In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein news, women across the nation have been using the hashtag #MeToo to tell their own stories of sexual abuse, assault, and rape. For those of us who are survivors of attacks like these, and sadly, that is a VAST number of humans, this past week has been a hard one on social media. Many women are for the first time speaking the truths of what has happened to them and some are naming their abusers as well. Actions like these are powerful and I hope this moment is remembered in our collective consciousness as a massive example of women finding their voices and the courage to speak out against their attackers.
There are also many who are quiet. They don’t have the voice or the strength to say #MeToo, and that’s okay. This isn’t a contest and it’s certainly not a club anyone wants to be in. My heart aches for all of us, for those who are speaking out and those who still can’t. My phone has been buzzing all week from friends who are being re-traumatized every time they open social media and read another account. I have friends headed into their 36th hour of a panic attack, friends who’ve logged off Facebook entirely asking ‘can you just let me know when there are no more stories? I can’t keep reading them.’ Others ask me, ‘if I say #MeToo I don’t even know which incident I’m referring to. Does #MeToo mean ALL of them?’ And one who said, ‘I read that in addition to #MeToo we should #NameTheMonsters, but I don’t know their names. The men who raped me, I don’t know who they were.’
I shouted my loudest #MeToo on January 10th, 2014 when I published this article naming my father and telling the world that he sexually abused me and my younger sister. It took me days to write the post and there were two things I did not expect that happened when I posted it. The first was the re-traumatization I would experience as I received hundreds of emails and messages from women thanking me for sharing my story but also sharing their tales of abuse. Each message was a fresh slice of pain and I eventually had to leave social media for a time because I didn’t have the tools to handle reading about their abuse in addition to re-living my own. This is what is happening now to my friends with the #MeToo hashtag. I’m not upset with those sharing their stories and I’m not blaming them for the additional trauma being caused to others. The stories have to be told. I have been there though, so if this a difficult time for you to be on social media, you have permission to log off, to take a break, to not read and to not look. Take care of yourself.
The other thing my sister and I did not expect was some of our own siblings calling us liars after we exposed our father. Our own brothers and sisters sided with our father, the man who sexually abused us. This was mind blowing and beyond devastating. I had no words as I read their comments. It was unexpected and it was eye opening; in addition to exposing the abuse, we lost our siblings that day too. Later my therapist told me that it was very common. I share this now with those who are sharing their own #MeToos, be prepared for similar reactions from people in your life. There are those who would rather call you a liar then believe someone precious to them is capable of such great evil.
My #MeToo post in 2014 did not get me and my sister justice. The courts and our society are set up to protect abusers, not children and women. I have been told over and over by this society that it does not care about me, my sister, or what we went through. If you are reading this and you’re thinking, ‘but Charlotte,*I* care about you!’ well thank you. But society doesn’t. That’s very clear. I don’t want to write #MeToo. I want to write #FuckYou. Fuck you to every aspect of a world that does this to children, that allows this to happen to women. That gives no justice. That takes away our power from our birth to death. #FuckYou.
And now I’m raising two daughters and I’m terrified for them. I don’t use that word lightly. I’m talking about the kind of terror that keeps me up at night, that has my daughters enrolled in martial arts instead of dance classes, and that will teach them how to use guns properly and take self- defense courses. I talk about every aspect of how to keep themselves safe, ‘we lock the car door as soon as we get in, swivel your head and look around you when walking in public, in parking lots, at the mall, on the street, or talk to me about who in this crowd you would approach for help if you needed it?’
I’d rather them be in therapy one day saying, ‘ugh, my mom was always so concerned for my safety and taught me a million ways to protect myself,’ then ‘today I need to talk about being sexually assaulted by my [insert any word here for stranger or trusted adult in their lives].
But the terrible part is that no matter how many tools I give them it can still happen to them. You can’t protect yourself when you’re 5 or 10 years old. I know. Or 19, 20, 21, 24, 35, 45, 68, etc. There’s a million ways you can be assaulted even when you know every trick in the book to protecting yourself the best you can. And that’s a horrible place to be as a mother raising two young girls. When will they join the chorus of #MeToos? I want it to be never. NEVER. But I think that’s why the hashtag has gotten under my skin from day one. I’m terrified of my own children joining it one day. To my #MeToo I add a giant #FuckYou to every man who made me a #MeToo-er. MeToo. FuckYou. And I DontForgiveYou.