, hashtagged across all platforms and shrouded in empowerment and courage have shamefully angered me again and are like a punch to the gut.

Me too.

You see, a decade ago my gynecologist sexually assaulted me. Even to write it now feels gross, feels disgusting. It’s a time in my life I fought very hard to overcome and move past. It’s why I couldn’t work for months, avoiding an entire town and industry, why a touch or someone’s hand tapping its fingers would send me running, why my only moments in life of total panic and irrational sobbing would occur during my beautiful pregnancy ultrasounds and doctor visits, marring such fleeting, precious and unable to duplicate moments in life.

But I overcame them and pushed them away, knowing that moment didn’t deserve a place any longer than it had already invaded and occupied in my brain, my soul even. With the amazing support of my now husband and the need to move the fuck on, I returned to a decent part of being whole, unaffected most days and a forgotten time altogether at my best.

But rearing its ugly head again is my pain, my anger, my issues. Like tonight, laying flat on my back while it is in spasms, needing to bend my knees up, reminiscent of that doctors table, that position all women know all too well, makes me jump up and just stand. Because laying like that with all these thoughts floating around this last week and the choking presence of “me too” has me, triggered.

I want to shout my support and join the ranks of the community sharing about how courageous and difficult this subject is to talk about and how many more are still silent, whispering to themselves “me too” but not ready to say it out loud. Whether it was the boy in middle school that grabbed my chest, or the boss who withheld money unless I slept with him, my previous experiences are not unique. I’m not sure I know woman who can say that she hasn’t been at minimum sexually harassed at some point in her life. Hell, the same goes for men. I want to acknowledge their struggle and commend the bravery. But I am angry. I know it’s wrong and selfish and probably inviting judgment to feel this way. But I am angry as I think I’d much rather hear or start the movement to “I didn’t take it” or “I fought back so I could be sure they couldn’t do this to one more solitary soul.”

Eventually, and it wasn’t easy, I did fight back. I went to the police, I sat for hours telling the story to strangers when I couldn’t bring myself to tell those closest around me. I sobbed in the police station all the while believing that I had no choice but to come forward, because well, I was a 20 something-year-old woman, and maybe since he did what he did to me there might be a 12-year-old girl he would do it to tomorrow.

I didn’t have children yet then, but I felt a terrible, suffocating responsibility to do all I could to make sure no one would have to go through what I did. And it was horrible. The prosecutors office got involved. Apparently they gave him a call and let him know they were bringing him in for questioning... about me. It’s almost laughable now when I think back to the prosecutors office telling me that he had really good answers for what he did, but is it any surprise being he knew exactly which victim had come forward at that time? I logged a complaint with the medical board for the state, and never even got a phone call. Is it any wonder that so many women choose not to come forward though? I spent months hiding at home thinking he was going come after me for “getting him in trouble.” Waiting for one of the other victims, and I know there were others, to come forward for the case to actually move ahead. But there was silence. Devastating silence and the knowledge that he continued to have his practice open made me sick every day. I took some solace shortly after I filed a lawsuit against him, that he closed his practice and opened up a weight-loss clinic. I convinced myself that at a weight-loss clinic hopefully he wouldn’t be touching women intimately, but who knows. He made me a pathetic offer to settle, but along with the offer came the ultimate backhand slap, unbelievably able to compound my pain. If I did not win in court X amount of dollars over his initial, Pre-trial offer, I would be responsible for all of his legal bills. I hear it’s an underused tactic, a despicable one that most lawyers won’t even sink to, but not his. And at that point, when it was never about the money, about to get married and two years after the fact, I just needed to move on. I held onto the hope that the Medical Examiner’s Office of the state would eventually get to my claim and take him down.

I’ve come to find out later that the prosecutor was handling my case had a brain tumor and I just tell myself that there was nothing more I could’ve done.

But I tried. I did all I could to make sure he couldn’t do it again, or at least he would maybe be scared enough by what I did by accusing him to not try again. I felt let down by the police. I felt let down by the prosecutors office. I felt hurt and anger for a long time after, not just from the incident itself, but the failed process that followed. The system failed. But I tried.

So today, seeing the pain friends and acquaintances on Facebook, some sharing their story for the first time, I am filled with conflicting emotions. I want to jump and respond back and tell them that they were brave enough to post and share their pain, and that I pray with every ounce of my being that they find the strength to take it a step further, knowing that is may be way to soon for them but I still nearly do post.... One of the ways I moved on from this was accepting some sort of responsibility a la “the secret,” telling myself that by allowing him to speak inappropriately and even touch inappropriately during my previous office visits, I allowed him on some level to think that what he was doing was permissible. Perhaps by not setting him straight at the time, I allowed his delusional brain to think that what he was doing then was OK and although it was only words at the time, it wasn’t. You know that old expression, give people an inch and they take a mile.

Whether some disgusting producer asking for a massage or someone you encounter in your every day existence that crosses a line, we need to stop that in its tracks. An escalation in behavior for people who are predators like this is not uncommon. So in finding a place to put my anger, because I know I wasn’t the first victim, and I know I wasn’t his last, I had to deal with the extra emotion of anger I felt knowing that if others have come forward maybe what would happen to me would never have occurred. Let me be very clear, I am not blaming the victim. Never. The blame and responsibility lies solely and squarely on the shoulders of the aggressors. Personally, I cannot wrap my head around those who continue to work for or with their assailant, for all the money or job security in the world would never have placed me within a mile of mine, but I’m working through that unfair judgment I’ve been feeling. There’s no place for that now. But I do pray and plead with every ounce of my being that this “me too” movement will inspire both men and women to take the awful, but necessary, actions to make sure that the one who victimized them doesn’t repeat this behavior and assault, harass or rape someone else tomorrow, next week, or next month. “Me too” is powerful and obviously raising unprecedented public groundswell for awareness of unacceptable and damaging actions that occur every day to both men and women. Maybe it’s unfair to place further burden on the victim, but I pray they all find the strength to go a step further and report such violations. Please, let this movement of “me too” be only the beginning of their journey towards justice and healing....


J Leigh

Wife, mom, perpetually happy, secret oversharer, real estate broker, filled with opinions and stories that crack, at least me, up and a background of weirdly diverse experiences

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