Many of you have probably seen the #MeToo floating around social media. It’s important for the world to see how many women this affects. It is a sad and scary aspect of this world that is not localized to any specific country or socioeconomic status. It affects everyone. Letting people know isn’t enough. It will hopefully bring about lasting, sustainable change but it doesn’t help those women struggling now. Those women like me who have been so affected that we are broken. It has taken many years and lots of therapy to get to the woman I am now. Although this is incredibly difficult to share, my hope is that one woman can walk away from this post know that she is not alone and that she can heal. Don’t stop sharing #MeToo but don’t forget to support those who have been traumatically altered by the experiences they have already had.
A Bit of My Background
Some of you may already know that I grew up in an abusive home. What you may not know is that my view of women and worth has been skewed since birth. The nature of domestic violence often includes isolation as was the case for our family. That meant the most prevalent parameter I had was my mom. A woman who didn’t value herself coupled with a husband who didn’t value her either. She was a possession to be used and abused as he saw fit. That was my foundation of self-worth, or lack thereof. By the time my parents got divorced when I was 13, the damage was done. I had no idea how to be a strong woman with self-esteem and respect.
Prominent Incident One
I learned as a teenager that boys and men alike would take what they wanted regardless of my thoughts and feelings. It started out small. When playing truth or dare, boys would dare me to strip and I would do it. I didn’t know there was anything wrong with it. I mean, a dare is a dare, right? For the record, these weren’t the burnouts and delinquents I was hanging out with at the time. These were “good kids” who performed well in school or even went to expensive private schools. These were the kids that every parent hopes their children choose as friends. This was their idea of fun when it came to me.
Prominent Incident Two
As my friend groups transitioned and time progressed I started partying. One night at a party we were drinking heavily and I passed out on a bed. I woke up later with a guy’s hand down my pants. I froze and pretended to be asleep because we were in a room full of people and I was scared, but I knew who it was. Eventually I rolled away from him and he stopped, leaving the room afterwards. I tried to muster the courage to say something to him Of course, I was only 14 and this guy was much older than me. He was beloved by a ton of people in my circle of friends. He was cool and fun. I was just an ignorant young freshman slut, right? So all I could manage to say to him was, “Next time, ask.”
Unfortunately I couldn’t get over the incident. Shortly thereafter I confided in my friends about it. They encouraged me to file a report about it, so I did. When the girls found out that I had told him, “Next time, ask,” they slut-shamed me. Told me that if that was my response then he didn’t do anything wrong. They stopped being friends with me. I felt so ashamed that I never pursued any further legal actions.
Prominent Incident Three
Fast forward to a year or so later. I am dressing in my bedroom. My mom’s boyfriend at the time comes downstairs to “check on me” (I cannot for the life of me remember what was wrong that prompted it). I’m standing there in nothing but a bra and jeans and he comes up behind me, asking if I’m okay. I’m uncomfortable but, at this point, my ingrained response is, “I am being oversensitive”. I smile and say, “Yeah”. He then begins kissing my neck at which point I pull away and scramble to put my shirt on. I find an excuse to leave and quickly do so.
I didn’t want to tell my mom because I knew it would break her hear and I had never seen her so in love. Unfortunately, I was a teenager and it eventually came out in an argument… not the opportune time. At that point in the argument we were both so angry that I had lost all credibility and she was beyond rationality. She swore that I was making it up to try and get out of trouble. Given my behavior at the time, I can’t say that I blame her.
Prominent Incident Four
By the time I am 16, I have zero self-esteem and even less self-respect. Sex meant nothing to me. It was something that guys wanted that was occasionally fun. One night, a friend set me up on a blind date with a guy. He picks me up (I’m sure I was sneaking out of the house to see him) and takes me to a party in the middle of nowhere. At first it is a lot of fun. He seems nice, the people are cool, and there is a big warm bonfire. We are all laughing and having fun but then things start to get fuzzy. The last thing I remember is leaning against a tree talking to a few people while sipping from a solo cup.
The next thing I know, I woke up on a mattress on a floor, surrounded by people and light, with a blanket ripping off of my naked body. A girl is screaming at me and calling me names, telling me to get out of her house. I get up and see that there is blood everywhere because I was on my period. This enrages her further and she takes it all out on me, not even addressing the naked guy that was lying right next to me. All of the people are laughing or calling me names as she shoves me down her steps, out a door, and into her yard (the same yard that the party was taking place). She threw my clothes at me. I scrambled to get dressed, feeling confused and more than a little embarrassed.
I had no idea where I was or how to get home. This was before cell phones were prevalent and I didn’t own one. My only option was to allow my blind date, the guy that had just raped me, to take me home. I remember he actually was laughing and joking on the way to my house. I went straight to be when I got home. Then I cried until I fell into a nightmare-filled sleep. Not only had I snuck out of the house to go to the party but experience had taught me that there was no reason to tell anyone. It was my fault for sneaking out. My fault for drinking. It was my fault for being such a slut.
Why Am I Sharing This
At this point you might be wondering where I am going with all of this. Why am I sharing these horrible events with you? Believe it or not, these are not even close to all of the abuses from guys that I have suffered. These are just the four that truly shaped me. However, I hope that there are a few things that you can learn from my mistakes.
Lessons and Takeaways
- No one is immune. I don’t care how affluent, well-behaved, or etcetera that your child is. You need to educate your sons and daughters. Let your sons know how to treat girls/women. Teach your daughters how to be strong and make intelligent, safe choices. Talk early and talk often.
- Women are just as culpable. Even as my social circles changed, not one female ever told me that any of the incidents that happened to me were wrong. When I shared what happened, it was turned back around on me. How can we expect men to treat us with respect if we don’t even treat each other with respect?
- You are worth it. If you don’t know your worth, as I didn’t, know that you matter. You are valuable. I don’t care if you’ve slept with 100 people or are still a virgin; your body is still yours. No one has the right to use, touch, or manipulate it without your permission. This can be a hard lesson to learn when you have already reached adulthood without learning it. Trust me, I am still learning it.
This is why the conversation that #MeToo sparks is so important. It lets us know that we are not alone. More people will be empowered the more that people speak up. Remember this: It doesn’t matter what you are wearing. It doesn’t matter how you are dancing. You should be able to flirt without fear of violation. It doesn’t matter how many shots you have had. It doesn’t even matter if you were making out. You have the right and, more importantly, the power to say “No.” You deserve to walk down the street without whistles and catcalls. You shouldn’t have to worry about a stranger coming up and grabbing your behind. Find that strength so that you can teach your daughter how to embrace her self-worth and her power. If you ever need a reminder, email me and I will remind you.
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