#MeToo becomes #WeToo: It’s been a year, what happens now?
I had been watching the #MeToo movement gain traction on social media in late 2017, and on October 16, 2017, I made the decision to publicly join the movement. It was a few days before the 15th anniversary of my rape, and I still remember my hands trembling as I hit the ‘post’ button. If you’d like to see it, my original post is here.
I didn’t go into great detail in that first post, but I said enough…
This Thursday marks 15 years to the day that my life was forever changed by the evil actions of one person intent on sexual violence. I am not a victim, but rather I like to think I am a survivor and I’m living my best life!
I have watched all of the #metoo statuses on Facebook of you who are so bravely sharing, and I couldn’t stay silent about my own reality. I don’t hide what happened to me, and I want to use my experiences to help others.
You’re never alone! #metoo”
I wasn’t sure what would happen next… I felt a surge of adrenaline coursing through me, and I knew that I felt different or changed or a little more healed after posting it. I had spent the past 15 years on a journey of healing and reclaiming my life, and it felt so incredibly powerful to share my truth. Honestly, the freedom I felt in that moment is hard to put into words. The fear, worry and anxiety I had been feeling, suddenly seemed much more dull and less intense. It was like I reintegrated with myself and reconnected to my own power.
Then, I started receiving so many messages and comments from so many people. Many reached out to offer support, but so many more reached out to share that they too had experienced their own harassment, assault, violence, or rape. It became very clear very quickly that I was not alone. More than that, it showed me how much of a need there was (and still is) for others to know they were not alone and we are much stronger together!
It felt so empowering to take my own power back in such a public way. I had never exactly hidden what happened to me, but I had also never been quite so directly open about it either. My original reason for becoming a therapist was to be able to help others heal and reclaim their lives after going through something horrific. If sharing my story publicly was a way to help more people reclaim their lives, it was totally worth it!
A few months after I first shared my story on Facebook, my good friend Cillah Hall with Gazelle Magazine put a request on social media asking if anyone was interested in sharing their story publicly. It would be featured in the March 2018 #MeToo Women’s History Month Special Edition of the magazine . I thought about it all afternoon in my therapy office, and after some anxiety induced tears, I decided this was a platform that would allow me to continue my own healing as well as a way to reach more people and to bring more awareness and healing to those who need it. I sent Cillah a message and told her I was nervous but ready to share it all.
At first, we were each going to submit a written account of our stories for the article. Well, what started as us sharing the long version of our stories in a written format, quickly morphed into a whole media project. We were still going to be sharing the written stories in the magazine, but we were also going to take part in a documentary pilot episode for Gazelle Life TV. Our media day was set up for January 28, 2018, and we had a call time of 10 A.M. to begin filming. I could barely sleep the night before, but I wasn’t scared, nervous or anxious about it. I was just ready.
I had no idea just how much healing would come from this media project and months that followed. I felt like it catapulted my own healing into a whole other dimension, and that alone made it worth it! On that chilly day in January, I met and connected with 6 of the bravest most genuinely authentic and vulnerably awesome women that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. We spent the day telling our stories and sharing our truths and bonding and healing. Our stories are all very different, but yet there are so many similarities in our journeys. It felt like I was spending the day with 6 other women who I had known my whole life. They got me. Like, really got me, on a deeper level than I had experienced prior to that day. I don’t want to speak for them, but I truly believe we were all changed people as we wrapped up.
The video documentary project and the article (included below) launched officially on March 2, 2018, and it’s hard to believe that it has been just over 1 year since the project went public. It is now, and will always be, one of the projects that I am so proud of myself for taking part in and representing my truth. I feel so grateful, honored and privileged that I was given an opportunity and a platform to share my story along with the 6 other amazing women who took part.
“I had a boyfriend in high school and into my first year of college. It was an abusive relationship in a lot of ways, but I didn’t see that then. He didn’t stay at my place very often, but we lived in the same apartment complex behind campus. One night, a friend of his was in from out of town and was staying at his place, so my boyfriend stayed with me. I remember exactly what I was wearing when I got into bed, and I had a barrier of body pillows between us. I was a virgin and not interested in changing that status, and he knew this. I always took a glass of water to bed with me, and this night was no different. I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, I remember thinking it tasted weird, but I didn’t think much of it at the time.
I fell asleep fully clothed and alone on my side of the bed, but I woke up without any clothes on, except my socks. I was so cold, but I remember feeling my socks. I passed out again, and I woke up the next time to feel him raping me, but I couldn’t move. My arms and legs felt like they ere so heavy, and I passed out once more. When I woke up again, I was able to pull away, flip around and cover up. He tried to tell me I was having a bad dream, but I knew that wasn’t true. Then he told me I was no longer a virgin, and that we had sex for the first time. I was confused because I didn’t remember it, except a few flashes as I was waking up. We had a surprise party to go to for my mom’s birthday, and he left my apartment to go get ready. I took the longest shower I can ever remember taking, and I tried to convince myself it was OK.
I stopped sleeping. I would be so uncomfortable in my apartment bedroom that I started staying in the small living room. I fell into a depression that I didn’t understand. It wasn’t until later that I sought therapy to make sense of what happened to me. Once I was able to understand the reality of what I went through, I wanted to help others heal, too. That’s how I came to be a therapist.”
So, it’s been a year…what happens now?
What started as a movement on social media, has become regular part of our national conversation. It may have started with celebrities telling their stories, but it has turned into so much more. We know that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience abuse, rape, assault or sexual violence in their lifetimes. These numbers are staggering to imagine, and it doesn’t just happen to celebrities in Hollywood. It happens to real everyday people, and everyone deserves a chance to tell their story and to pursue their own healing.
This movement has taken the topics of abuse and assault and brought them into the light. No longer does suffering have to occur in isolation. The #MeToo movement has allowed these conversations to occur in a very public way, and topics that were previously under-recognized and often dismissed or minimized, are now being validated and heard and understood.
This movement has shown the true power in numbers. When we are willing to share our truths and stand up with others doing the same thing, it’s a powerful force to be reckoned with. We saw that when one person feels empowered to step out of the shadow of their struggle, others will benefit from hearing their story. Over the past year, I have been truly touched and sometimes blown away by the number of people who have simply thanked me for sharing because they now feel less alone. Feeling disconnected, lost or unable to connect to others are just a few of the struggles that stand in the way of healing from trauma, but now, thanks to the #MeToo movement, no one has to feel alone or like they have no one on their side. We are #StrongerTogether and I will continue to share my story as a way to empower others to know that suffering in silence is not necessary and healing is possible.
There is so much more to say, and this topic will continue evolving as our society continues to figure out to deal with the issues of rape, abuse, harassment and other sexual violence.