A week or so ago, women were challenged to post #MeToo as their status as a way to show people how many women have experience with sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. What ensued was pretty much every female friend of mine on Facebook posting #MeToo.
And with the #MeToo sometimes followed with a single story of a time that was etched in her mind or a number of stories that stood out. I appreciated how many women came forward. I appreciated how many men in my life were appalled and vowed to do what they could to make it stop.
I never wrote #MeToo.
Some people wrote comments about how we should remember that those who did not write #MeToo are likely too intimidated to do it – that the pain is too much or too soon. People needed to remember that for each woman who wrote #MeToo, there were probably 3-4 women who couldn’t do it due to the trigger of it.
Yeah, that wasn’t me either.
I never wrote it because I really don’t have stories that were forever etched in my mind as examples of sexual harassment. Sure, I could write the story my dad likes to tell about when I was 5 years old and there was a little boy who would continually try to lift up my dress during recess. I could explain as he does that I would get angry but the kid though it was funny and the teacher did the whole "well, boys will be boys" followed by my other favorite "he’s only doing it because he likes her". Then I would say how my parents finally told me to hurt him – next time he does it, I was not to be polite or go tell but to kick him in a key place and hard. The conclusion of the story is that I did, he stopped, and I never got into trouble mainly because my parents made it clear to the teacher that if I responded that they would side with me and not him.
But that moment stands out more with them than me.
If it did anything, it taught me to fight back – and that my parents had my back, especially my dad. So, I never felt fear in situations like that. Instead, I got pissed and I reacted knowing my back was had. My only high school memory of a sexual assault was my neighbor who would beat his girlfriend in the middle of the night. I recall her screaming for all of the neighbors to hear. We called the police – and my dad would grab a bat and stand in the backyard yelling at the house because he was so pissed that this guy would do this that he wanted to beat that guy’s ass. The guy was well armed with various firearms which is why my dad never beat on his door. But, my dad made his life hell as he tried to get the girl’s mom to help him intervene and get the girl away. Yeah that was my memory before college. Seeing my dad want to go rescue a woman from an abusive man – and getting pissed that no one else wanted to like him, including the girl’s own mother.
In college, I learned how many women were afraid. I started learning their stories of why and encouraged them to do whatever they needed to feel safe. I was a huge advocate for the self-defense class taught by some of G’s friends. Also, of mace, using the buddy system, etc.
My roommate was a hopeless case. I remember ripping her a new one after she came home drunk with a guy she had met and picked up at the bar. Thankfully when I woke up the next morning, I knew the guy because I don’t even think she knew his first name the next morning. The fact she would bring home a guy she didn’t know, drunk, then lock him into our room with us was exposing both of us to a risk. And that pissed me off.
My times in college were marked with situations like this. Or the time my friend went on a date with G’s friend only to have his horny ass molest her. I don’t know who was going to kill him first – me or his fraternity brothers of which G was one. Or another time when my friend told me how her boyfriend would rough her up and leave bruises – not in the kinky fun way but the abusive boyfriend way. He was a guy in my computer science program with me. I ripped his ass apart as did all of his male friends. My friend dropped me for violating her trust – but honestly, I didn’t care. I was not going to be silent on abuse. Like my dad, this was not something I was going to be silent about – not on my watch.
After college, there was the time when a woman was being harassed on the commuter train by a homeless man. The male professionals standing right next to her did not thing but pretend nothing was happening. I finally got pissed and grabbed her, pulled her behind me, and dared the guy to do something. The male bystanders finally had a glimmer that they were aware of what was happening but still not in a way that made me think they would do anything if it continued. It didn’t continue but only because I made it clear to the homeless man that this was not going to fly with me. He ended up wandering away to try to find a new person to harass. I had made enough of a big deal about this that others were not having it either, so he eventually got off the train.
The stories that have etched themselves on my life are not mine.
I know I have been lucky in so many ways. There is nothing a woman can truly do to prevent it from happening. I’ve been followed. I have had comments made. But they piss me off – they don’t leave a mark in terms of it becoming a moment that defined me as an adult woman.
Where they have left a mark is in how I’m raising my girls. I have to warn my girls about it. I have to told them what to watch out for – I have encouraged them to stand up for themselves -and I have assured them that we have their back whatever they do. The mark this behavior by men has left on me is that I am teaching my girls to live in this world in a way that I hope keeps them safe.
Knowing only luck will keep them really safe. Luck that someone will be there if they fight back and scream. Luck that someone can be over powered. Luck that a perpetrator sees them as a threat and not a possible victim.
What has left its mark on me is that all I can do is support my daughters and give them, what I hope, is the edge over someone trying to harm them. And hope that it never comes to that – that it never comes to a point where they feel they can now type #MeToo.