So much has happened in 2017 but one thing, in particular, that has been a long time coming is the issue of #MeToo. The issue of sexual harassment and sexual assault has long been a taboo subject, kept stored away in a safe place in the minds of those who've experienced it. Not only have I observed it over and over, I've also been subjected to it myself since a very early age. I'm so thankful for the brave women who finally stood up for themselves and all women and said: “we've had enough!” With the first woman in Hollywood speaking up, followed by a call to action by another female celebrity (also affected by this), what followed has been like dominoes falling – one after the other. It's time for women to stand up for themselves, bring this issue to light, and put an end to the behavior – not only of the men that take advantage but also of society (men and women) who look the other way and allow it to continue!
But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.
2 Chronicles 15:7
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My Me Too
My Me Too started as a very young child by inappropriate sexual behavior from a family member which lasted into my early teens. From there, it followed me into my adult life and into the military. Having it started by a male family member (seen as a person with power over me), I was constantly subjected to inappropriate touching and sexual advances by men in power for most of my adult life because I felt powerless to say no. When I say “men in power” that can be anything from an older male family member to a male supervisor. I learned to just shrug it off because that's just how men acted. As I grew into puberty and had to wear a bra (I had breasts at a very early age), the boys would constantly pop my bra strap and smack my bottom. I had low self-esteem – as many young girls and women do – and although I didn't really like WHAT they were doing, I though this was how to get love and attention. This is the case with so many young women and it carries on into their adult lives.
The Military is Just as Bad as Hollywood
THE BOY'S CLUB
Fast forward to my military career, it got worse and worse. I tried so hard to prove myself as a hard worker and earn the respect of my Shipmates and supervisors. But I soon learned that when a male supervisor seems to be on the level and actually wanted to mentor me as a Sailor, without fail, they would make some sort of “pass” at me. I'm fortunate in that I was never outright sexually assaulted, however, the constant sexual undertone of nearly all conversations with men took a toll on me. I've been in situations where I didn't really want to engage in sexual activity with someone, but due to their higher rank or stature, I submitted because I didn't feel I could say no or they would impact my career in some way. I watched time and again when senior military men would take advantage of young female Sailors just trying to fit in and be accepted. What's even worse? Many times, persons on the ship such as the Equal Opportunity Manager themselves engaged in this behavior. As I made my way up the rank structure and these things were reported to leadership against another male leader, it was almost always the same “This will completely destroy HIS career.” It just always seemed to be a “boys club” so who could you confide in of what was happening? You didn't.
BECOMING A PART OF THE PROBLEM
As a means to cope, many women in military end up becoming a part of the problem. They want to fit in so bad so they can earn respect and make rank that they begin to criticize other women who come across as being promiscuous. Where once they were opposed to dirty jokes and bashing other women, they now join in with the guys so as not feel excluded. I'm in no way blaming them as I, too, fell into this many times and, although I know that God has forgiven me, I still carry some of that guilt. You just do what you have to do to survive it all.
Keep it Secret or Speak Up?
Why don't they report it or speak up? Whether you are a civilian or in the military, silence is safe. Our society is so quick to judge the victim. We see it all the time in rape trials. They put the victim through the ringer and pick apart her entire life – every bad choice or decision – everything. Also, (back to the “man of power” issue I mentioned), chances are that the majority of the leadership of your job or military unit is going to be male-dominated. You know the men are going to cover for each other (I've seen it firsthand). Who should be believed? Someone that has been with the company for years or this new girl? Even at the top levels where women hold higher positions, chances are she is surrounded by mostly male colleagues. She has a family to provide for and can't afford to lose her job. That was the issue for me in the military. I needed to make rank to better provide. Anyone of those men could have impacted my performance evaluations (and some did), which could have resulted in my not advancing. It's not worth the risk so you pick your battles.
PROTECTING HER FAMILY
Aside from the employment implications, what about her family? Bringing this out in the open and having a legal battle brings out the worst of people. She worries for the family of the person doing these things. She worries about her own kids having to hear these things. Or even worse, those who don't believe the allegations saying hurtful things, which their children then repeat to her kids at school. Is it all worth it? It's so much easier to just suck it up and lock it away somewhere because this is just how it is to be a woman.I can do all things through Him who strengthens me - Phillipians 4:13Click To Tweet
Why Speak Up Now After All These Years?
Now that this movement has taken over the news and social media, more and more women are coming forward. Many of these women are coming forward decades after the incident(s) happened. Why now? Why didn't you say something before? These comments and questions irritate me to no end! As I mentioned before, silence is safe. A lone individual making an accusation is just asking for her life to be turned upside down. Plus, depending on the stature of the guy, who is going to believe her? But now, a few brave women stood up for the rest of us who didn't feel we had a voice before. Now, it's more likely we'll be believed. To comment things along the lines of “she just wants money” or other such comments is just horrible. It's easier to face your fears when you have an army behind you and supporting you – and validating what you are saying. That is why.
Rise Up, Ladies!
I have a teen daughter now and I NEVER want her to have to endure the things I've endured during my life. And if she does have these things happen to her, I want her to know that she is not alone and that she can and should stand up for herself. It is time for society to realize this behavior is rampant in all socio-economic demographics and stand up against it. Think of how these things from your past (and maybe even your present) have affected your life and mental health. Do you want that for your daughters or your friends' daughters? I understand that not everyone feels they have the strength or the voice to come out boldly with their stories. It's important that we rally around those that have found their voice and support them. There is power in numbers. It is also important that we educate our daughters and empower them to have a voice and to speak up.
Now, that I've shared a bit of my MeToo story, I want to share stories of some other women bloggers who've also found their voices on this issue. This post wasn't made to be a “how to” guide but to give a platform for women to share their stories. I'm so grateful to each one of them for sharing their story and allowing me to include it here.
Me Too – Her Stories
DO YOU HAVE A Me Too STORY?
Fellow bloggers – have you published a MeToo story on your own blog? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll add it here. Again – there is power in numbers! For anyone else that has a MeToo story, you can also send me your story and I'll add it here. If you aren't comfortable with sharing your identity with the public, just send me the draft and I'll create it on my own blog and post the link here. It's not so much about WHO but HOW MANY. I thank you all in advance for adding to this story!Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past - Isaiah 43:18Click To Tweet
I also want to mention that if you've been affected by these issues in the past (or currently) you should seek counseling to help. I know so many women that have not really “lived” their lives because they've held onto the memories of what happened and it has literally paralyzed them from pursuing their dreams or having healthy relationships. Sister – YOU ARE WORTHY of a happy life with much success!!
(Side note: if you are a female veteran that experienced sexual assault and/or sexual harassment during your career – even if you have no documented evidence, you can file a VA claim and receive free counseling and even compensation).
I recently published a post on my other blog about How to Protect Yourself Against Random Acts of Violence, but some of what I talk about is in regard to your mental preparation. You can't foresee every possible event but you can keep yourself in a mentally-prepared frame of mind so that you can better react. There are also lots of other resources for just protecting yourself in general as a woman.