#MeToo started a couple of months ago now. Though I didn’t go into any details, I posted my own little FB Post where I simply typed the words. No one asked for details, but I got some “reactions” and “likes.”
In the past couple of months, there’s been quite a bit of backlash against those who have come out with their stories of harassment and abuse. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. I’ve met it with mixed feelings.
Yes, there’s a part of me that wonders what the point is of bringing these things to light years after the fact. There’s a part of me that ponders the idea that the victims played their own part in becoming victims. I guess that there is a part of me that hates to see someone’s name and reputation dragged through the mud for something they may have not even known was harming someone else. Our society is such that it’s quite easy for me to believe that people think their “compliments” are desired. We’re so messed up that predators have become that way due to watching their own role models — their own mothers and fathers sometimes — behave in that manner.
But (you knew there would be a “but” right?) since something stirred in me to simply post “Me Too,” I know that I have a story to share.
My story doesn’t involve any celebrity. I have nothing to gain by sharing my story. I really have nothing to lose either since everyone I care about losing already knows my story and has stuck by me anyway.
My story starts as a young girl being reared by a mother who knew no boundaries. None. She didn’t understand emotional boundaries. She ran rough-shod over physical boundaries. The only memory I have and I know is not just some sick dream I had happened when I was almost 13 on the day I began menstruating. I won’t detail what went on. All I have ever said to anyone other than my husband about it is that she did something extremely inappropriate and I believe sits on the edges of sexual abuse.
And she did it because she knew I wouldn’t tell anyone. She knew I would never tell anyone about it. Oh! I now believe that she would never believe she did anything inappropriate either…but the fact remains that if she had any clue at all that I could bring myself to tell anyone about it, she wouldn’t have done it. But…as the mother of a young girl who had been scared into silence through family demolition of divorce, she had watched me enough to know that I didn’t have anyone I would feel comfortable to tell and that I for sure wouldn’t tell anyone that was a stranger to our family. It was safe for her to do what she did. So she did it.
My story continues as a young teenage girl who wanted male attention. The positive male attention — not the male attention I already had which was playing pickup basketball and being the “cool” girl who had a great baseline jumper. I wanted to be hugged and kissed. I wanted to feel close to someone. By the time I was 13 years old, I had been abandoned by my father for about 5-6 years. I was told I was ugly by my older brother many times. I told myself I was ugly many times. When boys started to pay attention to me in a positive way, it was strange and exhilarating.
When our family moved across the country during my sophomore year of high school, I became a “prime target” for manipulation and abuse, though I wouldn’t have said so back then. I didn’t have a group of friends any more. I played basketball as soon as we moved and played on varsity, but never clicked with the girls on the team. I got a job and it was there that I met some friends — a couple of them, I would still consider friends today even though we mostly communicate on Facebook. It was through these friends that an abuser gained access to me, though.
When I finally told my husband about this guy, we’d been married 18 years already. To be honest, I had shut a lot of this away. But back in August, it all flooded back into my consciousness. I wrote a 12 page letter to my husband telling him everything I had never told him before. I named names and I recognized abuse and manipulation.
You see, my #MeToo story really gets going about the time I was 16 years old. And I dated a man who was 3 years older than me. Three years!! That is a 16-year-old dating a 19-year-old — WITH my mother’s permission and blessing! Because he was a manipulator, and my mom wanted to be snowed over, it all worked out quite smoothly. Nope, he wasn’t a teacher or a coach (although, later on in my story — there’s a coach involved, too, sadly) but he still hung around the mall at the age of 19, to meet girls my age (and younger!!) Back then, security wasn’t all that tight at schools and he could come in and see old friends from younger grades.
It was through this person that I was introduced to “Truth or Dare.” I literally want to be sick thinking about this. It was through this person that I learned how to really lie to my mom — about everything. He would tell her we would be doing something on a date that would be highly inappropriate (Like driving to some beach/lake hangout and playing “Truth or Dare” with a bunch of kids my age and younger) and then he would laugh and say, “Nah, I’m just kidding! We’re going to such-and-such movie and then maybe to McDonald’s after and then I’ll have her home by 11!” and my mom fell for this crap all the time. She never knew that the highly inappropriate thing he mentioned was exactly what he had in mind. I can’t remember very many times that our dates consisted of what we told my mom we were really going to do.
