Me Too, Because

This trending topic of #metoo has me feeling a lot of feels. I was not initially triggered by the viral post and barely blinked an eye before posting my own declaration of ‘me too’. But, as I reflect a bit more on it, there are a lot of feelings that are surfacing. For one, just 5 or maybe even 3 years ago, I would not have been comfortable to share this information about myself. I’m not in any way shape or form saying it is a “badge of honor” or that it indicates superior healing, I just know that I would have remained silent out of fear of judgement and shame. However, I am older and more comfortable with my past and with sharing my story now, and have been slowly doing so, and so it just felt natural for me to participate in the conversation.

With this trend, I was forced to face the depth of the epidemic. While some of the criticism of the viral post is that “duh, women already know this, we experience it all the time,” and “people shouldn’t have to tell their trauma to the world to be believed, or to display the scope of the problem,” and YES. Definitely, absolutely, YES. I am in full agreement with both of these things. However, a few things come to mind: 1) Some people WISH to be heard. Some people, like myself, are tired of being silent, 2) Some people appreciate the awareness and solidarity, and 3) the truth is – whether its fair or not – this is starting a national conversation and perhaps opening the eyes of some people.

While scrolling through my newsfeed, seeing post after declarative post, I realized in a split second how all of my past conversations and interactions with folks that are posting this were filtered by these experiences and how all of them have been carrying these wounds and burdens around for years. Past coworkers, class mates from high school and college, old and new friends. It was all at once comforting to feel the solidarity, but also disgusting to know that this violence is so commonplace that half the people I know (very likely more) have been effected by it. And worse, that we’ve all been hurting somewhat silently next to each other. Some of us have had the fortune of being able to seek therapy and that is a wonderful thing. However, even with that resource, it can still be a somewhat isolating and a rather private experience.

So, for me, #metoo means I am here.

This is my truth. This is my voice. I am not ashamed. I will no longer hide the truth of my past in order to not make you or any one uncomfortable. I own my past. I own my story. I feel my pain. I feel my strength. And I will no longer hide the battles I am fighting.

It is not to say that every survivor must share. It is not to say that those that are sharing are being forced to share.

———TRIGGER WARNING ———

{Graphic language used to explain occurrences of childhood sexual abuse, assault and public masturbation.}

And with that, I shall share my me too chronological – or what I can remember of it:

  • As early as 6 years old, I recall being aware that my uncle was weird and was viewed as icky and dirty. This information came in the form of jokes and jeers at his expense. It also came in the form of being encouraged to steer clear of the chair he sat in every day. The chair where I first saw his exposed penis as he partially hid behind a newspaper. This chair was seen as dirty and it was avoided at all costs by myself and the other children in my life, and potentially even the adults in my life.
  • Around 8 or 9 years old, I was sexually abused by this uncle in the backseat of the family pick up truck. Also around this time I began to receive feedback from adults in my life that I was getting chubby and needed to lose weight. (Seriously, I was not.) This was also the age that I began being put on fad diets. I believe this is a direct result of our culture which requires women and girls to be stick thin to be beautiful, seen, important. Especially in the 90s, the curvier figures that are more valued now were absolutely not then.
  • Until about 10 or 11 years of age, I was sexually abused by this uncle. I vividly remember his eyes following me, looking at me from behind a half closed door. Being aware of his gaze at all times.
  • At 12 years old I was catcalled on the boardwalk with my mom by a 20-something man, “Damn, I’ve never seen a kid with titties that big.”
  • At 13 years old I was watching a movie on the couch and woke up to my uncle sitting in the chair behind me with his penis exposed. Whispering and pointing at me as he held it in his hand.
  • At 14 years old, the boy I was “in love” with (quotes because obvi I was not in love) grabbed my breasts from behind in the basement of my catholic grade school. I took this as a sign of love.
  • At 16, I caught my aunt watching me take a shower from behind a cracked bathroom door. When I confronted her she called me disrespectful and a liar and I truly feared for my life.
  • At 17 a second-cousin asked me if I was a lesbian upon seeing my friend and I being affectionate towards each other. He told me that it was hot and proceeded to be flirtatious with my friend and I.
  • At 17 I made plans with aforementioned boy who grabbed my breasts to lose my virginity to him. When I got cold feet and refused to go all the way he got angry and  proceeded to masturbate in front of me and ejaculate on my face and chest.
  • At 18, a friends boyfriend tried to make normal high school boy advances on me, as in: no groping or touching without consent, rather, looking me in the eyes, compliments, sunrise, etc – and this was so foreign to me that I did not catch on. This, to me is significant, because by this time I was so convinced that I was not worthy of these things and truly did not believe such things were possible. Recognizing that it would have made me a bad friend to accept the advances of my friends boyfriend, BUT important to me to point out that as a result of the horrendous experiences in my life up to that point, this somewhat normal experience was inconceivable and therefore not accepted by me.
  • At 20 years old, I was sleeping on a friends couch and woke up to her boyfriend inserting his fingers into my vagina. As a result of the previous trauma I experienced, I was frozen. I laid there silently, as I was violated. This is a fairly common response of survivors of child sexual abuse. It is also a fairly common occurrence for previously molested/assaulted individuals to be re-victimized. However, not knowing these things back then, the burden that I carried as a result of this experience sent me into a very deep depression.

These are only the BIGGIES that have stuck in my head and shaped who I am. There have been and continue to be regular occurrences of catcalling/street harassment. Today, I truly attempt to give off an air of somewhat insanity when I walk around outside just to avoid any comments or eyes. I’m still working on my responses to said comments because my societal conditioning to be smiley, amenable and nice even in situations that make me painfully uncomfortable are deeply ingrained in my psyche. As is the case with most women and girls.

So this post is to just say, you know, the me too thing is a choice. A choice to use this particular avenue to use your voice. It is not a requirement. It is not fair that it takes such grand gestures to prove how bad the problem is. But it is still valid and should be respected for what it is: an approach to bring visibility, solidarity and awareness.

Throughout my adolescence, teens, and early 20s, I desperately sought love, affection and respect. People could smell it on me a mile away. And, given what we know about people, it probably doesn’t come as a shock that a majority of them ran swiftly away from my desperate advances and requests. My most recent post touched upon this, and honestly, I will probably be grieving for my younger, sad, scared, alone self for many years to come.

So, there you have it, #metoo because I am here.

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