#ibelievesurvivors #metoo #bethechange
Such interesting and pivotal times we’re in. As I write, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has shared her account of being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh with the Senate Judiciary committee. His nomination is now uncertain, a deeper investigation has been ordered, and survivors of sexual trauma are rising up in solidarity and support of Dr. Ford and all who have been silenced and shamed across the generations. They are sharing their stories and creating a beautiful, albeit painful, tidal wave of change.
As I’ve been sitting on the sidelines watching, listening, discussing, and contemplating I’ve felt a lot of inner conflict and have been watchfully observing what’s been rising within me. A recent request on Facebook for women to blackout their profile pictures in an effort to show the world what it might be like without women became the catalyst for me to gain clarity and speak. I am in solidarity with the brilliant and strong women I know who blacked out their photos, and with every survivor of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Making myself “invisible”, even for a day, however, didn’t feel right for me.
Some argued that I was missing the point. That it wasn’t about being “invisible”, but rather about activism and standing in solidarity – making a statement. I’ve been sitting with my own thoughts and feelings around all of what’s been happening. Summing it up in a post of any kind feels impossible, and perhaps not even necessary, but I’m feeling moved to try.
Here’s what I believe:
I believe Dr. Ford and am in awe of her courage. I believe Judge Kavanuagh has no business being on the Supreme Court in light of the allegations and his behavior. I do, however, honor his display of emotion during his statement and can understand the inner conflict and confusion he must have felt as his identity clashed against accountability. And I want to call out the double standard that exists between the two. Had Dr. Ford displayed similar emotion and outrage, she would have likely been criticized and judged as being hysterical, unstable, and disingenuous. I believe we are all responsible for this disgusting blight in our culture and I believe we all have a role in being part of the change.
I believe every survivor (men and women) who shares their story because I am a survivor too. I know the kind of courage it takes to speak these shame laden recounts of trauma in the presence of others. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to share it so publicly for the world to witness and scrutinize. I shared #metoo, but did not share details. I personally experienced all of the listed reasons for #whyididntreport. There is even a part of me that thinks “It was so long ago, is it really that important?” “Maybe it wasn’t that big a deal.” That’s what years of being led to believe ones experience didn’t matter will do.
The pain and memories of my experience resurface every time a new woman comes forward to speak out in the spotlight. The repeated assaults, fear and shame in telling someone, night terrors and loss of sleep, post-traumatic behavior that is still with me today, an emotional break down that forced to me finally speak my trauma, not being believed by the people who were supposed to love me most, and being the one who was punished while the perpetrator had zero consequences. Even therapists later in life brushed it off and told me it wasn’t worth resurrecting, despite my ongoing difficulties with relationships and sexuality.
And yet, I have compassion for this man who is the product of our misogynistic culture where the behavior described has been ignored and even out right encouraged for generations. On the spectrum of unwanted stares to the assault at hand, I believe many of the men I love and care about have engaged in some level of violation throughout their lives. Some of it even perpetrated against me. They are not bad people and our culture made it okay. I continue to stand firmly in my belief that we are all responsible for this. Even women in my generation continue to raise boys with the mantra “boys will be boys” and “good” men stay quiet and turn a blind eye. Even as I do the inner work to speak my truth and know my value, I still stand quietly and uncomfortably in fear when I am experiencing unwelcome attention or advances. That has to stop.
I am beyond grateful that the narrative is finally shifting. That survivors are finally being heard. That perpetrators are finally being held accountable. That men are being forced to get uncomfortable and examine their behavior. And that as women we are open to seeing our role. Not as victims but as empowered beings who can create change by owning our value, speaking our truth, and standing firmly in what we know is and is not okay. It’s long overdue.
There is a next step. Somewhere, somehow a container of healing must be created. Here is my invitation:
For the men who got through life with a different set of values. Who know what it means to respect women and themselves, raise your voices in speaking against this embedded dis-ease. Call it out. Don’t inadvertently approve by staying quiet or laughing along. Believe, hear, and support the girls/women in your life without defensiveness. Hold space for their pain and anger, sit in discomfort. Do more to raise boys to be respectful healthy men and to create a safe space for sharing, discussions, and support amongst your peers.
For the men who are willing to examine their behaviors and see where they damaged and caused harm, dig deep for courage to rise above the shame and guilt. If the person who assaulted me so long ago came forward today, admitted wrong doing, expressed remorse, and asked for forgiveness – it would matter. Own it and ask for forgiveness. As an acquaintance of mine proposed, what if there were an #ididitimsorry movement? Practice being mindful of your words and take responsibility for your behavior. Get help. Learn and listen more for understanding. Teach what you’ve learned to your friends, sons and daughters, because they have already imprinted your past behavior.
For my fellow women, we’ve got our own work to do. We have our own forgiving to do. We have our own narratives to change and our own power to reclaim. And this can’t change if some space isn’t held for healing to happen. In our Divine Feminine, we are the space holders. It’s our gift to the world. If you feel anger rising, let it rise, and then use it effectively. Let it light a fire of passion for telling your story or protectively supporting survivors and men who desire to change. Organize and vote. Sitting back in silence or spewing rage and condemnation is not effective. We have to be part of the process.
I see a lot of messaging that feels adversarial, even though it is intended to perhaps promote unity. I’m still learning what it means to engage in activism without it being rage-filled or exclusive. Actions that resonate with “we’ll show them” and are generalized to an entire sect of people, don’t feel effective or in alignment with my values. Maybe I’m an idealist, but I don’t want to step into “us vs. them” energy. I’m learning to release my anger toward “all men”. It’s been part of my process over the past recent years. That anger is something I’ve carried for a very long time and has been toxic to myself and my relationships. It’s not accurate and not fair to the amazing men out there who know better and do better. And it perpetuates the story of victim-hood, a story it’s time we as women collectively transform and release.
A friend shared that she hopes the #metoo and #ibelievesurvivors movement will be the tipping point to healing. She hopes we are ready for change, but fears we are not. Recently my sweetheart and I watched the movie "Nine to Five". Yup, the one from 1980! It was fun to watch and boy was it eye opening!!! It was a reminder of how far we have come. Yes, it’s been a snail’s pace of evolution and there is still a long and likely bumpy road ahead, but we are continuing to move forward and that is how we get anywhere we hope to be in life. We are talking about untangling centuries of sexist patriarchy and it’s going to take some time. The conversations we are having today have never been had in an open forum like they are now. It's a miraculous unfolding. I look forward to 5, 10, 20 years from now and wonder how I’ll feel reading this blog. My hope is that it will feel joyfully outdated.
At the Vancouver Peace Summit in 2009, the Dalai Lama said:
“The world will be saved by the western woman”.
Every survivor story is an opportunity for change. The more we do our own work to reclaim our power, own our value, cultivate a loving relationship with ourselves, heal & balance our wounded energies, set supportive boundaries, forgive, listen, and understand – the better able we are to model that for others, hold space, and create change.
Let’s speak up, support one another, and problem solve.
Let’s all find ways to be part of changing, healing, and evolving. And let’s be the change.
With love and solidarity ~