You see...a "me too" comes with risk. Although the shame is not ours to carry, although many of us have healed through hard work and therapy and love and grace, although we understand on an intellectual level that we are not weak, or damaged or sluts, or deserving of what was unsolicited, although statistics tell us that if three of us are in a room together at least one is a sexual assault survivor...emotionally it is terrifying to say "me too". Part of the silence, part of the reason that books like "The Courage to Heal" don't sit out on our coffee tables, part of the reason we aren't more honest and open is that there is a stigma attached to being a survivor. It has, ironically, fed into patriarchal rhetoric, been filtered through the voices of powerful men, then recycled back to us as the grey water of our shame.
I'm embarrassed to admit that it took seeing 15 (15!!) other "me too" s for me to copy and paste and click that damn button. It took the strength of other women I admire..teachers, social workers, nurses, doctors, pastors, mothers and others..it took seeing their bravery for me to ...well..."me too". I'm sad to admit that I wanted to ignore it, avoid the rabbit hole of anger, let it slide. But, my friends, it has been our collective avoidance of that rabbit hole that continues to feed this cycle and made sexual abuse and assault the "norm"- and our response to it "mental instability".
I won't share the particulars of my story, lest they trigger someone reading this. I will, however generalize so that we can get realistic about the effects of this grey water. I will tell you what I have gained from my experiences-and what has been lost. I gained the ability to see and respond to pain in others, to intuitively sense hurt. I gained the ability to know my own body and to understand how the body holds memories. I gained an ability to love deeply. I gained a willingness to trust, with a stipulation that my trust needs to be earned. I gained the ability to write, because in the silence I kept, writing was the only voice I had that could speak the truth. I lost the ability to enter a room and not be aware of an escape route. I lost the ability to walk down the street with complete lack of self consciousness. I lost the ability to speak boldly without trembling and to sing to my heart's content without feeling as though I've been kicked in the solar plexus. I lost my sense of having a right to take up just as much space in the world as the men sitting on either side of me.
These gains and losses have waxed and waned, they have complemented one another and been integrated into the strong, wise, courageous and compassionate woman that I am. There have been times in which a "loss" has saved me from overt danger and helped me escape, or held my tongue when my words would have been ill received- and I've learned to accept the losses.
What I have never learned-what I am learning as I witness the "me too"s all around me is that our individual shame has fed our collective shame and has allowed the patriarchy to hold power. With each "me too", perhaps we can reduce that grey water. With each "me too" that silence is shattered. With each heart emoji, with each "I'm sorry", with each loving comment from our male allies, we are transformed.
So if you are a "me too", I'm sorry. If you are still grappling with whether to click that button, breathe easy, dear friend. Don't add to the sense of guilt and fear you've built. Be kind to yourself. Nurture yourself. Seek help if you haven't. You are not broken, or crazy, or less than. You are all courage and power and sniffled creativity....and the world will rejoice at the sound of your voice when the time is right for you.
If you are a "me too" who posted it-I see you. I hear you. I love you. I pray for you. I stand with you, and I will walk with you and the millions of women who are here to change this world.