In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein harassment and assault scandal, women all over the world took to social media this weekend to share a message of solidarity and outrage.
My Facebook feed was flooded with “me too” statuses and stories of rape, incest, groping, harassment and street assault. I knew it was a widespread issue. I knew that almost every woman I know has experienced some form of emotional pain due to assault or harassment. But what I didn’t realize: it’s one hundred percent of the women I know. One hundred percent. I can’t help but fear what that will look like for Daisy because if we let these behaviors continue, as a society, it is inevitable that she will be harassed or assaulted – or both – in her lifetime.
I was seventeen when I experienced sexual harassment for the first time. He was a strung-out chef clinging to his job at an upscale restaurant with slippery hands doing everything he could to grasp some sort of authority - even if it meant touching me without my consent.
I was eighteen when I was raped at a house party. I didn’t go to parties – I was a good kid with strict parents – but I went to this party to ask a boy, who I liked, to a school dance. He brought me to the attic of the house and violently raped me. I spent what felt like an eternity in the hospital and had bruises for weeks on my wrists. For several years afterward, I went in and out of a dissociative disorder which left me with no memory for entire months at a time. I remember almost nothing from my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. I still have flashbacks and nightmares about that trauma today.
I was twenty and visiting a friend studying in Italy when we were chased down the street by a man masturbating with his pants down.
I was twenty-four when I was harassed again at work. This time it was the Chief Executive Officer of the largest insurance company in the world. He was buying the company where I worked as an Executive Assistant to the CEO. It was my job to facilitate meetings between my harasser and my boss. He invited me to dinners and I accepted because I feared I would be dismissed from the company if I didn’t. I needed that job to pay my bills. He left lavish gifts from duty-free on my desk and sent enormous, ostentatious flower arrangements that raised eyebrows all over the office. After our dinners, he would try to lure me to his hotel room but I always managed to slip away into a cab just in time. He was married. With a daughter just a few years younger than I was.
I was thirty-three the last time it happened. I can’t talk about it because I was forced to sign a contract saying I wouldn’t. But it happened and it hurt. That was just a year ago.
You know what’s sad? My stories aren’t as bad as some of the stories I’ve heard from friends. I “escaped” relatively unharmed. Years of counseling and support from friends, partners and family have helped lessen the wounds branded into me by men who were bigger, stronger, wealthier and more powerful than I am. But those wounds will never fully heal – they are like scars that come back throbbing sometimes for no reason at all.
“Me too” was important for me because it demonstrated that I am not alone and that we women do have the courage to stand up and say “enough is enough”. I don’t enjoy talking about these events in my life but I will do it a thousand times a day if it means that just one person will hear my message and change his behavior. We need to bring about social change. NOW. I refuse to watch my daughter’s spirit break at the hands of a man who doesn’t deserve to even be in the same room with her.
Here are some actions I am taking:
I will make sure Daisy knows how to defend herself physically against assault. I wish every day I could have fought off my rapist but I didn’t know how.
I will raise my sons to respect and honor women, their bodies and their choices – and to understand the importance of consent, above all.
We will make sure our children can identify their body parts as soon as they can talk and know which areas are private for only them to touch.
I will make sure my children know when to speak up and ask for help at work if they are made to feel uncomfortable – and to know that I will always support them if they need to leave a job because they are being compromised.
We will make sure our children know their worth and understand that they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
I will speak up and out whenever I see sexual harassment taking place.
I encourage each and every one of us to stop and reflect on the magnitude of this issue then take our outrage and put it into action. Let’s not just get mad – let’s make change. Do it for Daisy.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, I encourage you to reach out to the advocates at Jane Doe No More, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the way society responds to victims of sexual assault: https://www.janedoenomore.org/
Boston friends, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center is an incredible local resource too: https://barcc.org/