Thursday, May 10, 2018

My Own #metoo

I have my own #metoo story. A small one compared to the tragedy of many other stories yes, but a big consequence in telling it, a large ripple when I dropped my rock into the pool.

People don't always know how to handle it when you tell them that someone growing in the family tree has been inappropriate with you in a sexual manner. It brings feelings of defence, shame, confusion and anger. Natural emotions that unfortunately too often become directed at the victim instead of the abuser—natural emotions that cloud the lines of right and wrong.

An elderly woman I know, recalls her own journey through sexual abuse at the hands of her father. She iterates to me the painful memories of telling her mother about the abuse she was enduring; to find herself punished, shamed, scorned, and left in even more situations with her father . . . and effort to prove that this young girl was making it all up.

When rumours of other children being molested at the hands of her father surfaced, even having an enraged member of the community confront her father, this woman's mother still did not step in to protect and defend. Instead, she ignored the problem further by pretending not to hear her daughter cries when father would grab her in the kitchen as mother folded laundry on the line. Her mother even blaming her daughter for the abuse, it was her looks and young appearance that was an evil temptation.

To this day, this woman finds it difficult to have healthy relationships with men, for the model of a true man who was kind, respectful, and honouring was never something she was witness and participant to in her lifetime. Even in her marriage, she was physically abused and treated as an object. She suffers from identity issues and self worth, no concept of the truth of who she is as a valued, treasured being.

I can totally relate to the shame and the scorning as I came out with my story of being touched inappropriately. A man with place at the family table had repeatedly, and ever so casually, touched me in the backside and on the breasts. Just enough to not cause suspicion and to still be considered innocent—just enough to make the hairs on my entire body stiff as I felt helpless and backed into an awkward corner made of family obligation.

I decided to share of this event with a member of the family tree looking for an ear to hear and also a warning of what was occurring. . . my plea was dismissed, my story and my personhood were vilified. In circles of gossip and underground talks, I became the abuser somehow. My story became the knife to the family and I was cast with all kinds of labels including liar, trouble maker, and untrustworthy. People began to look at ME strangely. People began to hover around this branch on the family tree to protect him from me . . . it was the most upside down behaviour.

"It's simply not possible, he is this in the community and he has done all that for so many!" No one would look at this man in any other light than perfect and holy, it was me who was dirty and in need of reprimand. It was me who was inappropriate, for how dare I say such a thing.

From that moment, I had to stand taller than ever before, because I had to be part of a family tree who were speaking behind my back and ignoring my truths . . . I had to be on guard as one lonely warrior, brave enough to say "No, your hands do not belong there" and still sit at the family table and eat with my oppressors and my abuser.

But then a friend said something I will never forget. She said, "Even though they are ignoring this and refuse to believe you, you can bet your last dollar that they are going to watch their little girls closer, and eye ball his hands when they are near."  It was a small comfort that at least a seed had been planted that could potentially stop any further abuse, however great or small.

And that was the key for me. That was my #metoo right there. The movement is all about encouraging others to stand up and say "NO. You will not do that" because someone dared to say, "#metoo."

So for every little girl and each elderly woman, and all the tender hearts in between, to those who have found themselves in situations where another human has asserted their own sexual desires over the boundaries and barriers of love and decency . . . this is my #metoo.

For my own truth and the trauma of being innocent and yet devised as guilty, to my bravery and my strength to stand amid shadows . . . to me I write this and I say #metoo.

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