I hate this, I really do. I hate that the hash tag #MeToo has taken over Facebook and Twitter. I hate the conversation around this hashtag has included people who I love dearly, who do not wish to be reminded of what they have lived through and those who act as if it is no big deal or that somehow women (in particular because it happens to men as well) should just get over it.
Hate is a strong word, but the word “dislike” isn’t strong enough for how this hashtag grieves me in so many ways. I can intellectually “get” that there will always be people who derive their power from harassing and bullying others. What strikes me to the core of my being is that it is still in so many ways accepted as normal rather than an unacceptable trait that will not be tolerated ever.
It has taken me decades to basically not be triggered any more from at date rate that happened when I was very young and very naive. As an underclasswoman at a Christian college I had a love of Coca-Colas and limeades. I was not adverse to alcohol, just wasn’t much of a drinker. An older upperclassman (he was 28) invited a friend and me over to his house with another friend to play cards. He served limeades with Bacardi 151. I had no idea what Bacardi 151 was other than rum. I wasn’t concerned, because he was my friend. I didn’t understand why they all thought it was funny that I didn’t know what it was. Of course, I am sure I do not have to paint a picture of what came next.
When I tried to confront him later, he laughed at me and I will not print what he said. I sought out a couple of people, but it became clear to me that there would be no sympathy or understanding because I should have been more careful, or smarter or had a clue. It would be several years before I would talk to any one about this. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and guilty for not being in control of the situation.
Then when I attended License to Preach School in the summer of of 1982, I had an experience that was nasty to say the least. There are four parts (Christian Education, Administration, Pastoral Care and Worship) taught over a two week period. We were in Nebraska, where classes were held at the church and we slept at a motel at night. The Administration teacher demanded that our papers be type written (for you young ones that was before computers.) No one had brought typewriters because it was not on the list of things necessary. This man made each woman come to his hotel room by themselves to type the papers. He wore skin tight shorts and shirt and leered over me, breathing on neck, touching me. Even as I write this, I feel the hair raise on the back of my neck as I write these words.
There were not many women, but three of us on the drive back found out we all had the same experience. We decided to tell our respective District Superintendents so other women would not have the same thing happen to them. When I met with mine, the response was, “Well, he didn’t rape did he?” No, he didn’t rape me. It was shrugged off and the conversation was changed. After all, the administration teacher was an elder in full connection, I was just a 23 year old local pastor. I wanted more than anything to be a pastor and I wasn’t going to push that hard. It would be his word against mine.
Of course, I am old enough to have mores stories. There were times in my life I had far more triggers and was very uncomfortable in my own skin. It has long been a joke that I am not much of a “hugger.” I am quite comfortable shaking hands and hugging is fine, mostly. Years ago, when I was serving a three point charge, I was at the middle church on the circuit. I was shaking hands following worship and one of the men and his wife whom I adored came to shake my hand. I don’t know to this day what happened but I stiffened up, had trouble breathing and he slowly backed away. I apologized and then went to the next church.
The following morning Max called me and said could we have coffee? I drove over to the little cafe and sat down and he asked me, “What happened yesterday?” Max was old enough to be my grandfather and I honestly told him that I didn’t really know, but then I shared with him my history and that something had triggered me and I didn’t know what it was. I felt so embarrassed and I didn’t normally share my history with my parishioners. He looked at me and said, “I am so sorry. I am sorry that happened to you and I am sorry that some how I reminded you of it.” I was so blessed in that moment. The fact he took the time to find out what was happening with me spoke volumes of his willingness to listen and to hear and to be present. It gave me hope that I would not always have to hide my experiences.
When I chose yesterday to post the #MeToo I did so not for sympathy or to try and jump on some bandwagon. I shared it because I know there are many that still stay silent for fear of retribution or job loss or violence against themselves or someone they love. I know that not every woman experiences harassment or violence. I think I would be safe to say that most women have experienced fear. There are some who will never believe it is that bad, but it is.
I very rarely am troubled any more about those experiences. I am in most ways past it and it doesn’t effect me any more. I am who I am today, in part, because I have survived and more importantly chosen to thrive. Today, what pains me the most, is that there is even a hashtag that states MeToo. I don’t want anyone else to have to learn to thrive after harassment or rape or assault. I don’t want those experiences to be minimized or questioned. I don’t want other women (and men) to have to justify their feelings (oh it wasn’t that bad) or to defend their bodies from inappropriate touching or groping.
I believe that we can do better. I want any one who has been belittled, assaulted, touched, mocked or bullied to have safe places to be heard, to be believed, to heal. This is the time, this is the place to say #NoMore. I will be and provide a safe place for anyone who needs to share their story. I will believe you and support you. I will listen. I want to be a part of ending this ugly and perverse part of our culture. No More. No more harassment, rape, assault or bullying. No More. No more violence again women (men and children) as workers, as wives, as lovers, as friends, as strangers. No More.