I'm going to delve into the personal here for a minute. The recent allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh certainly rankled the nation from various perspectives, and I found my pot stirred aplenty. I couldn't help but revisit my own experiences, which total about ten really hideous abusive scenarios including rapes, sexual harassment on the job, men forcing themselves on me or groping me, and stalking. This does not include the hundreds of men who have catcalled, whistled, made suggestive comments, called me inappropriate names, checked me out top to bottom, made crude gyrations or propositioned me throughout my lifetime, starting at a very tender age—and still going strong. It also does not include the few times I came across a man exposing himself in public. The point is, for many women, this is common, common, common. We don't talk about it in terms of whether it's happened, but how often. What's my number? In the hundreds!
And it shouldn't be. It should be zero. This type of behavior shouldn't be the norm. It shouldn't be so widely accepted or swept under the rug. It shouldn't be explained with the lame phrase, 'boys will be boys.' And it certainly shouldn't be that women who dare to speak their truths be berated, dissected, threatened, disbelieved and made to feel like the lowest form of human being on earth. How many report? Pathetically few. It frequently isn't worth it.
I admit, dredging all that up again made me angry. I've worked through plenty of the emotional turmoil over the years. I've written about it in columns and Skyline Higher in an effort to help people understand the realties and be proactive and prepared. But I now recognize I need to do more. Words are a wonderful thing, but words must be found by the reader, and that's not always the best way to reach the people who need the information most. As my wheels turn and I figure out next steps—how to deliver the message directly—my approach is focused on helping younger generations be prepared for these scenarios, because they aren't, and I don't anticipate them going away.
Looking at my own experiences, I know exactly what I should have done differently. I know what worked and what didn't. I know clearly how I could have been prepared, for which I wasn't at all. Even today I am not always prepared.
So what I ask from you is feedback on the following:
1) If you (or a family member) endured sexual harassment, assault or unacceptable behavior, I'd appreciate hearing about it but with the added commentary about what you wish YOU'D done differently.
2) In hindsight, what would have been most helpful to you in dealing with any of your scenarios?
3) If you could counsel a young woman* now, what would you do to prepare her for handling these scenarios?
Your comments will help inform my project as I figure out the what, where and how. And if you've never told a soul about what's happened to you, feel free to start here with me. I've got your back.
*I realize men are affected by unwanted sexual advances and situations as well, but the majority of aggressors are men towards women, so I am using this as a baseline. Feel free to share from any viewpoint.
A collection of columns, articles and general