This past week we have been seeing the “Me too” posts on FB, and some of you men are wondering what this phrase is all about. Me too was started to shine a light on how many women have been sexually assaulted, whether it was a quick squeeze or a full-on assault. I imagine it is causing women, including myself, to have old memories they would like to keep hidden away, to now resurface.
These parts of our lives are not ones we are proud of or want to be exposed. We have watched men repeatedly get pardoned for their sexual indiscretions, especially if they are high-powered, rich or famous. Speaking up may help some of these men to realize women are not going to stay quiet when abused.
We have a voice.
When I was sixteen, I was traveling around southern Ontario one summer, staying in the homes of strangers. Before you start to think I was a wild-hippie, rebelling against my single mother, I will break your bubble and tell you I was a summer missionary. Now don’t go clicking off this post because you think my story is going to be boring, it was actually a very eye-opening, life-altering summer:
It started at training camp. We were there for two weeks learning how to teach children about Jesus. Skirts were mandatory, and we were also expected to wear them when we left training and were teaching five-day clubs in backyards during the summer. I thought this was a very un-exciting way to dress and had a moment of rebellion one afternoon.
We were heading to the volleyball court to play a game, and when we gathered at the court, one of the other young men had worn a pair of shorts. I thought the camp made an exception for sports and went and fished my wrinkled shorts out of my suitcase. That was a big mistake. I was immediately told it was a no-no for girls to wear shorts since it was inappropriate and was sent back to my cabin to make myself presentable. I was embarrassed and couldn’t understand the double standard. Why was it sexy for women but not for men? My view of men at the time was already very dismal and double standard for our lifestyle’s just added to the already stewing pot.
One beautiful, sunny afternoon, a group of us were sitting under the cool shade of a tree chatting, when we started bragging about what we were good at. I proudly shared about my championship arm-wrestling skills. Of course, one of the young men didn’t believe me. Immediately a bet was laid out on the grass. If he won, I was going to clean his cabin that was occupied by twelve stinky teenage boys. If I won, he was going to buy me a bouquet of flowers. Which I suggested because I knew he wouldn’t have to pay his debt since we were out in the middle of nowhere.
We locked hands, and I beat the young man quickly, he handled it well and laughed it off. I joked about him owing me a bouquet of flowers. A few days later he arrived back at the camp after a visit with his parents, and to my surprise, I saw him walking towards me with a big vase of pretty flowers. My face turned a million shades of red as his folks grinned at me, while their son handed the blushing girl his gift.
I couldn’t fathom how I was going to sneak them to my cabin and hide them without any of the giggling-teenage-girls seeing me, I knew they would tease me unmercifully if they caught wind of my beautiful posy of flowers. I buried them under a pile of my clothes, and one of the girls discovered them.
The relentless teasing went on for days. They had me convinced the young man was madly in love with me and I avoided him like the plague the rest of the week. He had treated me in a way most women can only dream of, and I feel bad that my immaturity back then caused me to reject him instead of appreciating his kindness.
We left camp and started making our rounds around Ontario, staying with families we had never met before. For the most part, it was exciting, since I was a social butterfly and loved meeting new people.
Part way through the summer I was placed with a family that appeared to be really happy. After a few days whenever his beautiful, devoted wife wasn’t around, he started getting friendlier towards me. At first, I soaked up the attention. I was a vulnerable girl who lived with my single mother. I was flattered by his flirtations and compliments at first, then he became frisky, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it as a heaviness filled my emotions and mind and consumed me. He was an upstanding man in his community. I was a teenager from a single parent home. No one was going to believe me.
I felt alone.
I started avoiding him, and he finally clued in I wasn’t enjoying his frisky, traveling hands and apologized, not out of remorse but because he thought I would expose his secret: he was a cheating husband and womanizer. The summer was over, and I went back home carrying a back-pack of guilt with me. I blamed myself for a long time and didn’t tell anyone my secret since I thought it was my fault. I must have done something wrong to make him desire me:
Did I dress provocatively?
Did I look too pretty?
Did I smile too much?
Did I send him the wrong signals?
Did he think I was just a sexual object?
Did I have no value?
Was it my fault?
I went over these self- guilting question in my head many times for years. They were a big jumble of confusion and constant soul-searching.
A few years later I mustered up the courage to tell Vance after we had been married a few months and I confessed my buried secret. I still thought it was my fault and was worried he would too.
He was mortified and angry:
How could a man do that to you!
You didn’t deserve to be mistreated!
You were a vulnerable girl, he took advantage of your situation!
No matter how beautiful a woman is, a man doesn’t have the right to frisk her!
I’m sorry he treated you that way, I love you!
It is not your fault!
Many years later my guilt began to subside when I was talking to a woman who had lived in another country, one where women were covered head to toe and also shoulder to the wrist, a burqa or headscarf was to be worn.
She told me the story of how she was dressed like all the other woman in that culture. As she was walking through the market with her husband one day, hands starting reaching out and grabbing her breasts, this happened multiple times by different men. None of her skin was exposed, except her white face. Even her hair was covered. White women, especially, were viewed as trash and sexual objects in this particular country.
I processed this in my mind for some time. These women had to cover up since they were a sexual temptation to men, yet men were still assaulting them. In this particular culture, a woman couldn’t win, it was her fault no matter how she appeared to dress or act.
Sadly, some folks only know this sick lifestyle, and never come out to discover there is so much more to loving people than getting action for themselves and using a person’s body for gratification. A woman from that burqa culture could come to mine and be treated the same way, we are not immune from abuse from one country to another.
Women want to be loved and cherished: not groped and degraded.
They most likely aren’t dreaming of men grabbing them, assaulting them or telling crude sexual jokes about them. Women are dreaming of a knight in shining armor: a man who will put her needs ahead of his.
I realize not all damsels are lounging around, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for a man to come whisk them away to paradise. But many have expressed the desire to be cherished and treated tenderly by a man: instead of used and abused.
There are men in this world who are shining examples of Prince Charming. We shouldn’t toss all men to the curb and into the trash can (I kind of like the man I have and hope to keep him for a lifetime.) There are also women who assault men, so I hope I have not portrayed all women as innocent. We’ve heard in the media of female school teachers preying on vulnerable young men they teach. Sadly, women can also be the predators looking for innocent victims to prey on.
The Me-too revolution was meant to show how we need to take action in our society and see if we can end sexual abuse against females of all ages, which is a noble cause. Let’s not lose our faith in men in general along the way. Many would give their lives for women to defend them against predators and who also comprehend the high value and worth of daughters, sister, mothers, and women in general. I’m married to one of these rare treasures, and he patiently helped me rebuild my faith in men.
I hope this revolution causes both genders to see the alarming number of people who have been assaulted sexually and take action to end this tragic slaughter of a girl or woman’s rights and also those of young boys and men.
My heart goes out to all the women and men who have suffered tremendous pain and heartache after being degraded by a predator. Hopefully, you will share your long-buried shame with someone you trust, so you can find healing for your pain and move forward with a life of joy… and a pocket full of posies: trust in mankind and a belief that we can change the world.
There is hope. You are not alone. We have a voice.
*This post wasn’t meant to judge or point fingers, just give a snapshot of another woman’s perspective on current culture and relationships. If you disagree with anything, I’ve said you are welcome to kindly and respectfully state it below. Afterall, I live in Canada, where free speech is alive and well 🙂
I had the knight-in-shinning-armor dream as a little girl. If you want to read my novel, you can click on the Amazon link below and read about my true-life Cinderella-story, Beauty from Ashes.