FEAR and #MeToo. Why we don’t speak up, why we need to.

“It was so long ago, why didn’t she speak up sooner?”

I’ve seen this question so many damn times in the last year over women coming forward with their #MeToo experiences. There are a LOT of reasons we don’t speak up. Many of them are grounded in one word. FEAR.
Because our attackers held power over us. Because they threatened our lives, or our reputations, or our careers. Because we were told, we wouldn’t be believed. Because growing up, we were taught that it was our fault, or that if we let anyone know what we suffered through we were now ‘damaged goods’. #FUCKThatShit

“I remember EVERY detail of MY attack, why doesn’t she remember HERS?”

Every person is different. Every attack is different. Everyone’s methods of coping are different. Some CAN’T HELP but remember EVERY detail. Some try their DAMNDEST to push as much of it down as possible and forget. That doesn’t make the memories any less painful OR credible. #WeBelieve
You never can forget ALL of it. The memories are always there on a shelf in a closet somewhere in the back of your mind. And sometimes things come along and rattle that shelf, knocking the box down, spilling it all out again. Sometimes it’s easier than others to pick up those shards of glass and pack them back away. Sometimes you’re left cut open again, bleeding in pain and anger for days, weeks even. Many of us went through the pain of remembering alone. #NotAnymore

“I still can’t talk about it.”

You don’t have to, just know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. More and more people are sharing their experiences with sexual abuse and assault. Some may never feel comfortable talking about it. Either way, YOU ARE A SURVIVOR. YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU REALIZE.

“I can’t keep quiet any longer.”

Then DON’T. I’ve seen so many people coming forward with their own #MeToo They’re painful to read. At the same time, they’re a reminder that there are people out there who have been through the same things, people who understand what we’ve been through because so have they. I’ve gathered a few experiences that people have shared with me, and am posting them with permission, though their identities are kept confidential. If you cannot read, STOP HERE.


TRIGGER WARNING: #MeToo Experiences

“I was 6, he was 15 or 16. The bus had assigned seats based on the route. He lived across the street from me, so we were seated together. He’d put his knees up on the back of the next seat& cover his lap with his coat. If I was wearing a dress, he’d make me do the same. Then he’d tell me to ‘pet the hampster’ under his coat. Mom couldn’t understand why I never wanted to wear any of the pretty dresses she made me. I couldn’t tell her, because he told me he’d sneak over in the night and kill us all if I told on him.”
FEAR. Her attacker was bigger and older than her. She felt he had power and she had none. She was afraid for her own life as well as those she cared about.
“I can’t remember if it was junior or senior year. I was in the music room after school, practising keyboard alone with the door open. A boy I knew, but not very well, from my grade came into the room. He shut the door behind him. I was known as shy, but he struck up a conversation about music. He flattered my playing, asked me to teach him. He stood behind me to one side, hand on my shoulder. Every time my hand moved in his direction on the keyboard, he’d lean his crotch toward it, trying to get me to touch him. His hand moved down from my shoulder to my side, groping my breast. I asked him to stop. He said he just wanted to teach me something in exchange for teaching him to play. I told him I’d scream. He laughed. The music teacher came down the hall, opened the door, saw us and scolded ME for shutting the door, ‘misuse of practice space’ and ‘inviting trouble’. After she left, he told me if I said anything, he’d tell everyone that I threw myself at him and was just making up stories because he turned me down. I quit music after that and avoided small rooms when possible. The thing I remember the most was the look in the teacher’s eyes. I was already judged.”
FEAR. An adult had already assumed her to be in the wrong. Her attacker threatened her reputation. It would be ‘he said/she said’, and she didn’t think anyone would believe her.
“The locker room wasn’t really for changing. It was just a place to keep our coats and bags while we were working. It wasn’t a big room, you could fit maybe five or six people in it. There was an older guy from one of the other shops in the complex. His wife worked in the same shop as I sometimes did. He’d make crude jokes at all the young girls, even in front of his wife. One day he cornered me in the locker room as I was trying to get my things and go home for the day. He blocked the door, telling me all about how his wife ‘didn’t do anything for him anymore’. He told me he wouldn’t let me leave unless I let him ‘see the goods’. I threatened to tell his wife. ‘So what? She already knows I’m a pig.’ I refused. He reached out and grabbed my arm. I kicked him in the shin, and he moved out of the way. I could hear him as I was bolting out the door. ‘Bitch! You’re no fun!’ I didn’t bother telling anyone, because his behaviour was well known throughout the complex, and nothing was ever done. Women who complained suddenly developed a paper trail of bogus infractions that led to termination.”
FEAR. She felt that reporting him would lead to losing her job, instead of the other way around.
“I remember too many details. It was the 5th of July, 1998. My husband and I had gone to the local park for the 4th of July weekend extravaganza. I don’t know if it was too much sun or a bad burger, but I wasn’t feeling well and made him take me home before the fireworks. A hot bath was interrupted by some groping and cajoling. ‘I know how I can make you feel better.’ When that didn’t work, he moved on to the guilt trip. ‘I’ll bet I feel worse than you do. My dick is so hard it hurts.’ I still turned him down, threw on a nightshirt and went to bed. He crawled into bed hours later, drunk. After more cajoling and arguing and finally threats of violence, he took what he wanted. I was so scared, I peed myself, but the asshole thought I was wet from excitement. Telling me over and over again that this is what I wanted. I could feel his hands groping and clawing all over me until he finished, leaving me curled up in a ball, sobbing. The next morning I got up for work and looked in the mirror. He came up behind me and said ‘There’s no marks. No one will believe you.’ After four years of marriage, he had me so gaslit, that I believed my own family like HIM better. That wasn’t even the worst experience, but it was the last. It still took a week and an intervention before I got free. Twenty years later though, I still remember too much.”
FEAR. He had her so broken down, that she feared no one would believe her.
We can no longer let victims suffer in silence. We can no longer let them live in fear. Whan we NEED to do? Listen to them. Believe them. Support them. Support change- in our behaviours, in our responses, in our society. Someday, I hope the time comes, when #MeToo is a moment in the history books. A movement of change. A movement we learn from. A hundred years from now, I hope people look back and say, ‘They were so strong and brave. Because they spoke out and said #MeToo, because they stood up and fought back, today we can say #NotMe.’