And see, then…because my mom liked him, he would say things (in a joking manner, of course!) like “Well, you can’t tell your mom you’re doing this because then you’ll get in serious trouble. She wouldn’t believe you anyway because I told her we were doing XYZ and she knows I’d never lie to her.” So he manipulated me into believing my mother would take his word over mine and it wouldn’t even be worth it to tell her or anyone in authority what we really did because I’d just get in major trouble.
I won’t go into many of the major details because honestly, they don’t matter at this point and thankfully, a very good friend of mine destroyed the evidence of one of the major abuses (thank God).
A relationship with this person lasted for about 15-18 months…I can’t remember exactly. And when I finally had the courage to break it off with him, it was only because I was running into the arms of an even bigger and more dangerous abuser. This guy was 24 (I was 17-almost-18 at this time). I didn’t find out until I had been involved with him for several months that he was married and had some children. I also didn’t find out until I was too far into the relationship to extricate myself easily that he was heavily involved in drug dealing. Again, no one celebrity, not a teacher, not a coach — just a predatory asshole taking advantage of a girl who got little-to-no positive (healthy) attention from a man and was routinely manipulated and neglected by her mother.
This guy was the worst kind of predator. He somehow convinced me to give him money regularly or buy him things. He also used the manipulation tactic that I couldn’t very well tell anyone anything because I was an accomplice to any illegal activity and I could get myself, my siblings, my mom all in trouble if I didn’t keep quiet.
In the midst, I guess my basketball coach saw fit to make his move and claimed he “loved” me as well. This was highly inappropriate, but I didn’t know it. I was so mired in the inappropriate relationships and I had never had a healthy relationship with anyone at this point, that it was this seemingly never-ending cycle. Of course, I see it this way now looking back. But while I was in it, I literally believed these men “cared” about me! Now as a mother of my own teenage daughters, my blood boils.
This second abusive relationship lasted for almost a year. I almost threw away my high school education and everything else because of this horrible relationship. Sometimes I wonder how I ever graduated high school with all this stuff going on. I mean, I ran away from home. I caused all kinds of worry to my parents and my siblings. I was a horrible big sister — definitely NOT the shining example of how to grow up. I experimented with all the things you can think of in reading this story. If you think, “Hmm, I wonder if she ever did XYZ drug?” I would say “Yup. I may not have known it when I did it, but I don’t put it past that guy for slipping it into something else I was doing.”
Unfortunately, for me, my #MeToo story doesn’t even end there. What people who have never been through this sort of abuse don’t realize is that when you grow up in these abusive relationships, when you move on to someone else, it is often just another abusive relationship. While the abuse in my long-term college relationship wasn’t the same sort and was definitely less hurtful than what I’d already endured, I still put up with quite a bit of manipulation and abuse. And it is because I did not realize my worth. I thought I was “lucky” to have found this guy because he seemed to fit the mold of what I figured my parents would be happy with. Obviously, I had no idea what my parents would be happy with — this was all in my messed up brain — but I told myself that because this guy was about to graduate college (oh, yeah, still WAY too old for me, by the way…can I roll my eyes back in my head any further???) he knew what he wanted in life, he had a job, he had money, he had a BMW, he had paid for college by joining National Guard Reserves. The abuse I suffered at his hands was more of the kind where I would never live up to his expectations of what he wanted in a woman, but he was going to let me keep trying.
My #MeToo story ends when I ended that relationship. But back then, I wouldn’t have recognized it as an abusive relationship. At the time, I cried every night for months because I cut off a relationship that was going nowhere, but that I wanted to go everywhere. At the time I cut it off, I thought I was the one screwing up by leaving him instead of being strong and setting myself free. It took me over a year to figure out that I was better than that relationship and that I deserved someone who absolutely believed I was worth being loved.
When I see posts on Facebook or Twitter of people posting negative backlash towards the #MeToo movement and the condescending and non-compassionate words that all who have #MeToo stories are simply “allowing themselves to be victims,” I cry inside for their hardened hearts. And I also pray thanksgiving for their life experience where they have never been in a position to be manipulated and abused.
Over the course of the past couple of years and a growing awareness of things like “white privilege” I think there are also levels of privilege that have nothing to do with race but with our life experiences. If you grew up with parents who worked at and maintained their marriage, you grew up with a privilege that many of us did not. If you grew up with parents who cared more about you than about themselves, you grew up with a privilege that many of us did not.
