Why #metoo can’t be forgotten…

Posted on 22 Feb 2018 in Breathe | 0 comments

*trigger warning: descriptions of sexual assault

The last few days, watching the students from Parkland has done something inside of me. It’s revitalized a 14 year old me that was fierce, furious, and fantastic. I want to stand with them, and will march with them, and will delight when I see them move mountains. Because they will, and somehow, #neveragain will actually move the mountain of gun culture in this country. I see it, I know it, I believe it.

And even as I stand with #neveragain, and rejoice with these teenagers, I’m struck by the fact that YET AGAIN, it was a young white male. YET AGAIN, it was something where the people in authority failed to see a problem before it got “really bad.” I mean, what is “really bad” if not shooting up a school and killing 17 people?

And that’s where my cry for #metoo to be remembered comes from. Because I can remember being 14 years old, and coming to an administration and begging for help with a young, troubled male, and being silenced and shamed.

Let me paint a picture for you. At 14, I attended one of the wealthiest private schools in Los Angeles. I was not popular, but everyone knew me as the “good” kid. Despite hanging out with a couple wild ones, everyone knew I didn’t party, didn’t date, didn’t really push any boundaries. I had a job, I studied hard, and I went to church – like 4 times a week. I had the record in my class for community service hours. The clothing I wore? If it was rebellious at all, it was in the grunge way. Typical outfit was jeans, t-shirt – well, collared shirt because we had a dress code – but my collared shirts were always flannel shirts, because well, it was the early 90s. I mean, who didn’t? I didn’t wear skimpy clothes because I was super self-conscious and girls in my class and at the school were always calling me shamu or fat (I wasn’t, by the way, but according to LA eating disorder standards, I was). I was a simple girl, who tried to love people, did “Meet me at the pole,” and was in theater, pep band, and the literary magazine editing staff. I didn’t drink, do drugs, date, or even get involved with folks like that. I had crushes, like any 14 year old girl would, but I was terrified to act on them. And at that time, it was only one person that I was crushing on – hi Aidan! – and he didn’t even go to my school. Like, seriously, people. You cannot fabricate a more innocent, “good” girl.

I’m sitting in computer class one day, the teacher is helping someone else, and I ask for help. She says, “I’ll be there in a second.” One of the guys in my class – Evan (because as Anne Lamott says, if he wanted anonymity, he should have behaved better) – offers to help. He walks over, and as I’m trying to understand the coding we are doing, puts his hand on my thigh. I am not involved with this guy, and I don’t even know him well. I push it away, so he puts it back on my thigh and moves it up my leg until he is groping me. I push him away and ask to go to the bathroom. The rest of the day is a fog until I’m lying in my bed at midnight, and can’t sleep and am shaking with terror and feel sick to my stomach and dirty and disgusting.
So I crawl into my mom’s bed and tell her what happened.
And she does *EVERYTHING RIGHT.*

She calls the administration, calls a meeting, threatens police action.

So we get a meeting.

And in the meeting, I have to face not just Evan but his parents. And Mr. Basmajian (again, who if he wanted anonymity should have behaved better), the Dean. Who asks me what I was wearing. And who asks me what I did to entice him. And I have to retell the whole thing in front of Evan, who sits there with a smug look on his face, and his Dad has a smug “boys will be boys” look on his face. And then Mr. Basmajian adds the “boys will be boys” line. And I shrank in that chair. And I got smaller and smaller.

Because I did *EVERYTHING RIGHT.* I *did* go to the authorities. And I was shamed and re-traumatized and re-victimized.

And then I had to leave the room, trusting that they’d do something. And they wouldn’t even let me change classes to a different elective schedule until we threatened legal action against the school.

Here’s a young man – now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Evan was a serial rapist or anything. He was a young man BEHAVING VERY BADLY. He obviously hadn’t been taught important things like “don’t grope women who don’t want to be groped.” And when he did, he was laughed off and told it was ok, because sometimes women just react…

Can I tell you that writing this story has made me shake in fear, cry a little bit, and go through 3 separate EMDR treatments (for PTSD) just to get through it and even be able to talk about it? TWENTY FIVE YEARS LATER. Happily married, with a daughter, and having survived rape, domestic violence, and horrific things. This event is the one that scars me and that I never spoke about aloud – because it’s so much a part of our culture.

We write off the bad behavior of our white men, because “it’s just how they are.” Well, let me tell you. I know some pretty amazing men. Men who would *never* consider doing anything like that. They would *never* consider getting guns and using them to sort out their emotional distress. So I’m done with people saying “boys will be boys,” or that the kind of language and “pussy-grabbing” talk coming from the highest echelons of our government is just “locker room talk.” I’m calling bullshit.

Because when we excuse that kind of behavior, we are creating a culture that allows good kids to die at the hands of a young, troubled man who probably should have had some serious consequences in his life leading to help and healing of whatever troubled him. I’m guessing that Evan probably just did what he thought was normal. I’m sure he had his own family issues in which his parents weren’t around or were going through some sort of serious stuff. I have compassion, sure. In all honesty, he probably doesn’t even remember doing it. I get it, it was a blip, because that sort of stuff is common in our culture, and was even more so back in the early nineties.

But man, that was truly messed up. And it shouldn’t be common. Because while Evan probably doesn’t even remember it, I’m traumatized by it and having to heal and rebuild 25 years of life that were scarred by that event. I’m having to live with the regrets of the relationships I sabotaged after that event because of the worthlessness and shame that I felt. I’m having to live with the fear and the emotional distance from others because I’m afraid if they know what was done to me, they’ll blame me, too.

Do you get it? #neveragain is intrinsically tied to this culture that allows men and boys to behave badly, shrugging it off as “normal” when in actuality, it should never be normal. Cancer is common, is normal, but is an aberration. Gun violence is common, is normal, but is an aberration from the Design.

I think the challenge is that we miss out on the goodness of the Gift of this world if we let “Common” and “Normal” dictate our behavior or our legislation. We need to stand with these incredible youngsters in #neveragain, even as we do address the very deep and searing truths of #metoo.

We cannot forget #metoo. We simply cannot.

Because I will not let my daughter’s generation be 1 in 4. I will not let her generation be 1 in 10. I will fight, tooth & nail, to call bullshit and stand for her right to live a life free from the trauma that I – and literally every single woman I know – have experienced. I will fight to give her everything I was denied and that was stolen from me in that office 25 years ago.

#metoo #Iamthe1in4

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