I was 13. My freshmen science teacher touched me under the guise of ‘tickling’ when we were alone in the classroom. I didn’t have words for it. I felt weird and bad and ashamed. This is the first time I’ve told anyone. It still makes me feel weird.
I haven’t thought of this for years…. but now, the dam of silence is breaking. This damn dam has protected men who harass and abuse others with impunity for far too long. Like the glass ceiling, there are new cracks, but it is far from shattered.
Our culture has enabled powerful and important men to sexually harass and victimize others without reproach or consequences. For decades, the women that spoke out were marginalized, ignored, mocked, and retaliated against. Many women made the difficult choice to suffer in silence, rather than run the very real risk of public humiliation, character assassination and/or career suicide by speaking out.
Even if she is believed, women victims are/were often blamed: She was too friendly, she wasn’t friendly enough, she was a slut, she was a bitch, she was in the wrong place, she wore the wrong clothes, etc. In the 9th grade, I didn’t even know that telling someone was an option.
In contrast, entitled perpetrators often receive no more than a sly wink or a slap on the wrist with comments along the lines of “boys will be boys” or “she was asking for it”; or “it was just locker room talk’. The more famous or rich the pervy perp, the more likely they will avoid consequences for their actions. As #45 (not MY president) famously stated “When you’re famous, you can do anything”.
But lately, there seems to be a slight shift in the narrative, which I have dubbed the Harvey Weinstein Effect. (I’m not entirely sure if that should be ‘affect’ or ‘effect’ – there are a couple people on the planet that know the difference – but I am not one of them). The ultimate fall of Harvey Weinstein has let lose a floodgate of pent up accusations from women who have been empowered and emboldened that they may (now) be taken seriously.
Now that the dam has sprung a leak, the accusations are rushing out — reflecting a tsunami of suffering that has been pent up over the years. Victims who were previously silenced by the near-certainty of harsh backlash, are now more likely to speak their truth.
It is a start.