I mean, if you grew up with a mother who wouldn’t dream of allowing you to date a man three years older than you while you are in high school, understand that there are plenty of kids out there who don’t have that privilege.
When I finally told my husband all the horrible things I’d repressed for years and years, I asked him to think about our oldest daughter, now 16, and whether we would ever let her go anywhere alone with a man three years older than she was. Of course we would not. Looking back, I’m so confused as to how it all happened, but I’m also not confused. As I process and heal from my realization that my mother is far more concerned with herself than with her children and that it has always been this way — I see how it happened, the clouds of confusion dissipate.
I know we hear a lot about #MeToo stories with the celebrities, or in the movie industry, or in workforce and I dislike the backlash. I recently watched some video where the woman was all like, “I mean, YOU went to that room with the man, YOU are at fault!” I cringed as I watched. This backlash is evil, really, because it seems like all they want to do is tell everyone who says #MeToo to SHUT UP! It’s unfortunate because honestly, it seems like people with a #MeToo story just got the courage to start speaking out and now the very thing they had kept quiet to avoid is what’s happening — they are made out to be the ones at fault for what happened.
Obviously, I have only my story to tell. I can’t speak for all the women out there who felt as though they were abused and unable to tell their story, lest they lost their job, or their pipeline for jobs. Telling my story doesn’t gain (or lose) me anything that I am aware of.
I can say that telling my story feels like the right thing to do at this moment in time. I’m not naming names. I’m not going to my abusers’ places of employment and trying to get them fired. Only a few people that read this will even know whom I am talking about. But this is a problem and it’s been a problem for many years. It is a tragedy when the #MeToo story starts in the home and extends from there. I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only girl with a story like this. Most likely, I’m only one of many. And speaking out with my own #MeToo story isn’t going to take down an empire or plug a hole in the dam.
I think, in the end, sharing a #MeToo story isn’t really done for those reasons. I have thought about this a lot before writing this. I wrote that letter sharing my story with my husband four months ago. That information resided inside of me for 18 years of marriage without shedding light on why I could not take myself past my “damage” to share with my husband for that long. And before that I was living the story.
So why share it on a blog?
Well, I process through writing. I share with people on my blog. Someday, I would imagine my kids might read this. I’ve hidden a lot from my children about my upbringing. I’ve only recently realized I was doing it. So many times, I get caught up in knowing my children and I think that I had not realized that they want to know me, too. They want to know all of me. They are getting to ages now where this desire to know their mother — her life, her struggles, her triumphs — is strongly driven, especially for my girls as they grow into young adults. As painful as it is to be reminded of the upbringing from which I came, they need to know it and to understand it. But only if they request it (and they have started to do that).
Another reason to share is because sometimes the backlash is too loud and intimidating. The backlash to the #meToo movement has, undoubtedly, kept many from sharing. I believe there are lots of stories like mine (maybe not identical in details and circumstances, but I mean stories that don’t involve high-profile authority abusers) that will never be told because those people saw the video I mentioned earlier that blamed the victims for being a part of it at all. Many #MeToo stories probably start for girls who are in their teens who have been convinced that it’s their fault for “enticing” their abusers with the way the talked or the way they dressed or simply for being in that place at that time.
I’m sure it may happen that someone who is 100% in line with the backlash reads this, rolls their eyes and thinks, “What a stupid girl, she should have known better than to go on dates with a man that much older. Doesn’t she know there’s only one thing a 19-year-old wants with a 16-year-old? She was just stupid. It’s her fault.”
That’s okay. I was stupid and I was naive and I also didn’t have the benefit of having a mom who cared enough to handle it properly. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t abused.
Thankfully, I’m now a 44-year-old mother of a 16-year-old who absolutely knows the folly of entertaining the interest of someone that much older. She would call it “creepy” in the teenage jargon of the day. Thank God she finds it “creepy.” And I also make sure she knows how hard her dad and I work to ensure she understands her worth, that she deserves a life free of harassment and abuse. Sadly, however, I have had the conversation with her that there are kids out there her age who don’t know that. Recently, I have shared with her that I was one of those girls. I didn’t share the details, but she got the gist.
If I didn’t have the courage to acknowledge and share my own #MeToo story, then maybe no one could ever have the courage to do it and we’d continue to live in a world where predators got the last word. I refuse to be a part of that world.