Those two words broke my heart for a week solid after Alyssa Milano took to social media in October with Tarana Burke’s phrase #metoo that raised our society’s awareness to the prevalence of sexual misconduct. In post after post, I witnessed courageous family, friends, co-workers and brave strangers come forward with those two simple words and with each post I encountered, I was overcome with grief.
Twenty seven years ago, I was sexually abused by a close family friend. I remember the exact day, the exact time, what the room looked like, the weather conditions, what I was wearing, the wall I was facing, the book I was reading, the color and pattern of the blanket on the bed, what I had eaten prior, and even the smell of that room. I remember the movie I tried to watch afterward, all the while silently screaming inside begging for someone to simply ask me what was wrong. Later I told my sister—who became my hero from that moment on, and I still remember exactly what she was doing, what she was listening to, what she was wearing, where she was sitting and the number of seconds it took my mom to come to her room when she ran upstairs to tell.
While I refuse to be a victim by letting my abuser have any power over me, I barely even considered what I actually lost that night, what my parents went through, and just how much the people I love then and now had to overcome to help me be whole again. Intimacy was and sometimes still continues to be a trigger for me. When my now husband and I were dating, I even took my friend with me to dinner with him on Valentine’s Day just to avoid any post-dinner ideas! Bless his heart, he even paid for her dinner!
The agonizing reality isn’t only that my nightmare tainted every relationship I’ve had since that August night over 27 years ago, the most disturbing part of #metoo is that my experience was not isolated. I honestly thought I was alone. Just like thousands of other women, I have put up with unwanted comments, whistles, looks, and gestures that make me want to crawl out of my skin, but the #metoo movement has made me a little braver—especially, knowing there is an army of women behind me. So yeah, me too. I’m speaking up when I’m uncomfortable, I’m educating myself, and I’m articulating our expectations to our son.
How? A few ways I’m working on this include the following:
Helping our identify a trusted person he can tell aside from my husband and me.
Vigilantly guarding our son’s exposure to a culture of sexual promiscuity and sexism that music, media, and attitudes promote.