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On #MeToo

 

When the #MeToo hashtag first appeared, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I was afraid that it would minimize the seriousness of sexual harassment and sexual assault, watering the terms down to the point of meaninglessness, and I doubted that it would lead anywhere. I was wrong. It hasn’t gone away, instead, because of twitter and Facebook and some very good journalism, women’s voices are being heard and abusers are being named, and even fired.

But not all of them. Woody Allen still gets to make movies. And Stephen Colbert still promotes his movies on The Late Show. Actors still make excuses to work with Woody Allen, and say things like, I don’t want to take sides in a “family issue.” They don’t say, I don’t have an opinion on a moral issue of deep significance that represents the misuse of power not only of men in general but of fathers in particular, because that would make them sound icky.

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There are even people who think it is a legitimate thing to say, of a politician, I don’t care that he’s a pedophile, as long as he belongs to my political party.

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“No way!”

I’m not sure why certain cases are taken seriously and others aren’t. I’m not sure where this whirlwind is going to land, and I worry that there will, as always, be a backlash. I’m also not a fan of the assumption that this is simply a men against women issue, as if all women have taken the high road. Unfortunately, women have been as expert at shutting down other women’s voices as men have.

My experience, as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, has been that people, of both sexes, did not want to know. And if they heard me and believed me, they still thought I should be able to get over it quickly. Maybe a year of therapy, at the most. But I’m in year twenty-something of therapy and I see no end in sight. I wrote a novel about childhood sexual abuse, but editors told me that they found the subject matter, or the way I addressed it, too painful to read, and too difficult to place, no matter how “beautifully written.” Even when I went to graduate school for writing, and sat with other writers in classes, and bars, and on couches in dorms, there was a deep unwillingness to listen to people who shared these kinds of painful stories, unless they were wrapped in the cozy fluff of sci fi or horror or mystery, or, alternatively, gave graphic details of the sex acts. There is very little tolerance for a story that emphasizes the fear and vulnerability of the victim, and the complex and time consuming process of recovery. People want something easier to live with. They want empowerment and resolution in two hundred and fifty pages.

I am afraid that, even now, the reason why #MeToo was so successful is because people only had to read two anonymous words, and didn’t have to bother with the whole, difficult story. I am afraid that those two words are all I am really allowed to say.

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“You can’t shut me up!”

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

150 responses »

  1. The tide has begun to turn at last, hasn’t it? Those who have suffered are more likely to be believed and be taken seriously, thank heavens. Pip

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  2. I think the painful truth was too hard for many to hear. I’m not sure if it’s that they didn’t want to believe us so much as it was easier to blame us so then they wouldn’t have to listen or get involved in any way. It is always uncomfortable to see another human in pain, especially when it’s caused by another human. We didn’t talk about cancer, aids, mental illness, and so on, until the voices were too loud to ignore. Then we got comfortable with those stories and found ways to help. Right now there are so many voices at once telling their stories on sexual abuse and harassment that I think there is no way to avoid hearing the truth(s). People knew what was going on, really. Now they’re acclimating themselves to the feelings that come with listening to these painful stories, and now they can join us in support and healing. I believe the coming together will heal many wounds, including loved ones who just didn’t know what to do until now, which starts with listening and believing to us.

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  3. I am sorry. I posted my comment to the wrong post 😦 It is meant for the #metoo post

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  4. Unfortunately, people don’t want to hear and read about the naked truth. They want a fairy tale story.That is why, in my opinion, FB is so successful. It’s real tv with rose-tinted sunglasses. I think it is very brave of you to have written a book about your painful past. Keep plowing the field. The seeds of hope will grow eventually if they can feel the light and are watered.

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  5. This is a situation that is strongly associated with shame. We all have something that is haunting us. It is scary to face the fact such stories happen in reality. Every time someone faces it – our own sense of shame and being invalid bothers us again. I totally agree with you.

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  6. A powerful and perceptive post. ❤

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  7. Strong words, Rachael. Your view is very important. Woody Allen still makes movies and Trump is still President. But #metoo has cracked a start in the protective shell.

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  8. Great assertive post Rachel. Lets just keep doing our bit and the world will be a better place someday.

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  9. My heart breaks for you on this one, Rachel, but I have the most sincere admiration for your successful perseverance in the struggle. Your words resonate on so many topics – but none will speak to your readers more than this one.
    Bless your heart.

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  10. Sadly, I missed this post until now, what a good read. Sorry for your own abuse, but proud that you wrote a book on it. I used my own sexual abuse also as a voice when I substitute taught – luckily back then you didn’t have to have a degree to substitute, it was more like ‘babysitting’. But growing up in a Hispanic area where girls were getting pregnant while in junior high and high school, I’m glad I was able to share my story with some of them. I even had a young lady tell me that I ‘helped her’ out of an abusive relationship. So, yes this ‘movement’ has some good to it, but agree that it’s sad that we still condone some men (and women) in power and overlook their digressions. One of mine was a Catholic priest and even then I was told “we don’t talk about it”, but decades later when several priests got in trouble, it’s like the floodgates were open. Your fortunate to have had therapy, I, unfortunately, didn’t until I sent myself to a hypnotherapist in college. At least I feel that my own voice empowered me though through it. Just like you! 🙂

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  11. Never underestimate the value of your experience, to yourself and the world. #MeToo has been powerful and although there will always be those who belittle or reduce the significance of the experiences being brought forth, know that there are so many more who support those who have experienced abuse and/or harassment. Whether individuals come forward now, later, or never, does not reduce the severity and importance of the movement. Stay strong, there is lots of support out there.

