For someone who makes a portion of her living writing and crafting sentences using just the right words, I can tell you that those five letters – those two little words – were remarkably hard to type.
I hesitated a lot in writing them. At first I thought that perhaps acknowledging such a personal experience in such a public forum would not be appropriate. It’s not something I hide, but it is certainly not something I have broadcast to the world.
Then I thought that maybe it was okay to just show my support for the movement and personally “react” on Facebook to each and every post from my friends and family who posted “me too” on their walls. That was a way to show my support without getting involved.
But then I realized something. Showing my support without acknowledging my own experience, without getting involved, is exactly what got us to where we are in the first place: a society that gives permission for this kind of behavior not only to happen but to be tolerated and excused and swept under the rug.
So I’m saying it now because my children need to know that this is part of their mother’s history as well the painful history for so many other women.
My daughter needs to know so that she can understand that her mom lived through it and came out okay on the other end, but that I wasn’t afraid to acknowledge that it happened and that it influenced me in many ways. Dealing with the trauma was hard. Discovering the strength to get through it and not let it overcome me was empowering.
My sons need to know so that they can understand through my experience that this kind of behavior is not tolerable nor defensible in themselves or any of their friends, and that they need to speak up if they see a woman put in any kind of compromising position. They need to know that it happens to everyone, even someone they know, even someone in their own family, and that the world needs them to be good, strong men who stand up for what is right and don’t ever have to belittle or hurt others to make themselves feel more powerful.
As parents, I think that most of us struggle with how to teach our kids that the world isn’t all princes and princesses without completely destroying their childhoods and forcing them to grow up too soon. We work hard to slowly introduce them to the idea that the world isn’t perfect, that humans mess up (collectively and individually), and that sometimes bad things happen.
This “me too” movement is a way for us to help our older children understand a little bit about the prolific issue of sexual harassment. Let’s face it. It’s hard to feel like something is an issue until it affects someone we know. Gun control, domestic violence, homelessness, addiction – they’re all important topics and causes to get behind but most of us won’t unless we are personally affected.
You no longer have the excuse that you don’t know anyone who is a victim. If you didn’t think you did, check your Twitter or Facebook feeds, and you’ll see just how many victims you know. The numbers don’t lie. An astonishing 1 in 3 women have been the victim of sexual harassment at work and 1 in 6 women have been sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
Because social media is fleeting, this movement may not last more than 24 or 48 hours. So take some time tonight or tomorrow to look at your Facebook feed or your Twitter feed. Do a quick tally as best you can of the number of friends you have that have posted those two little words on their walls. I think you’ll be surprised, if you’ve not seen it already, at the number of women who have come forward and spoken up about this injustice happening to them. I just took a few minutes to browse my own Facebook wall, and there were 13 women who had posted this within the past couple of hours. That’s 13 too many.
Those numbers are what you can show your kids. Any time the number is above zero for either sexual assaults or harassment, the number is too high. Without going into a lot of detail, and certainly waiting until you feel like they are ready for it, you can show them the number of women who posted on your wall. You can tell them that you personally know people that this has happened to, and your kids likely know some of them as well. These are people they know who have been mistreated. Seeing that there are real people behind statistics, real people that they know in person, will go a long way in helping them to understand how big this problem is.
One day I will tell my kids my whole story and how what happened to me affected me. For now, their dad and I model behavior for them. We teach them how to treat not just women but everyone with kindness and respect and decency and hopefully at least a little bit of the compassion and love that Jesus had. And we remind them that there is no excuse for anyone in their lives to ever be hurt or do the hurting. We will show them the numbers, and let them know that their words and their actions absolutely matter.
As parents, we have the power to shape the next generation. Our children have a chance to change the world in powerful ways. Wouldn’t it be something if the change really did start here? Wouldn’t it be incredible if this dialogue paved the way for the creation of safer environments for women everywhere? For women to feel the freedom to speak out? Or, better yet, if there was nothing for them to speak out about when it comes to sexual harassment and assault?
One of the bright spots of this story has been seeing some of the men in my social media feed come to the support of women. They are rays of hope in the darkness that is sexual harassment. They are the good ones who help those of us on the other side believe that real change is definitely possible. They are the ones I will point my children to as an example of the good.
This is an important conversation to have with our children. They need to know the numbers. More importantly, they need to know the faces behind the numbers. They need to know a cultural change starts with them, creating a different future so that no woman that they love, no daughter of theirs ever has to say or write those five little letters: