Words my sister, then steeped in her own wounds said to me when I told her I was raped at 24 by a guy I was dating. I wasn’t the victim of a violent crime in a dark alleyway. I’m what you might call “one of the lucky ones.”
And yes. A lot of alcohol was involved. We were out getting drunk on Mill Ave. in Tempe AZ. The last thing I remember is saying “I need to go home and go to bed now.”
I did not say, “Take me home and have sex with my unconscious body.”
I woke up the next day, my body telling me I had sex the previous night, confused. My roommates informed me that he half carried half dragged me to my room and that he was in there for awhile before coming out tucking in his shirt.
Was I “asking for it?”
Was I “in the wrong place at the wrong time?”
Did he have permission because we had already had sex?
Did he have permission because I was drunk?
For years I felt deeply ashamed and thought it was my fault. But was it really? Do women need to be concerned that if they get too drunk they are open holes for entry without permission?
They look like they’re having fun.
Words my six year old said to me at the Taco Festival this weekend. She was fascinated by the girls dancing on stage in one of the club tents. She was also curious.
Why are they wearing undies outside Mommy? That’s inappropriate. (Language she learned because she went through a phase, like most children where she wanted to be naked or only in her undies. Which is “inappropriate for school”.)
Because honey, sometimes girls choose to wear undies and dance. It’s their job, it’s how they make money. What do you think about it?
I like it, they look like they’re having fun.
Do you want to go watch them for awhile?
We found a spot in the grass outside the club tent, she climbed onto my lap and we watched beautiful women in booty shorts, fishnets and low cut tanks shake their asses to remixed top 40. She was spellbound.
Should I have to reframe the conversation with my daughter? Include the public shaming of women who “put themselves in harm’s way” and “entertain for a living”? Tell her that it could be dangerous to dress that way in public because you just never know when a man might get “triggered’ by her sexuality and not be able to control himself.
I honestly don’t know. I want her to make choices that will keep her safe and I want her to know she’s not responsible for another person’s behavior.
I went with what felt right for me.
For 30 years those women didn’t say anything. They could have prevented so much.
Words my mom, a woman who for most of her life has had a hard time defining her boundaries and rarely says no, said to while talking about the Harvey Weinstein “scandal”. I prefer the term crime spree, let’s call a pot a pot and a rapist a rapist.
Her response unknowingly put the blame on the women, for not knowing better and for not speaking up.
I said “they are speaking up now Mom. These women are the victims. What about all of the men that knew? This wasn’t a secret among women in Hollywood, so it wasn’t a secret among men in Hollywood.”
It is so easy for us as a society to make sexual assault the woman’s fault. The woman’s problem.
This is not a just women’s problem.
This is not a just men’s problem.
This is a human problem and only by working together, creating conversations that cross the sex barriers will things ever change.
All women go through it.
Words my husband, my best friend, my teammate, a man who has never known the watchfulness required when walking down the street alone at night, who once rescued me from a group of Russian men who were literally trying to kidnap me from a club in Old Town Scottsdale, said to me while discussing a friend’s inappropriate language and behavior towards women.
I said “but does it have to?”
All women go through it.
Yes, they motherfucking do. And that’s ok?! Have we become so comfortable with the idea of sexual assault and rape that it’s just what happens now?
And, maybe you men out there just don’t know the stark reality of the situation. My friend Annie writes in her beautiful blog, Spilled Milk Love:
“Dear Good Men,
Grandfathers, fathers, brothers, cousins, best friends- I have been blessed with so many good men in my life. You have raised me and loved me and protected me and cared for me. Now I need you to hear me.
You and I don’t live in the same world.
When I walk to my car I carry my keys between my fingers, check my backseat, and lock the door as soon as I get in. Even during the day in “safe” areas, every single time.
You might have worried about being falsely accused of rape in college, but I worried about being raped in college. (And when I was it took years before I accepted that I hadn’t brought it upon myself because it was committed by someone I trusted.)”
And goes on to say
“My world is less safe simply because I am a woman.
Talking about this and acknowledging this and explaining this is exhausting. But it’s more exhausting to continue staying silent. We have a serious issue in our society and we can’t ignore it anymore. I don’t know what the solution is. (I really wish I did.) All I know is that the first step towards identifying a solution is acknowledging we have a problem.”
Words I have seen hundreds of women using to claim their sovereignty on social media. I have seen one post from a man addressing it. Where are you guys? What do you think about this?
A friend and I were talking about #metoo. She said “It's not just the #metoo it's every trending hashtag out there. This particular cause is close to me, as it is other women. Truly, I understand it's purpose, however, it isn't empowering for me. It's demeaning. Taking an incredible personal experience and watering it down to a hashtag is the saddest form of awareness. I'm glad people are talking about it but not one issue has ever been resolved by hashtagging. It's a weekly trend that's passed on by the media telling everybody what they should care about.”
I get this. Will this be another #takeaknee or #pipeline that blows over once the media is on to the #nextbigthing.
Or will we as a nation of men and women come together to effectively create change?
Here are some ideas I have.
-If you hear or see a man sexually harassing a woman, call them out. Ask them why this is OK. Tell them it is not OK. This could be approached several ways.
“That’s not OK.”
“That’s not OK.” (and if you are really fucking brave) “Why do you think it IS ok to treat a human like that?”
I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, not sexually harassing and raping women.
Words I read on a FB thread from a man who was **offended** when a female friend posted something along the lines of, OK men, what are you going to actually do to prevent this from happening?
-If you see a woman being sexually harassed, intervene. It’s not enough to say “I don’t sexually harass women.”
If you witness it happen and choose to do nothing you are a part of the problem.
If you have loved ones who seem to think it’s no big deal to talk lewdly to woman or degradingly about women, have a conversation with them.
This is especially important for men. Please talk to each other guys. I know it’s hard. And painful. I know this is generations of locker room talk and jokes and whatever the fuck else. I know this isn’t going to happen overnight. I know that this will take time.
And we need your help. I’m asking for your help.
For women. This is equally hard and painful, for different or the same reasons. I’ve had a lot of experience in conflict transformation and resolution in my marriage. I have never gotten anywhere when I come from a place of blame, punishment, or anger. I know it fucking sucks to have to lead the way, when we are the victims and are just plain tired of having to talk about it. But, we do have to keep talking about it.
My husband and I haven’t talked about our conversation since the night it happened. He needed some space, as did I.
My next line of inquiry is going to be “can you tell me more about how this happens to all women.”
And then I will listen. Because I do need to be willing to understand where he is coming from if I have any hope of him understanding where I’m coming from.
Swami Rama said in his book The Art of Happiness that “when you heal the family, you heal the world.”
That’s where I’m starting, my kitchen table, the people closest to me. I hope you join me. Then maybe, a handful of small conversations will ripple out into a million more. We will hold each other accountable in our actions and speech, and my daughter will be able to, if she chooses, put on fishnets and dance in the street without fear or shame.