dSavannah note: Trigger Warning: sexual harassment, assault, abuse.
These words are in response to the stories that broke very recently regarding a studio head and numerous women who claim he sexually harassed and/or abused them. I will not speak his name. But I honor all of the women for coming forward and speaking out.
I’m almost afraid of posting this, but with #MeToo trending right now, I am setting aside my innate fear, and publishing what I felt compelled to write last night (in the middle of the night. Instead of sleeping. The voices in my head wouldn’t shut up until I did). I am adding my voice to the cacophony, in the hopes things might change.
I deluded myself for years that I’d never experienced sexual harassment or assault. A way to protect my depression and mental instability, I guess.
The physical and mental abuse I experienced as a child made those things seem… nothing.
But they weren’t. They added to my mental distress, my mental illnesses, my hatred of myself, the urge to be perfect, to work harder than anyone else, to be better at my job than any man, to crave acceptance in whatever way it was offered.
I want to punch walls.
Instead, I beat myself up for not knowing better, for letting it happen, for being complicit in the sexual harassment and sexual abuse I experienced. For being aware that others were experiencing the same thing. And doing nothing. (Not that I knew what to do.)
I blame(d) myself for not knowing better than to go to a boy’s house when he invited me over for lunch. I was 17.
To this day, I don’t know why he stopped.
To this day, I remember what I wore: long sunshine-yellow shorts and a striped blouse.
My only sex education was a pamphlet and the oft-repeated words from my mother: “don’t have sex outside of marriage” and “don’t ever get married”.
And the one (of very few) girlfriend I had in high school who explained ’69′ to me.
I blamed myself for not knowing better. Even though I was never taught.
A guy invited me to dinner. I was 20. When I arrived at his house, I found him naked in his bed. I did what I thought was the lesser of all evils so he wouldn’t
rape penetrate me, then I left.
I grew up being called ugly and unwanted and feeling unloved. I didn’t know the attention I got when I finally “blossomed” was wrong. I didn’t know it wasn’t okay to kiss a man in a back room at work. It felt wrong and dirty, but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to anger him. And I was flattered at the attention.
A sexist comment from a male boss irks me to this day, but I never said anything to him. It was easier.
He hated that my all-female staff gave me their undivided loyalty. He hated our camaraderie, our teamwork, our closeness.
Rumors swirled that he was having an affair with a woman in another department. I never verified. I always wonder: should I have?
The time I met a friend, in town for the first time, for drinks. I thought there would be laughs, a few drinks, that’s it. They thought more, asking for sex over and over and over, despite me saying “no” over and over.
Them later saying “The evening wasn’t what either of us thought it was.”
What did they expect?
I blame myself, wondering what I did or said that implied it was anything other than just a fun meeting. What did I say wrong? What did I do wrong?
(The answer is nothing. Nothing at all.)
(For the record, I was given an apology.)
Although the sexual assault and harassment I experienced wasn’t at home (just good old-fashioned beatings and malnourishment and neglect and mental abuse as a child) (though actually some it happened at home, because it occurred on social media), it was everywhere:
- grocery store,
- out with friends,
- parking lots.
I never felt safe. I never feel safe.
My head hurts when I try to think about it. It happened so many times, it just became … normal. To be expected.
I wonder what happened that I just don’t remember.
It’s uncomfortable to read all of the statuses on social media that say #MeToo (twitter; facebook [almost 8 MILLION posts!]). It hurts my soul. My heart races and aches. I feel powerless. Again, and again.
It should be shocking to see so many, but it’s not. It’s expected. It’s sad, it’s unacceptable, it’s horrible. But not surprising.
It’s almost more shocking that there aren’t more statuses that say #MeToo. Tho it takes an amazing amount of courage to say those two small words, and tell the world.
And it doesn’t just happen to women. It happens to men. To small children. To boys. To girls.
If women are afraid of speaking out, for fear of victim-blaming and slut-shaming and “you asked for it”, and you should be “thankful” for the attention, imagine how men feel. Men who are told they should “man up” and be thankful a woman (or man) is interested in them.
And little kids? Who are told by someone in authority they “are special”, they “should never tell; it’s our secret”, “if you tell, I’ll kill you”, “you deserve this”, etc? Of course they don’t tell anyone. And then, they internalize the shame and live with it the rest of their lives. If they can.
We live in a society of rape culture, where “sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture”.
We need to change this. We need to change the way we look at this. We need to change the language from putting the focus on the victim, and put the focus on the perpetrator and their actions.
We need to drag this shameful non-secret out of the dark and shine a light on it until it shrivels up and dies. We need to scream it from the rooftops, from the ramtops, from our laptops: No. More.
Thank you to everyone who has bravely spoken out. To everyone who has shared their stories or their truth or just said “#MeToo” or simply read the stories and bore witness to our experiences. Thank you.
I want to punch walls.