#Metoo. On Facebook women have been posting and sharing this phrase, “If all 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”. My newsfeed is swarmed with “Me too” from so many women I have known throughout my life. I didn’t know of some of their stories, even some of my closest friends, because it’s something we don’t like to share, but now I think I am learning that we do need to give that story a voice.
I shouldn’t be surprised that so many women have said “Me too”, because 1 in 4 women have experienced sexual assault. So it’s really more surprising to hear of a friend who hasn’t had that experience. This is sad, more than sad really. I just can’t find the words to describe the emotion that I feel every time I hear that statistic.
For a long time I never wanted to come to terms with what I experienced. I never believed that I had been abused or assaulted in anyway because there was no intercourse involved. I had been made to believe that sexual abuse was primarily when you were touched in your genital area as a child or forced to perform sexual acts on another person, or rape. Rape in my mind was when someone violently stripped your clothes off and inserted themselves inside of you. So since my experience didn’t match those descriptions I told people that I had been “taken advantage of”.
It really wasn’t until my classes in Sexual Health when I realized that if others were to tell me about what I experienced, I would have told them they were abused/assaulted. To be sure I did what any person would do. I asked the sex therapists in the class and said, “So, my friend had this happen to her…” Their response was, “That’s abuse”. Shit. Another reason I didn’t want that to be the answer was that I have had cycles of sexual abuse happen throughout my family and my hope was that I wouldn’t be another in that cycle. That the story would end with me. My abuse was not perpetrated by family, so in that sense that story did stop there, but I was abused and my abusers were friends.
I am not going to go into detail about what I experienced but I will give you an understanding of what happened and why I have decided to write this and share it here
I hope I don’t regret this…
My first experience was being fondled by a family friend. We would have sleepovers all of us kids together and always spent time together. During the sleepovers I would wake up to find that my budding breast was being touched. This person also touched my bare breast while I was in church praying. I loved being with the other kids in this family group, but I couldn’t nor did I want to be around him. Eventually I stopped attending the sleepovers or wouldn’t go if I knew he would be there. However, I never told anyone. Something inside of me said, ‘don’t ruin the fun of family/friend gatherings for everyone else’.
Another experience was when I was working as a camp counselor. Most of my summers were spent working for Christian camps. At this particular camp, we had overnights, where the campers would sleep in a field or building and the counselors would sleep in the middle to separate the boys from the girls. In the pitch black of the night I woke to one of the male counselors with his fingers in my vagina. I didn’t know what to do. I laid there frozen and in disbelief. All I could think was, and pardon my language for a moment, “What the fuck are you doing to me” and “There are children surrounding us ”! Because there were children around I did nothing. I didn’t want the quiet of the night and their slumber be jarred by this. It was hard for me to process because this person was my friend, who was caring and loving and sang about Jesus all day long. How then was his hands inside of me without consent? I think at one point I finally tugged at his hand and said stop. Again, I never said anything or told anyone. He should have been fired. I went to him the next morning and said he would never ever do that again to me. I still get upset with myself to this day for not telling anyone, but to be honest I didn’t know I had a voice then, nor did I have much self-worth. That’s something I am still trying to learn; self-worth.
Unfortunately, my stories of abuse and assault don’t end there, but I bring light to these two because they, to me, were unassuming. They have one major thing in common. Both times I was asleep. For many years in my twenties and through my earlier thirties, I was terrified of staying anywhere overnight alone. When I was 23, and my roommates went away, I would have panic attacks at night and suffered from insomnia. When I lived alone for the first time when I was 25, I had a ritual of locking my apartment door,putting a chair up against it, and then shutting my bedroom door and putting a crate of books up against that. I felt so silly and like I was a big scaredy-cat. I thought so poorly of myself, that I wasn’t mature or independent enough to sleep alone in a space by myself. Again, my sexual health class was where I put it all together. My terror of sleeping alone was directly related to the abuse. We store trauma when we don’t acknowledge or work through it. When I finally connected those two things in class, a weight lifted off my body and on the drive home I cried. Now when I am alone I am able to practice breathing and talk to myself about any paranoid thoughts I might have.
We need to be educating everyone that any touch, any words used to violate or demean, any forced action, or disregard towards your body without your permission is abuse. Those actions whether considered big or small in society’s standards hurt and affect a person to their core. Our sexual bodies and beings are so incredibly personal and when you hurt that, you hurt the soul of a person because those two things are the same thing. To me, it’s one of the biggest violations to a person and it fills me with fury faster than most anything else. It is not okay that the statistic is 1 in 4 women. It is also not okay that 1 in 71 men will experience sexual assault at some point in their lives. What is even more upsetting is that 1 in 2 people who identify as Trans will experience sexual assault. We have a problem.
I went into sexual health education for a number of reasons and this is one of them. When I was figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, a friend asked me, “What gets you angry”? This. This makes me angry. The fact that so many people are violated in their lifetime sexually and we can’t have these conversations about sex and consent in our schools? Stupid. That is what that is. We are being plain ignorant by not providing comprehensive sexual health education for our children. If we educated more, than maybe a child/teenager/college student would know and understand that if, like me, they were fondled while asleep they could, with confidence, tell someone they were just abused and understand that it was indeed abuse. And that they would be believed without hesitation. We also should be having these conversations so we can change the statistics. If people learn about healthy sexuality, self-worth, how to stay safe, that having thoughts about sex is normal, that they deserve to know a partner’s STI status, and learn how to communicate to get consent, well then maybe we would begin to see a change to the statistics.
There is also something behind assault that we need to understand. It’s not always about sex, but power. What is making so many men of all ages need to feel a sense of power or unhealthy dominance over another human being? I had experienced a male exposing himself to me, when I, his supervisor in a former job didn’t give him his paycheck which was in a sealed envelope in my boss’s mailbox. He got so angry with me, he pulled his penis out. As if his penis was his source of power. That because he showed me his penis he was saying, “You may be the one in charge, but this has more control and significance than you.” When anger takes you to that place, that sort of acting out goes deeper. The questions are how and why?
This is what we as a human race need to stop, understand, and address. We need more education and more chances to hear each other’s stories. With the changing of gender roles and expectations we especially need more conversations. We should address how young men of this world still need tender loving touch from caregivers. We need to hug and comfort our young men like we do our young women. Just because you’re a “man” doesn’t mean that you don’t want to feel cared for or protected.
All of us who have written, “Me too” won’t tolerate it any more. It’s alarming to me that this world seems to be going backwards when it comes to protecting the human right of not having your body violated or feel threatened because you happen to have breasts or may not fit a certain image. This all needs to stop. My prayer is that our children will be confused at the notion of #Metoo.