"Me, Too": A Movement to Bring Sexual Assault to Light
It took me a long time to say, "Me, too."
Wait, let me back up. The "Me, too" movement has overwhelmed Facebook feeds this week, spurred by widespread allegations of director Harvey Weinstein's sexual assaults on many of the women with whom he has worked. On Sunday evening, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too." as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."
And yet, as I watched other women's "Me, too" posts go live - as I read, with dread in my stomach and devastation in my heart, of all the terrible thngs that have happened to them - I still didn't post my own.
Why? Because I am not comfortable discussing my own stories of sexual assault, and I don't want to feel pressured into doing so. For all the stories that I, as a writer, tell in real life and on the Internet, there are some that just don't feel right, yet, to speak aloud.
And that's OK. I don't have to; you don't have to. No one has to.
But seeing so many brave women tell their stories - painful, terrible stories that tell of all variety of assault - I realized that, in not saying "me, too," I give the impression that I have, somehow, not been affected. And that is not the case. I have; it seems that we all have, in some form or another.
And isn't that the point?
Miriam Chilton, the Union for Reform Judaism's vice president for youth, wrote last year in the aftermath of the Standford university rape case,
Victims are often reluctant to share their stories, largely out of fear of retribution.
The guiding principle of sexuality in the Jewish tradition is k'doshim tih'yu, “You shall be holy.” (Leviticus 19:2). Sexual assault is a blatant violation of the victim, and it cuts into the very holiness of our society.
We work tirelessly to create safe and welcoming communities of acceptance. We teach that everyone is created in God’s image, b’tzelem Elohim, and that we have an obligation not stand idly by while injustice and inequality exist (Leviticus 19:16).
These more public conversations about sexual assault are long overdue. Each of us is responsible for our own actions and for creating a culture of respect and responsibility that makes everyone safer. As the conversation continues, let us all stand up in unison to call for measures that will re-educate all members of our society on the sanctity of the human body, that every individual deserves honor and respect.
We have no idea who isn't telling their stories. Who is afraid of not being believed. Who's terrified of being judged. Who doesn't want to lose a job or a friend or a relationship or a reputation. Who is kept silent by embarrassment.
Victims of sexual assults don't owe anyone our stories, but to some extent, our silence indicates that there is no story to tell. When we put them all together, they become more than just stories; they become a larger narrative that reveals a deep and systemic problem with toxic masculinity, that tells of a long silence driven by fear and shame and misogyny.
You don't have to tell your stories until/unless you feel safe telling them - but perhaps we do have some responsibility, now, to stand together and to let the women who do tell their stories aloud know that they are not alone. That we believe them. That we so deeply appreciate their paving the way for us to someday do the same.
That "Me, too."
For a Jewish resource on this topic, read Rabbi David Wirtschafter's "A Prayer for Confronting Sexual Harassment."