The Shame Game
For the past three days I have avoided writing. Strange for a writer whose compulsion to express was laid in her cradle. Or perhaps for that very reason. Because writing succeeds the decision to tell the truth. Or at least my version of it.
And so I will spend the next few lines making you, dear reader, feel safe. My intention is not to attack you, but you may feel uncomfortable at some point. But I can’t worry about that now. Things have gone too far.
The world has reached a critical mass of crisis: environmental, social, political. As a human race, we are experiencing a collective uprising. These are troubling times from a moral perspective. From a leadership perspective. From a national and global perspective. Disgusting behavior has been normalized for so long then when someone finally speaks out about such moral depravity, it feels like a jolt to the system we did so well to numb.
Hollywood is based on illusion. Or the promise of illusion. If you look closer, you will see how people have trivialized sexual abuse for decades. As if the victim should somehow “take it” as a part of the deal. And powerful men – for the most part, at least – allowed it to happen. Condoned it. Did it themselves. And shrugged it off as a part of their DNA.
And I mean honestly? Can we really believe everyone who is coming forward?
In the name of Christ. Yes, we can.
The #metoo movement on social media that encourages people who have been sexually harassed or abused to come forward, was originally the idea of an activist Tarana Burke who has been helping sexual assault victims for ten years. Actress Alyssa Milano took it to Twitter and since then, my social media feeds have been filled with the hashstag.
Age 11. When my grandfather thought it a good idea to “check” how I was developing.
Age 16. When my married boss thought it fun to give me alcohol in exchange for a cuddle behind the salad bar. (I didn’t).
Age 21. When my boss (a different one) thought I was cute, even though he was old enough to be my dad (so was the other one).
Age 46. When I stood, trapped in a crowd of 100 people, in front of a police barrier in Trinidad and the guy behind me thought it a good idea to rub his hard-on off on me (a young woman was murdered right near that spot that very night).
I thought long and hard about all the other times I have been touched inappropriately, talked or gawked at as if I were property. The feeling of shame to admit these things happened is the burden we feel. I have an aversion to the term “victim”. I was taught that you are never a victim. But what if that isn’t true? What if I really couldn’t do anything about all the men that have assaulted me over the years? Why do we women think it is our fault?
We are encouraged to keep quiet. Forget about it. Don’t make a fuss, cause a stir or say anything. It’s better that way…
I no longer do. I will no longer be silent. And I sense a deep-rooted anger that I have to pass on that fear to my daughter with pepper spray and warnings to never, ever let someone touch you if you don’t want them to.
And because I tend to look not only at the problem, but also the solution, we need to remember this: we can do something about it. Persecute the perpetrators. Speak up. Raise our sons to understand what is appropriate behavior and what is not. Model good behavior. Show respect. Demand respect. And punish those who go beyond appropriate boundaries. Throw out the man in the highest office of the land for downplaying his despicableness as “locker room talk”, knowing full well that he is not only capable of doing such harm, but has done so. Over and over again.
If you have made it to the end of this post, I thank you. For listening. For taking me seriously. And for understanding that to not speak out, we become a part of the problem. Complicit and ducking our heads down out of fear and shame.
It’s not your fault. It wasn’t mine either.