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  12. You have a story to tell but your audience can’t be reached. Perhaps writing is not the proper venue for you. There are many ways to use the abuse you suffered and are still taking with you. At the Crisis Centre I talked with several sexually abused victims. Some were bitter and some accepted that this abuse was done and were moving on with their life….yet this voice in the back of their head was ever vigilante for signs of possible abuse. This is something one never gets over entirely. There are volunteer organizations that need counsellors for these women to talk with….you could fill these shoes and help those that are lost. In the Halfway House for male parolees, I was amazed at the child abusers I had to deal with. I had a hard time with this part of my job. Up here natives tended to be the majority of abusers. Reading through their files I soon discovered that the vast majority of these guys were also abused as children….and in turn doing the same to their own children. I do not understand this for the life of me. One can look at in the respect that the parents were role models and this was their only taste of life. In other words, they knew no better but still the shame and humiliation that followed the act would be enough to shed this way of life, I would think. However, there are many factors playing on one’s motives for doing these things.

    I can see not wanting to sit down and read a sad story about sexual abuse even from the victim’s side. I’m sure you agree that the world is sad enough and hearing more only makes us want to shut down and not be out with others. My heart is with you for this is a heavy burden.

    Jean

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  13. This is a very interesting point of view and I am glad you wrote it. You are incredibly strong and I hope one day I will be able to learn about your story. 🙂

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  14. Thanks for this. I’m sorry you have experienced sexual abuse–and then had to deal with the resistance to seeing it for what it is–and for how it impacted you. I, too, hope the movement doesn’t get bogged down and lose what is really at its core. The time for systemic change is now…but we have little history to make us confident that it will indeed occur.

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  15. Thank you for raising this, Rachel. I’m so sorry this happened to you.I’m not too sure about movements springing up around hashtags. They in themselves can become quite a bandwagon, attracting metooism and losing it’s meaning and mission in the process. However, it can also provide a simple way for people to share their experiences. They don’t have to go to court and go through the interrogation. They might not be able to write a book, but they can use the hashtag, and it could be really helpful for younger women of the text generation to be able to use this. Not just as a victim, a person who feels ashamed, but as a survivor, an overcomer.
    I also understand the importance of having some sort of easy title to explain a long, painful story. My auto-immune disease is called dermatomyositis, which is clearly difficult. However, I usually say I have a variation of muscular dystrophy and it’s treated by medication. People usually get that. Without that simplifcation, I’d remain un-understood and much more isolated.
    Publlishing is a brutal business and I have always known that I would’ve made my first million, if I wrote a weight loss book. Sometimes, that writing process ends up being for our own catharsis. Or, the other thing you can do now, is self-publish and that could be an option for you to explore.
    Lastly, I don’t know too many women who hasn’t had something happen, although I hope the percentage of them who were assaulted as young girls is much more uncommon, but I’m not encouraged. I have two friends who were victims of incest by their dads. I knew one of those at the time and she was my best friend. I stayed at their house and her dad was the president of the school Parents & citizens association. However, I noted at the time that her dad built her this fabulous cubby house with real glass windows and a bed in it. I’d known as a kid this was exceptional but thought she was just lucky. Had a great dad. How wrong I was. This childhood experience has stayed with her as far as I know for life. I don’t think she’s married but I haven’t heard from her in quite awhile.
    I also have a friend who was sexually assaulted as a boy and has ongoing trauma.
    There’s too much of this going on behind close doors and perhaps that’s why people don’t want to read about it. The truth is horrific.
    I have two kids who are now teens and knowing what goes on, terrifies me. You can’t hide your kids at home, but at the same time, you don’t want to put them at risk. My daughter is tiny and would fit under a bloke’s arm no trouble. I just try and ease myself into the background so I’m around, while giving her freedom.
    Anyway, I’ve had to go.
    Take care.
    xx Rowena

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  16. Exactly. The same feelings and reaction my two sisters have experienced. I’m so thankful for God’s healing. Only through Him have I been able to move on and forward. People…have. Not. Helped.

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  17. Rachel, have you considered self-publishing? Your writing is gorgeous and there is definitely an audience who wants (and needs) your story.

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  18. Raising our foster daughter has taught me a lot about the long term effects of childhood sexual trauma–and that it’s not always men who do it. I recently read about a man who works to stop sex slavery and pedophile rings. He said the reason there’s not more outcry is because people can’t handle thinking about the enormity of the problem.

    It’s why when people want to blame every person from centuries ago for slavery I scratch my head. There are more slaves (and many of them child sex slaves) now than at any other time in history and until recently it had no impact on the way I lived life. I wonder if the same was true in the past.

    My mother was also sexually abused and like you no one wanted to believe her.

    Praying or you!

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    • The enormity of the problem is the reason why we need to see what’s going on, but I do understand the impulse to hide under the bed when big monsters are revealed. The problem is that hiding doesn’t make anyone safer. I love that you’re a foster Mom and really invested in helping her heal.

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  19. I would like to create a pingback to this brave post in one of my blogs if I may x

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  20. Pingback: WARNING – graphic upsetting content which may upset .. #metoo – IdeasBecomeWords

  21. It seems to me that a lot of people have suffered from childhood trauma. I get the impression that most people have suffered from sort of trauma, And what happens after that, depends to a great degree on the personality of the one who’s suffered. Sexual abuse is not worse than watching your family be murdered, and I am just using the example at random. But there are many sorts of abuse and injury, and many people have faced some of it. So when someone complains of some sort of abuse, and others don’t respond, part of it may be that the bystanders are victims too, who haven’t yet completely recovered from what they’ve gone through… or existential knowledge that they are not willing to accept. Progress is a slow process, but we are progressing. The world is a little bit better than it once was.

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