Since puberty, men have sexually harassed me. Many of them were just friends awkwardly trying to flirt, others were older men with lewd comments, and in two rare incidents I was sexually assaulted. Until now, as daily sexual allegations are being made against prominent men, I thought what I suffered had been my fault. Maybe I did something, said something, and wore something that made me as much a party to my harassment or assault as to the perpetrator.
It is a deeply emotional experience to hear from so many women who have gone through the same thing. I feel cracked open and raw. As I gain perspective, I have deep compassion for my innocence and ignorance. Yet, I am becoming empowered in a very unusual way.
That same perspective allowing me compassion for myself is insistent that I look at these situations from my attackers’ points of view as well.
How can I live and breathe as a conscious, open-hearted woman when this topic so clearly separates me from the men in my life with whom I do business, with whom I love, to whom I am related, to whom I have been subordinate, to whom have mentored me, and to whom I see myself as an equal?
Hatred and unforgiveness are protective emotions to hang on to, but not constructive to the future. Because, quite seriously, where do we go from here?
How do we move forward when everything suddenly turns from the woman’s fault to the man’s fault?
The daily news brings the topic to the table. The ensuing testimonies and conversations are difficult, the ramifications far reaching, and as a society we find ourselves unable to avoid dealing with these “elephant in the room” issues.
We can bring all of the behavior to light no matter how abhorrent, but beyond telling our stories, if we do not seek to heal our hearts and our relationships with men and women we have accomplished nothing.
Whether our societal conversations become constructive or remain challenging, what matters will be what follows. And what follows this fall-out will be a choice all men and women will need to make. Choose wisely.
Many women have been socially conditioned to remain meek and/or at least laugh off, or make minor, the harassment they have suffered. And, many men have been socially conditioned to objectify, sexualize, and harass (even assault) women without fear of punishment.
There are natural sexual urges and natural control issues that are part of the bio identity of men, but calling them natural does not condone the behavior.
The appropriate expression of these urges are what young men must embrace, whether led by their church or their teachers, their fathers, their peers and their own inner circle. Strong, intelligent, and forward-thinking women should model the appropriate response to men’s behavior toward women— the women who are our church leaders or teachers, mothers, friends and support circle.
“I have a dream that one day” all men and women, regardless of status, race, education and geographical opportunities, will live in harmony and understanding. “Let us refuse to believe the bank of justice is bankrupt,” in the words of Martin Luther King. Oppression is the same in all cultures, whether the oppression is against religion, race or gender. Those who oppress do it for power. Those who remain oppressed often do it for survival. Both arise from fear.
Time to take a new look at FREEDOM.