If you haven’t heard, there’s a new trend going around social media. Stemming from the Harvey Weinstein debacle, users of the various sites are prompted to type “Me too” or #Metoo into their statuses if they have ever been sexually abused/molested/attacked/manipulated/etc. The idea is to acknowledge the community of victims. To no longer hide in shame. And mostly, to support one another.
I would love to say I’ve never been sexually assaulted, but that would be a lie. The first time memory serves would have been around the age of seven. From a “friend” of an uncle. The next time around the age of twelve. From a man my alcoholic parents trusted. John Beard of West Palm Beach, circa 1973. He hired me to babysit his kids (how cliché can it get?). He and his girlfriend seduced my twelve-year-old self with manipulative compassion about my home life. After securing my trust, the fondling began. Which led to the inevitable. Then, they invited their friends to use me as well. For the next few years, it became my freefall into a childhood robbed of innocence, convinced that I was a full grown, sexy woman at the age of thirteen. That abuse messed up my life for the next thirty years, although I didn’t realize that the exploitation carried over into so many aspects of my fucked-up life.
Still, there are worse stories. Much worse. We all know the Catholic Church abetted and sheltered abusive priests. Those victims carried the pain into their adult lives with shame, along with an inability to foster trust again. In other places, there were children chained like dogs, whose lives knew nothing but abuse in every form. Then there are those victims who are forced to watch as their loved ones are abused, and can say nothing for fear the abuser might kill. Yes, there are much worse stories than mine. Does that limit the impact of abuse on my life? No. But those tales did help to keep mine in relative perspective.
Everyone has a story to tell. The people I’ve shared my story with have opened up and shared theirs with me. Sexual abuse, in all of its forms, has touched the lives of too many people. When the abuser is in a position of authority in the victim’s life, that power looms ominously over every action. Nothing the victim does is without the taint of fear. Abuse of power is evil incarnate.
Some have never had the opportunity to unburden their souls. Typing two words in a status update might have been the first time some of these victims have acknowledged their plight. You might wonder what good can come out of allowing the world to know you’ve been victimized. Do you skim by the latest Me too post with an eye roll? Folks jumping on the bandwagon, so to speak. I would like to challenge you to reach out to the ones you know who have posted, to see if you can be of some help. Let the person talk about it. Be a listening ear.
No? I get it. You’ll send thoughts and prayers instead.
After your thoughtful prayers, how about we drop our squeamishness over talking about sex? Predators love the dark. Each time we shut down any conversation we find uncomfortable, the abusers hiding in the shadows win, their victims trapped in the darkness of social construct.
My advice for the victims; go talk to someone you trust about the pain you have lived with for too long. Shame and fear keep us in the dark. And alone. That fear was evicted from my life many, many years ago. There is no anxiety or hesitancy for me to speak about sex with others. This post should prove that. But then there are the idiots who denigrate the conversation to a, “That’s what she said.” mentality. Those are the types of people victims are also hiding from. The insensitive, moronic clods who try to cover their own discomfort by making others squirm. Well, we’ve squirmed enough, thank you very much.
If you do not have someone in your life you trust to that extent, there is an organization called RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) waiting for your call. They can help steer you back to yourself. If you typed the phrase, and you don’t know what to do next, click the link, check it out, and then call.
My advice for the others; allow victims to know that you do not judge them for what they suffered. That first step is monumental to moving forward. Look at those who’ve typed those two words. If they are truly friends of yours, and you found that post surprising, text them. Call them. Make a date. Open a dialog for them to unburden the brutality they suffered. For their sakes, please, help them.
Typing Me too exposes ourselves as victims. But it’s not enough. Do you know what can be done to prevent sexual abuse? Nothing. As long as mankind is on this earth, abuse will continue. Let’s stop sheltering these fiends in darkness. Shine a light of love and understanding, and allow the victims freedom from the shackles the abuser put them in. Literally and figuratively.