The recent movement of women speaking out about sexual abuse and assault has been so powerful! I have been moved by the courage it takes for people to share their experiences. And, in solidarity with those women, I have been holding my breath and bracing for what comes next. In so many ways this feels like new territory.
My initial reaction to the movement was suspicion, that people would only listen to and support those stories that furthered some cause. For example, that republicans or democrats would respond with support out of political motivation and not out of genuine care for these women. Which would just be another form of manipulation and objectification. With time I have found this assumption to be mostly incorrect. I worried that cases of sexual assault would get lost in the “he said she said” of it all. And yes, there has been some of this, but what is starting to feel more common is that people are actually believing the women who are speaking out.
As we move further in the #Metoo movement I personally feel energized and motivated to be a positive influence for change. I’ve had many conversations born out of this movement about sexual assault, consent, and how we can make the world a safer place for women. I want to share some of these ideas and suggestions here.
Sexual Safety Matters
One of the main messages I hear in the #Metoo movement is that sexual safety matters. It’s not enough anymore to assume that sexual harassment or sexual assault are benign and have no real or lasting impact. This is simply untrue. I have worked with so many women who have experienced sexual assault and I have seen how the impacts of those experiences can be devastating. The brave women who have shared, and continue to share their stories give us access to that very real pain. I hope we can use these stories as fuel for the change we need to make the world safer for us and our children.
Stirring the Beast
Holding people accountable can be scary! Especially people in positions of power. I have heard people make comments like, “We don’t want to ruin his life over one mistake.” I understand the pull to not make waves. But it’s important to realize that these are not victimless crimes. And as we brush aside these hurtful actions we also brush aside the victims who need our help most.
Actions have consequences. Holding people accountable for their actions can be a caring way to help people make much needed change. I truly believe that intervening and holding people accountable is a loving response, one that will address the issue of sexual safety and also help these men address the root of their harmful actions and lead them to live healthier lives.
Consent and Healthy Sexuality
Talking about sexual assault should lead us to also talk about sexual safety, healthy sexuality, and consent. I hope we can use the very painful stories we’ve been hearing to educate ourselves and our kids about what healthy connection and sexuality looks like. We cannot assume that in the absence of these conversations children will figure it out on their own or simply abstain. Our deeply held values and care for each other needs to take priority over our discomfort of talking about sex. Go ahead and blush, but don’t let it stop you from sharing your views on healthy sexuality, consent, and respect for each other’s bodies.
Lastly, believe these women who have, in a very real way, risked everything to make this change possible for all of us. Let’s let them feel our love and support. When they talk about these very painful and frustrating experiences, let’s engage in the conversation. We don’t heal in isolation. We need each other.
To the women who have shared: I believe you. I care about the pain that you have endured. I can see the courage it takes you to stand up against sexual assault. You are fighting a very real battle. I’m fighting with you. I believe good will win.