I’ve waited to make sure I really wanted to do this and, also, to decide why and how I would lend my voice to this important movement.
I was about 14 years old. I was in the kitchen, snacking at the counter while Mom cooked and Dad watched, as usual, with a beer in his hand. My father was poking at me with questions about boys. It was awkward but, then again, what social situation isn’t when you’ve just entered teenhood?
At some point in the conversation, he came closer to me, put his hand behind my head, and forced me towards him. It all happened so fast. I had no idea what he was doing until he French-kissed me right in front of my mother. When he was done, he said matter-of-factly: “I just wanted to see if you knew how to kiss.”
I stayed there, frozen. Mom, paralyzed. I remember feeling so disgusted. Not knowing how to act, I just sat there. We all continued to talk as if nothing had happened and because nobody dared to acknowledge this repugnant act.
Later, I realized what my father had done was inappropriate. I like to think that Mom did too and took action when I wasn’t watching. All I know for sure, though, is he never touched me again and my relationship with him became ice cold from that moment until he passed, 27 years later.
If I can say so myself, mine was a relatively minor sexual assault. Nonetheless, what it did was pervert the concepts of ‘trust’ and ‘respect’ while, in my teenage brain, they had only began to form. Consequently, throughout my teen years, I was promiscuous and took risks that could have cost me hugely. Thankfully, the cost I paid for my irresponsible behaviour was one I was able to assume and, eventually, eliminate.
Before the Weinstein story came out and Alyssa Milano re-ignited the #MeToo movement (started by TaranaBurke 10 years ago), I had not thought of the French-kiss incident in a long time. Then, after hubby shared an interview of an anchorwoman who had been forced to watch Mr. W. jerk off in front of her, I began following the headlines and reading some of the stories. Each time I did, the almost four- decades old feeling of disgust wired in my body was triggered. I instantly felt nauseous.
That’s when I realized that disdainful act was still hijacking my well-being.
There are too many of these stories, too many much worse than mine, where girls, boys, women, and men are preyed upon.
I have three wishes.
My first wish is that we, as individuals, develop our courage to feel into the pain of these hurtful experiences. Numbing, negating, and repressing are self-protecting reflexes of the unconscious mind. It hides those things we can’t deal with emotionally until we have the capacity to do so. Naturally, during those oblivious weeks, months or years, we don’t even know the pain exists or, when we do, we seldom make the link between it and our ailments. Either way, it’s there, locked up in our neurology.
Thankfully, there are hints. Multiple studies have proven that physical diseases and conditions as well as mental health issues have an emotional component at least 85% of the time. Other researchers boldly claim that number is closer to 100%. Regardless, I believe that when we aspire to robust health and a joyful, meaningful life, anything that gets in the way of that is incrementally brought to our awareness. The skeletons float out of the unconscious and into the conscious mind where we have the choice to shut them back up in the closet or to look at them and allow ourselves to feel the sadness, betrayal, powerlessness, fear, shame, resentment, disgust, etc. that they might come with.
(I often wonder, how many people are overweight, obese, addicted or bankrupt because they have pain they can’t or won’t release?)
My second wish is that we, as individuals, find our voice. This also takes courage. When we know the harm inflicted upon whistle-blowers, how can a person who’s suffering privately willingly choose to expose themselves to public wrath and other consequences typical of such admissions? There’s no recipe for this and I have no advice to offer.
I do trust that the tremendously supportive response to the latest sexual assault accusations we’ve seen in these past weeks will embolden each and everyone who needs to speak out to do so. Today, when we speak or write, our message can be echoed around the world within hours. Let’s use this power for our own good as well as for the greater good.
My third wish is that we, individuals who have been preyed upon, learn to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we condone the behaviour nor that we absolve the predator of all consequences. Forgiveness implies coming to terms with the past and releasing the pain so that we can let go of this cumbersome weight and live a happy, healthy, fulfilling life. When we choose not to forgive, we automatically choose resentment. As Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiving is an act of self-love and if you think that holding onto the grudge is justifiable, then you’ve chosen to be right rather than choosing to be happy. My ultimate wish is that we all have the courage to be happy.