I have witnessed the #metoo posts across my social media feeds. Each one a punch in the gut, a ripping out of my heart.
I know this pain, personally and professionally. I sit with women day after day, week after week. Women who do not yet have the courage to share #metoo. Women and men who still sit in the shame, guilt and pain: not yet ready to type #metoo. Women and men who each time they read #metoo, they feel sick, anxious and scared. Countless women and men carry the painful memories of sexual assault. And those women and men who are fortunate enough, not to wear the scars of assault, hold space for their loved ones and their friends who have been victims. They hold their hands, tend to their hearts, trying to ease the pain and suffering. To support the people, they love who have been raped, assaulted and violated. I have witness the people who have been assaulted and the deep wounds they carry. And those who haven’t, love someone who has. We are all affected.
I’ve tended the wounds. Fear. Mistrust. Depression. Anxiety. Nightmares. Withdrawal. Helped women heal and pick up the pieces. Each violation carries its toll and leaves it scars. I see the life fade from their faces. The sadness that now lives in their bodies. The look of fear. The shame in telling their story, as if it was their fault. The questioning of themselves, their friends, their family. Their mistrust in everyone and everything. The loss of joy, because to let your guard down means that you could be hurt. The struggle to maintain outward appearances while inside screaming and scratching to get out. The body that rebels, jumps and tenses. Unable to relax. The mask she wears to convince you, me and herself that she is really okay. When we all know she is not. At this moment, life feels like it will never be the same. She is forever changed.
(Trigger Warning) For each person who has violated another person, I want to you feel the impact, the pain, the suffering, the torment and torture. Feel the discomfort in knowing how profoundly lives are changed when the body is violated. To know the weight of the pain she carries, every day because of someone else’s decision. Feel that in your body. It’s rejection of you, the person who calls it home. Feel the body tense and tightened unable to relax. Feel your heart pounding, your hands sweating, lose of breath, the nausua that lingers threatening to escape. Every moment, every sounds, sends chills down your back. You are on edge. You are uneasy. And you feel like you are breaking. Cracking. Falling to pieces. Never to be whole again. Feel it. And imagine if you lived like this every day.
The sad truth is right now, we live in a world that thinks sexual assualt is okay. Caused from over eager boys. Men who feel they are entitled. Boys who do not understand no. Men who think because she wore a short skirt she wanted sex. Boys who think, it’s wasn’t rape so it doesn’t count. Men who think because she’s drunk, it’s okay.
We as a culture need to heal as men and women. We need to come together and create a new social norm that says, "this is not okay," We need to stand together!
What can you do?
If you have been violated:
1. Speak up. When you speak up, the people who perpetrate on others are held accountable for their actions. Yes, it is scary. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s painful. You will feel guilt and shame. You will question yourself. When you speak up, you get your voice back. You get your body back. You get your power back. And you get to prevent other women from experiencing what you did.
However, if you are unable to speak up, don't punish yourself. Share your story with those you know can help you heal! You are not alone in this.
2. You need to know, none of this is your fault. You did not have it coming. You did not ask for it. I repeat, none of it is your fault! You are brave. You are worthy of unconditional love. You deserve respect.
3. Talk to someone. Start therapy. Heal your wounds. Share your story. Connect to other survivors. The more people who speak up and take action, to more we bring awareness and change our cultural norms.
We as a community need to get involved:
1. If you see something that in your gut feels wrong, say something, ask questions.
2.If you see a drunk person leaving with a someone who they don't seem to know or appear uncomfortable with, stop and ask if everything is okay? Does one of them need help. If one of them doesn't to wants to leave with other person offer to get a cab? Pay for their uber or lyft. Ask her or him to join you and your friends.
3. If you see someone push another person away, instead of looking away and assuming that it’s a couple fighting. Ask. There is nothing wrong in asking. You might just save someone.
4. Do not judge or blame the victim. This person needs your love, support, compassion and empathy more than anything. This person needs you to be there, to let them cry. To let them be vulenerable and to know they will be okay. They need to you to be there!
As men and women stand unified that our bodies are sacred and it is a gift only the body’s owner can offer another person. It isn’t something to be taken, it’s something to be offered. The body needs to be seen as an honor not a conquest.
Together we can stop sexual assualt and dating violence. We can feel safe around those we crush on, get butterflies in our stomach around, are curious about, want to get to know better. When we start to communicate with someone new, the excitement when we see a text or email. The increased heart rate, the sweaty hands, and giddy-ness. The eagerness for the next text. The nervousness, for the first date. What to wear, what to say, where to do. The changing of clothes a hundred times. The chats with girlfriends. The high hopes. The lightness. The electricity. You deserve this. You can have this and feel safe in knowing that you are in control of your body and that this is respected and valued.