The following post has been submitted by Evey.
I debated writing this post for a myriad of reasons. I’m sure someone has already said what I am about to say, and has undoubtedly said it better. I’m sure somewhere there is a person who would kill to only have my #metoo experiences. And I’m also sure that no matter how carefully I tread, somehow there is a person who will mistake my call to action for a premeditated attack on men.
Given a limited amount of space, do I share the moments that eventually caused me to vomit on my one-time boyfriend because he accidentally breathed on me the way that another man once did? Which memory will have the most impact? The time a grown man twisted my 8-year-old arm so he could put my hand on his erect penis? Do I tell you that at 36 I am still terrified to fall asleep on a couch because the 7-year-old that still owns space in my scarred heart knows what it’s like to wake up on that couch to a man pushing my face down into a pillow afraid I was dying, and then secretly wishing I would? How to I grant public access to pain so private it still threatens to consume me whole? And why is it necessary?
We’ve all seen the statistics that 1:4 women and 1:6 men will be victims of sexual assault in their life-times. WE KNOW! We’ve always known. Why do we need the women in our lives to bare publicly their pain? Why have we been ignoring this undercurrent of sexual violence for years? Asking questions that simultaneously add fire in my soul, but ice in my veins? What was I wearing? I don’t remember, but I really liked NKOTB at the time. Did I give any indication that I was interested in something sexual? I don’t know—are children inherently flirtatious? Why didn’t I speak up earlier? I’m not sure I even had the words to describe what was happening. And the one time I said “X is very mean” I got in trouble and had to apologize to him. Read that part again. I had to apologize to him. That man who took hundreds of days of my innocence. That man who I’m sure preyed on other children. That man who smirked at me– with a calculated cruelty that I hope I never see again—and made it clear no one would ever believe me. I had to look at him and say sorry.
And now here we are, with a social media campaign that attempts to highlight the prevalence of a problem we’ve always known. And people seem genuinely shocked. Really, y’all? You really didn’t know? Well now you do. I don’t usually believe that a hashtag can cure the world of its ills, but maybe this time we can start a real conversation. I need to believe this conversation is possible. I need to believe that this time we won’t look women in the eye and try to discredit them while we elect their abusers into a public office. I need rapists to be called rapists not “former Ivy-league swimmers.” But holy shit, what I need more than anything is you. I need women. I need the men. I need liberal men especially. I need men to acknowledge that at some point they have probably been complacent. I’m not equivocating assaulting a woman with laughing at a crude joke, but I am asking you to gut check here. You have power. You have the benefit of a societal structure that gives you that power. Use it now. I need to trust fall here and I need you not to drop me.
I need #mentoo to go away, but not for the reasons you may think. Men, say #metoo. Own your pain and trauma too, but don’t separate us. Men are victims of sexual violence at almost the rate women, and have the added component of having their masculinity and sexuality questioned. Stand with me and I’ll stand with you. You don’t need another hashtag, especially one that is being corrupted by those who are using it not to draw attention to male victims, but instead are using it to silence a growing number of women who are finding their voices.
I see calls for allies. Yes, we need those. I see calls for advocates. Yes, we need those too. But I also need you to be assholes. I need you to take that vicious streak in you and use it to call out your friends the way you happily call me out on the internet. I need you to understand that you can still offer to buy a woman a drink, but you can’t call her a slut or a whore or threaten her if she says no. I need you to understand that I know locker room talk will always be a part of our culture, but that you have a responsibility to call out talk that crosses a line. I need you to acknowledge there IS a line. I need you to be Brave.
I don’t want you to be the word police, the thought police, or the feeling police. But I do want you to silence men who hurt women. Don’t laugh at a rape joke. Don’t repeat jokes that promote abuse. Don’t ask what she was wearing. Don’t roll your eyes when we talk about what active consent looks like and sounds like and feels like.
Defend women. Defend me–even if you don’t like 36-year-old me. Defend 8-year-old me who couldn’t defend herself. Defend the 36-year-old I could have been were it not for years of trauma. Defend me because I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, and a friend. Or you could just defend me because I am a HUMAN. Defend me because I am worthy of a defense.
Stop acquiescing. That acquiescence only serves to empower the worst kind of predators.
Believe people without making them recount details that make bile rise in the back of their throats. People don’t owe you a conversation, or a Facebook status. But here we are. It’s out now, and no one gets to clutch their pearls anymore and act like they don’t know that sexual violence is everywhere. And we all need to ask why we have been determined to sweep it up and hide it for so long. I don’t want to be a participant in this conversation, but here I am and here you are—the only question is what now?
Start with support. Start with belief. Start right now.
And to the Men and Women who came forward so bravely. I see you. I hear you. I believe you–whether or not you share the details of your trauma. You don’t owe me a first-hand glimpse of your pain. But if you’re standing for the first time this week saying “me too” I’ll stand with you. And I’ll still be standing with you tomorrow, and the next day, and every single day after that – until forever. Find your light and shine, and let the world drown in the brightness it tried to extinguish.