“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” – Author Unknown
I had just finished setting up my daughter and her friend so they could sack out and watch movies, before heading into my son’s room to settle him in with his kindle and a snack, when my cell started pinging message notifications one after another. I stopped what I was doing and thought, “Well, something must have happened, and by the sounds of it, it can’t be good.” So, I hurried up and tucked my son in, and then went to check what all the fuss was about.
It all started with a note on Facebook from a friend…asking our little group a very difficult question: should she…or shouldn’t she? In the end, she did, of course. She did it because it was the right thing to do, because she is strong, and she is brave. But also because she felt an overwhelming responsibility to her daughter. A responsibility that demanded she do everything in her power to nurture an environment, a country – a world, for the love of God – worthy of her presence. One where she will have every opportunity – without strings.
So, you’re probably wondering, “What did she do?” And, that’s a fair question. What she did was throw open the curtain and walk out into the light. She posted her story, with all its ugly facets and residual, sharply honed shame. She left the shadows and, damn it, she is not going back.
The story is one of a 17-year-old girl, a freshman at college, at an off-campus party, who was raped. She didn’t report it because she was ashamed and intimidated. This boy and his friends made her cower in fear – she had to spend the next four years going to the same school. Over the course of our conversation, each and every one of us echoed our support for her by lending our own voices. One friend recounted her experience: 8 years of physical and mental abuse. She never reported it because all of their friends were mutual. She was ashamed and afraid – he made sure she stayed afraid. Another added to the conversation: an ex who demanded she abort their child and, when she refused, tried to “abort” the baby himself through physical violence. She never reported it because they were a couple, and she was afraid no one would believe her. And, of course, I outlined my own experience with sexual/domestic abuse. The first time, I didn’t report it, I was young 16 at the time, and terrified. The second time I did report it, and got out.
This is just one small group of friends. And yet, every one of us had an experience. The really scary part though? We were not alone.
On the public post, more women added their stories. A rape while serving in the military – the victim forced to take an honorable discharge, but only if she remained quiet. If she complained, or brought charges, that would earn her a dishonorable discharge. The victim punished and forced out of the Navy because she had the audacity to “get” raped.
All across social media, from Twitter to Facebook, Instagram to Snapchat, women of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds (social and financial) have been coming forward to add their stories, their voices to the swelling tide of rage and disgust that is, at this very moment, sweeping across our country. Enough is enough.
#WhyWomenDontReport? Because we’re made to feel ashamed, like it’s all, somehow, our fault. We’re told: “How were you dressed? Did your clothing ask for it”? “What did you expect, going out to a bar and having a drink?” “Don’t you know you court trouble when walking at night alone?” So, we’d like to address those questions with the following: “My God damned clothing is inanimate and doesn’t ‘speak.’” “I expected to go out for a night with my friends and not get attacked, why is that too much to ask?” “All I was ‘courting’ was getting to my destination unharmed and without being accosted.” Now take your excuses that place blame on the victim, and shut the hell up. There’s your answer. That is why women didn’t report. But, do you hear us now? We are raising our voices and rejecting this twisted version of “how it is.”
We need men, real men, to stand up and support a different kind of narrative. And this should be done publicly, not privately via emails and messages, but right out in the open. Loud, vociferous, and angry – male voices that offer support, empathy, sympathy and understanding. Because that code is still in place. That dismissive brand of entitlement that seems to say “all men do it” when, in reality, they don’t. But to remain silent only allows the behavior, the “rape” culture to grow, fester, and bleed out into everyday society, everyday actions. A society where little boys who hit girls do so because “they have a crush on her” – and it is considered a cute, and valid excuse. Where women can’t venture out into public without rethinking if the shoes they are wearing will allow them to run away if necessary, or if their dress is too clingy, or whether or not they have 911 already dialed into their cell phone, their fingers hovering over the “send” button, as they begin to cross a darkened parking lot to get to their destination. No more. Screw that to hell and back.
It has been said that sunlight is one of the strongest disinfectants – and nothing can hide when the spotlight is cast upon it. Each one of these voices are throwing back the curtains, and snapping up the shades. They are calling the light from inside their kitchens, the grocery stores, and the Kindergarten classes, they are screaming out their frustration from the boardrooms and the assembly lines, they are standing up in the crowds at the libraries, on the trains, in the carpools, and at the gyms. Because they’re fed up, they’re pissed off, and they’re just not going to stay silent one second longer.
Over the past few weeks, the conversation has grown into a giant, virulent boil that has finally, painfully – and damn-the-consequences – been lanced.
So, my advice to those who continue to push this “weak wristed” narrative that “real men talk this way,” “real men act this way,” or “it’s just ‘locker-room’ talk,” is to buckle the hell up – because you flipped the “bitch” switch, and we will not stay silent just to make your turn-of-the-century, stunted selves more “comfortable.” In fact, the more you insist this is acceptable, the louder, and more uncomfortable we will make you feel.
This ride has just begun, and you all can either act civilized and keep the hell up, or get left behind to fade into obscurity. But make no mistake: under no circumstances will we allow you to push us back into the shadows. #MyVoiceMyStory #IBelieveHerIAmHer