Yesterday someone I know, not a friend, maybe an acquaintance, brought up the “me too” campaign. Her take on it was that if these women had really been injured or physically assaulted then they would’ve come forward at the time of the incident. Her very strong opinion was that in not coming forward at the time of the incident because they were too afraid, they lost their window. Her opinion is that they should have just bucked up and reported the attack immediately. Her exact words in addition were “Well I think sometimes people just do things for drama and I think that’s all this is about.” I must admit, I didn’t really hear anything else she had to say because I shut her down so fast I think she is still spiraling. I was seeing things through a haze of rage I’ll be honest but I think I might have said something like “Oh no we are NOT having this conversation – EVER. We will have to agree to disagree on this one so stop talking now.”
Here’s the thing, when I called my daughter later, in complete shock that this woman would be so hyper-critical of other women she does not know – who were victims of sexual assault, she sadly and gently told me that this is not an uncommon position for women to take. I was so surprised. I know I wear rose colored glasses and I want to see the good in everyone but I was really surprised and confused why women wouldn’t be supportive of other women in this arena if nowhere else. So first this made me confused, then it made me angry, then it made me sad.
The reason that men are still getting away with this kind of activity is because there are still so many people out there that think it’s OK. They condone this “boys will boys” behavior with their actions and with their words and with their uninformed opinions. I didn’t ask this woman if she had been sexually assaulted before but I told her that I had. I told her that when it happened to me I didn’t come forward I didn’t tell the authorities because I was afraid. I was afraid of being judged, I was afraid of a police officer looking at me and asking me “Well what were you wearing?” or telling me that this man was a pillar of the community and that nothing would happen, which might’ve been worse than not coming forward at all.
My whole life I have heard (and I’m ashamed to say – perpetuated) that how a woman behaves will dictate how she is treated. Wherein I still believe that all people should be smart and cautious when making choices I cannot sit by idly while another woman negates these women’s experiences. I remember the first time I was involved in an inappropriate situation. I was maybe five or six and a man undressed to his birthday suit in a changing room in Famous Barr. He opened the curtain and watched me watch him. I was little more than a toddler and I already knew that it was wrong and felt ashamed. I didn’t tell. I’ve never told until this writing. I still struggle to remind myself that I was not complicit somehow. I should have looked away. I should have told my mom. I should have screamed because that man’s behavior was not right. I did nothing. I was ashamed.
Groping, fondling, inappropriate touching, exposing oneself, uninvited kisses or aggressive hugs. These things are never ok. No woman should ever feel afraid to go to a private meeting with a man but we have to be. We have to protect ourselves physically and emotionally and we have to be on guard because if we aren’t and something happens we not only have to overcome our own shame and degradation but we have to convince ourselves that we didn’t do or say anything to encourage it and then we have to convince others. That’s a tall order when all you can think about is getting home, slugging some Listerine and sitting in a hot shower until all the feelings go away.
“Well it’s just my opinion, and I am entitled to my opinion!” No no friend in this case I’m shutting it down. You cannot express that particular opinion to me and if I were you I wouldn’t express it to anyone else either because it makes you look bad – not those women.
This whole “I’m entitled to my opinion” thing in my mind is a form of adult bullying. You can have your fucking opinion but don’t try to force that down my throat. I know what I know and I’m not an idiot. I know that there are men and women who have lied about being assaulted before but we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Woman are sexually harassed and assaulted every day. I’m thrilled that these men are being called out for their past behaviors and that these women are gathering strength and support from other women coming forward. This has been a dirty little secret for way too long. Let them all come out and tell their truths and purge that fear and guilt and let them feel vindicated and strong and confident maybe for the first time since they were assaulted. Let the cards fall where they may. It’s time.