Something has changed. Women are unleashing tsunamis of memories and experiences in unprecedented ways and it as wonderful as it is pain-filled.
Ask any woman. Any. Woman. You will hear the stories of physical or verbal sexual assault and abuse. You will hear stories of how we are silenced because we need the job or the apartment or the healthcare or the church. You will hear stories that have lain dormant or relegated to the sanctity of the therapist’s couch for too long. We have been silent and silenced too long. Now that we are speaking out, there is no turning back.
Many of us who are not black are aware that black parents must, at some point, have ‘the talk’ with their children about racism and the inherent personal danger, ugliness, and hatred associated with it.
There is a similar talk that women have with girls. If not mother or grandmother, then teacher or mentor, neighbor or aunt, co-worker or congregant. It goes something like this:
Here is a dime (or quarter, or always have your cell phone with you) keep it with you and call if he gives you any trouble. Be careful how you dress because men can’t help themselves. Don’t be alone with that guy. A man will always try to take what he wants. Don’t walk alone at night. Always check the back seat before you get in your car. Have a whistle on your keychain. Use your keys as a weapon. Carry mace in your purse. Don’t set your drink down if you are in a club. Don’t go out at night. Don’t go out alone.
And then there are the messages we get that are often unspoken but assumed:
Say something and you’ll lose your job.
No one is going to believe you.
You asked for it.
Well, guys, I think you’ve just lost control because women are speaking up and speaking out. You don’t believe us? Do you really not believe us? You’ve never heard how men talk about women when left to themselves? You’ve never said those things yourself? You’ve never used your physical, political, or social power to coerce a woman? Or never seen another man do it? Really?
You don’t believe us? Well, too bad because we believe one another. We have centuries of experience with systemic sexism. We had it happen to us, to our daughters, to our friends – whether in something as tragic as rape or sexual abuse, or as rampant and dehumanizing as cat calling or unwelcome touch.
We aren’t going to make excuses for your behavior anymore. We are not going to undermine women who have the courage to speak out. The curtain was pulled back when thousands, millions of us say #metoo. We are not going to accept that this is ‘just how men are’. We want to believe you are better than this. Stand with us and make it unacceptable to use, coerce, or abuse women sexually or any other way.
And here is how you can begin: BELIEVE US.