Trigger Warning: This post contains content related to sexual assault and harassment.
When I was in elementary school and in the phase on learning dirty words from older kids on the school bus, someone said “rape” was when somebody has sex with a dead body. We all agreed that that was weird and gross. We didn’t know that you could be alive and only feel dead on the inside.
When I was in high school and someone on my track team used the word “rape” in reference to a test that they hadn’t prepared for, one of my older teammates shot back. She said people shouldn’t use words they didn’t understand. The first teammate didn’t know that “boys will be boys” wasn’t a valid excuse for their ignorance.
When I was in college and learning to trust the sound of my own voice, I joined the Sexual Assault Awareness Task Force. I read everything I could to understand this issue and I cried through online comment sections that begged questions like, “what was she wearing” and “how much had she drank?” Those commenters didn’t know that those aren’t prerequisites for sexual assault.
When I was graduated and was living on my own I read every bit of testimony and editorial from the Brock Turner case. When he was released after serving only 3 months of his 6 month sentence, I felt crushed by injustice. I never knew how a verdict could course through another’s veins.
When I moved into a new apartment, one of my roommates was shocked when I told him about the sexual harassment I often faced walking through certain neighborhoods of New York City by myself. Except he wasn’t shocked that it was happening, he was shocked that I wasn’t flattered by it. He didn’t know what it was like to be a young woman in a big city.
When I was reeling in the political drama of a divisive election year, the Washington Post released a video and article that heard now President Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. I was certain this would destroy his political aspirations. Even though I had seen Brock Turner released from prison only a month before, I knew that with this valid evidence, certainly Trump’s political crusade would end. Nobody knew what was about to begin.
The story broke on October 7th 2016 and Kelly Oxford encouraged people on Twitter to share their stories. Within a week, over 30 million people had viewed or replied to her tweet.
For the first time, I felt almost encouraged. People were beginning to speak up. People were beginning to listen. Using the words “sexual assault” seemed less taboo. Sharing experiences seemed more important. We all know how this story ends, though. Trump became the President and the news cycled onto other issues and events.
Flash forward one year. I was at my parent’s home last weekend and it seemed like some form of local or national news was always on which meant, in addition to hearing the same story about construction on the high way, I heard Harvey Weinstein’s name more times than I could count.
Every news station at every show seemed to have some new development about the case or the response to his actions. And while my reaction to the never-ending and repetitive stories about the Pittsburgh sports team eventually drew a “this again?” type eye roll, I will never be able to hear enough about Harvey Weinstein.
We, as a society, will never be able to hear enough about Harvey Weinstein. I say this because I truly believe that you cannot address an issue you are too afraid to put a word to and you cannot understand a problem that stays hidden in the dark.
I get it. It’s uncomfortable to talk about it. But imagine how uncomfortable it is to be on the other side.
Imagine how uncomfortable it is to be pressured into something you aren’t okay with. Imagine how uncomfortable it is to turn down a date and be seen as the evil one. Imagine how uncomfortable it is to say no and have it mean nothing. Imagine how uncomfortable it is to have a stranger whistle and gesture at you across the street. Imagine how uncomfortable it is to feel unwelcome hands at a club, at a bar, on the street where you live. Imagine how uncomfortable it is to feel that you have no say over your body. Imagine, just for a moment, what that feels like.
In the past few days, people have taken to social media to post “Me Too,” a chilling testament that they have also been sexually harassed or assaulted. I think at the moment, “me too” is the bravest thing you can say.
I have been heartbroken and uplifted by everything I have read. More than ever before, I almost feel as though we are on the cusp of a movement that will drastically impact future generations. But we have to keep talking about it. We cannot let this momentum flicker. We cannot retreat into silence. That has consumed us for far too long.
To all of my amazing sisters and brothers who have shared their stories: thank you. Your courage is beyond inspiring.
To all of those who feel the silent “me too” still beating in their hearts: we hear you, we see you, and we believe you.
There is so much more I want to say, so many more blogs I said I would never write. I steer clear of controversy and in general, try not to do anything that would make others uncomfortable. But we’re past that point. To everyone reading this – family, friends, colleagues, old professors, neighbors – this is my “me too.” This is my Hallelujah peace. This is me standing behind the most important issue I raise my voice to.
Listen. Understand. Speak. It matters. It always has. You always have.