You already know that sadly I too can lend a survivor’s (thankfully) voice to the #metoo and #timesup movements. Movements where it seems we can tell each other’s story through our own… because only the names change. The emotions – anger, fear, distress, resolve – mirror in each recounting, evidencing a global epidemic. Finally however, we can add ‘vindication’ to that list of what we experience as victims. And, as survivors. Finally we are able to step way past the confines of shadows – even the self-imposed ones – open our hearts and mouths and place the blame and the shame where they belong. Where they have always belonged.
Recently however, I found out that even as we are able to use the words ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ interchangeably, we still inhabit a world where that one, ‘victim’ will always remain dominant.
Let’s address this…
Yesterday as I waited for the train to head to school, on a rush-hour crowded platform a man approached me. He complimented my shoes (they WERE fly!), incorporated an overall compliment of my ensemble and told me I was beautiful. I said, “thank you”. Then, he handed me a piece of paper and told me it was for me. Now here is where and why I started this conversation with those worthy movements. In the moment he extended his hand to give me the slip of paper, quite a few things flashed through my mind in rapid succession: (1) I did not want whatever it was (2) it probably was his number and again, I did not want it (3) if I were to refuse it, how would he react? I took it. I took it because that last thought more than any other was the deciding factor for me. I relinquished my right to my rights, erring as far as I was concerned, on the side of caution. I saw myself as I was standing close-ish to the edge of the platform, and envisioned a response that included my being shoved. I saw myself as I was amongst other people looking on at this interaction, hence being privy to a public rejection of a big black man, and envisioned a response that included my being pushed. So I took the slip of paper. The young lady standing next to me, seeing my distress, kept an eye on the man as he walked away and informed me when it was safe to discard the slip. I did. My train came, I went to school.
From that moment of approach till now, I cannot shake the feelings of fear… and anger. Fear, because of all those scenarios I envisioned if I had indulged my authority and autonomy to reject anything other than his compliments and anger because we live in a world/time where my thinking about my response is both valid and prudent!
You know what? One of the sickening fascinations with the #metoo movement is its staggering numbers. Daily, we are being introduced (or is it, re-introduced) to women and men we thought we knew. Women and men with debilitating secrets they have been carrying around in solitude for fear of reprisals – whether emotional, physical or economical. Victims and survivors forced to make choices based on the arrogance and authority of others. Based on the careful perusal of possible options and finding themselves vulnerable. Victims and survivors forced to take the unwanted slip of paper…
There are those, I know, who would scoff at my reaction of yesterday, even going so far to consider my reaction (inclusive of writing about it), an overreaction. People who, unless something happens to them or those they care about, lack empathy and understanding. To you I say, “I thank God you were never victimized!” Yes, the gentleman yesterday could be a perfectly lovely man who, if I had politely refused to accept his offering could have simply wished me a great evening and gone on his way, respectfully. Absolutely plausible. But, I have also encountered those others for whom a rejection of either their subtle or overt advances resulted in my being called a host of derogatory, degrading and at times, debilitating names. And, I have read of those encounters where some have even escalated past the name-calling. So, I took the slip of paper.
I am grateful that in my (and my daughter’s lifetime) there are conversations that are exposing the rampant nature of all types of abuse. I am grateful that victims have been given back their voices… and are using it. As a victim and a survivor I feel empowered and am finding strength in the very sad reality of the growing numbers. It is time. It has been time. And finally, thankfully, gratefully, miraculously, joyously… #timesup. A man slipped me a piece of paper and it sparked this post. His gesture may have been well-intentioned. My reaction to it lets me know that still living in me somewhere is a legacy of victimization. I used to think that it was only loud noises, raised voices and slamming doors that triggered remembered trauma; now I know that I am positively, completely and unquestionably traumatized by the notion of my right to exercise my will being usurped or eradicated.
A man slipped me a piece of paper and it slipped me right back to that time… #metoo