On October 15, 2017 Alyssa Milano posted a message on her Twitter account encouraging women who were either sexually harassed or assaulted to post Social Activist Tarana Burke’s #metoo as a status update. Her motivation was to bring to light how many women are affected. The movement for #metoo went viral and hit all social media platforms hard, not just twitter.
Her inspiration came from Harvey Weinstein, American Film Producer, getting thrown out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for sex crimes against women in the movie industry.
Alyssa made it clear that the purpose of her hashtag was to create a platform where women had an “opportunity without having to go into detail about their stories if they did not want to”
Last week I saw my Facebook feed fill up with #metoo status’. The numbers were astounding and I was shocked. As a close friend to many who posted I know several of the stories behind the #metoo ‘s. I was overcome with emotion and admiration for their bravery.
My hesitation to participate was because of the pain I felt for the women in my circle who had posted #metoo. I compared my story to theirs and I felt that they should be the ones to stand out and be heard, not me. The suffering which these friends have endured was far greater than mine and how could I post my story beside theirs?
Now that I have had a couple of weeks to read about the movement and hear stories of several other women I have a different perspective.
Talking about issues, opening up and sharing our feelings is what helps us to heal and overcome our deepest, darkest fears. It is important that we feel safe and some would argue that we don’t need to do that publicly. No we don’t, it’s an individual choice.
For those who that have shared privately and publicly I am grateful for their candidness and bravery. Their stories have in turn helped me to feel stronger, braver and if I’d heard them when I was younger they would have helped tremendously to lift my irrational feelings of fear and shame.
I am also sensitive to the fact that although sexual harassment and assault affects women, it is also important to recognize that there are many men who have been affected as well. I think we all need a voice in this movement.
My story is about one incident that affected my self-esteem and self-worth.
When I was 8 years old my brother and I were running through the sprinkler in our backyard. My parents were around doing yard work and we were all together. The neighbour’s gardener was next door and motioned me to come over. I said to my brother. “Come on, let’s go” The man said, “No, not your brother, just you.” The man took me to the side of the neighbour’s house and made an attempt to remove my bathing suit. I can’t remember the rest, I have no idea if he touched me, if he exposed himself, when I think back to that day all I remember is how I felt when I walked back to my own house. Ashamed, confused and guilty that I had done something to provoke this.
The man continued to harass me. He followed me home from school and watched me from a distance. I have diary entries from when I was a kid, hoping that my teacher would make masks with us in class so I could cover my face. Eventually I started asking random high school girls to walk me home and my parents thought it was cute.
My parents were loving, kind and open. I could talk to them about anything but my 8 year old brain could not wrap her head around how to talk about this.
Once I got to high school and my friends started dating those fears re-surfaced. Just the thought of kissing a boy or holding hands made me nauseous to the point where I had stabbing stomach pains that kept me home from school. My parents took me for one test after another and the doctor found that there was nothing wrong with me. It was then suggested to me by my GP that sometimes the body reacts painfully when it’s under stress. At the young age of 16 this was a new concept for me and I knew it was time to tell my parents what had happened.
Our next step was for me to meet with a child psychologist. That ended when she suggested in the second session that I would be cured if I just kissed a boy. Great advice, lady! Sheeeeesh!
Later, through much better therapy I learned that my fear of dating, kissing, intimacy came from the fact that I felt I did not have control. I was afraid that even if I said no, nothing would change or stop. I was living with a victim mentality.
I had my first kiss at 18. The boy was amazing. It was a magical experience and all I wanted to do was kiss him for hours on end. Our relationship only lasted about a week or two but he helped me to realize my self-worth. He made me feel special and he adored me for who I was, respecting my limitations. This boy was actually the best therapy. It’s kind of ironic how that first insensitive child psychologist was right in her advice but her delivery was all wrong.
The men that I have in my life are all kind and loving. The man I chose to marry protects me, honours me and trusts me. I come home to a safe place every night.
I decided to tell my story because I want parents to talk to their children about being careful and setting limitations. I want young boys and girls to learn how to say “No” as soon as they can put the words together.
I also want every woman and man to believe in themselves and believe that they have the power to choose a partner who loves them, respects them and honours them.
By continuing to share our stories I believe that we will uncover solutions and answers to prevent future incidences and to heal what has already occurred.