This morning when I logged into Facebook, the same two words appeared over and over again in my newsfeed.
Old college friends. Former colleagues. My own mother.
Me too. If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
I couldn’t believe the sheer volume of these posts. In a day in age when we can hardly agree on anything, I think we can all agree, this is a massive problem. Sexual assault is not a one time thing – it leaves scars for life.
I’ve always felt shame around my own story and I rarely (if ever) bring it up. In fact, I’m pretty sure there were years there where I boxed that memory up and packed it far away in the recesses of my mind. My sister brought up his name years ago at Christmas and it rocked me. It was as if I’d forgotten the whole thing and I was hearing it for the first time. I had very cleverly blocked it out as a form of self-protection. Our brains are quite smart that way.
In high school I was raped by the star football player at a party. Yes, I was drinking. No, I didn’t ask for it.
It sounds so cliche, right? That’s because it is. It’s unoriginal and expected. Sadly.
Days later, I got word that several other girls had the same thing done to them by the same person. My good friend convinced me to go to the police officer at our school and tell them the whole story. He needed to be stopped. After much deliberation and trepidation, I bravely walked into the office and reported him. Not for myself, but to ensure he didn’t do this to anyone else, ever again.
He was pulled out of school for questioning and forced to miss that night’s football game. Remember, this was in a small town in the midwest. Football was a big deal. Huge.
What happened next scarred me. People began to turn their backs on me. I blew the whistle on the popular guy in school and nobody wanted to associate with that girl. I thought I was doing the right thing but it was only making my life worse.
Days went by and I had to decide whether or not to move forward with the case. I sat in an office at the police station while an officer told me it was probably best to drop charges. If I took him to court, it could ruin his chances of getting into the Marines (his lifelong dream) and wouldn’t I feel better if he left town, anyway? The officer then explained that I would have to testify in court in front of several people, including the guy himself.
As a grown woman looking back, I wish I could have some words with that officer. He convinced me to drop charges and let him go and I wish I wouldn’t have. My heart hurts for every woman who became a victim of this guy because I wasn’t brave enough or confident enough to move forward with the case. I’m angry that the people I went to for safety told me to just “let it go.” I could’ve stopped this from happening again, but I was just another reminder that boys will be boys and you can get away with anything if you’re popular enough, a good enough football player, or rich enough.
I’d be lying if I said that was the one and only time something like this happened. There are more stories and more men. I have healed from these traumas, but like I said, they leave deep scars and affect future relationships and intimacy. Thankfully, these experiences have shaped me into a more compassionate and evolved human. Not everyone comes out on top.
Seeing all those posts today on Facebook brought up a lot of anger. I’m angry for all the amazing women who have stories exactly like mine. I’m angry that every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in this country. Angry that the victims continue to be blamed. Angry that I hesitated for a long while before posting “me too” on Facebook because I still feel shame to this day.
But on the other side of that anger is hopefulness, because we’ve started a conversation about sexual violence. I’m sure every single person saw a “me too” declaration on their newsfeed and it made the issue hit that much closer to home. Whether it’s your sister, co-worker, classmate or friend – everyone knows someone who has been through this. At the very least, this little social media movement has shone a light on this issue that affects women everywhere… and that gives me a little glimmer of hope.