You already know what this is about, but you clicked anyway. And yet, I know that most of my personal acquaintances won’t like this blog post.
“It’s not a conversation for the open web.”
“It harbors the negative“.
Look, if you want to read a “sweet” perspective from a “sweet girl”, please leave now. I’ve always promised to be authentic, to be honest even when it hurts, and to allow God to speak through me to bring healing to myself and my readers.
Here’s my story.
When I was about 20 years old, I was a bartender at a restaurant. There were two 70+ year old men who were brothers who would always sit in my section of the restaurant. They were nice, tipped very well, and I thought I cheered them up a bit by just talking to them. Neither were married, and they lived together and were aging quickly. I thought they just wanted someone to have a decent conversation with. After months of waiting on them, and possibly a year of knowing them, I thought they were just nice, very old men.
One day I found out they only had me waiting on them because they liked the view as I walked away. The way I found out is that they told several of my colleagues in disgusting detail what their real intentions were, and one – only one – person told me. I was sickened.
To make a long story short, these men were banished from the restaurant and every other business owned by the restaurant’s owners. The more we dug into servers’ interactions with these men, the more we found out that this was commonplace. These disgusting men would sexually describe what they wanted to do to several of the servers…to other servers. The female servers would accept it as “part of the job”. The male servers wouldn’t speak up. Almost everyone who was aware of the harassment just accepted it. ACQUIESCENCE.
I’m thankful I had the support of my bosses to ban these perverts, but I also recognize that isn’t common. Most women don’t get that support, especially for high-paying customers of a business. Not many people have the fortitude to turn down revenue on the basis of moral principles. I was a lucky one. Sounds crazy to say. I was sexualized and sexually harassed, and yet I was a lucky one.
It’s been several years since that episode, and it still weighs on my mind. Can I be kind to old men who seem harmless? Who can I be kind to? It’s a trust question. This type of incident makes you question what you did to bring this on yourself. Makes you feel powerless. Makes you put up walls. And those walls stay with you as you move through life.
Now, when I meet a man – at work, in social settings, etc. – I try to look him in the eyes and calculate whether he is a predator or not. Is that fair to men? No, I don’t think it is. But it’s very difficult not to make that snap judgement when you’ve experienced sexual harassment and know women who have been sexually assaulted.
Truthfully, this isn’t my only story. It’s just the one that I still can’t understand and the one that causes me to crawl back into my turtle shell.
I have been sexually harassed on numerous occasions. I’ve rarely talked about it. Who does, right? Unless it escalates to the level of rape, nobody talks about it. And even then, very few women who have been raped admit it. I mean, what person in their right mind wants to carry the burdensome weight of the “victim label”. Forever, people question the validity of your accusations. Forever, people question if you’re “just a dramatic person”. Actually, I’ve said the same. I’ve known girls who exacerbated their self-serving desires to fit in to the male workplace by becoming a sexual piece. That’s not okay. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about women you know – many, many women you know – who are sexually harassed and sexually assaulted. We’re talking about your mother, your wife, your daughter, your sister, your neighbor. We’re talking about MOST WOMEN.
A dear friend of mine told me about a time when she was raped. It was years ago, and I still feel sick to my stomach every time that memory crosses my mind. She was 18 years old. She went to a group Bible study at her Sunday School teacher’s house. He was a well-respected man who served in the military and was about 10 years her senior. Afterward, everyone left but he asked her to stay to talk. That night, he raped her. He said she wanted it. Even after she confronted him, he claimed she wanted it, or she wouldn’t have stayed to talk. You’re sickened right now. Good. But that’s just one story from one person who had the courage to confide in me. Most women don’t ever admit they’ve been raped.
Have I been groped? Yes. By a stranger? Yes. By someone I thought was a friend? Yes.
Have I been put in a situation where an unwanted sexual advance was used as a doorway to something I wanted? Yes.
Have I been sexualized in an unsolicited and unwarranted way? Yes. Just last week I went to a local sports game with a group of friends. As we were standing in front of the stadium, a homeless man walked up asking if we had extra tickets. I turned toward him, smiled, and responded, “No”. He continued to talk, and I thought, “This poor man has nobody to talk to. I can at least be nice and smile.” To which he responded, “You’re smiling a lot. Am I getting lucky tonight?” Vile. Disgusting. Sick. This stranger had the audacity to say that, because women don’t do anything. I should have punched him in the face. He would second-guess asking that question to a stranger again. But I didn’t. I was shocked. I had friends around me. I was in a crowded place. Yet, it didn’t stop him from saying such a vile thing.
Right here is when anyone who hasn’t experienced this will think, “Quit being dramatic. It was just a random person. It’s only a big deal because you’re making it a big deal.” To be frank, most men think that. But can you honestly tell me that this kind of incident happens to most men? Because this happens to most women regularly: unsolicited sexual advances.
Unless you’ve been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted, YOU. DO. NOT. GET. IT.
You don’t understand. You don’t understand the physical aspect of wondering, “Can I outrun or out-fight this larger-sized person?” You don’t understand the long-term ramifications of second-guessing who you can trust. You don’t understand the FEAR AND ANXIETY that encompasses women wondering if they’ll make it home without being sexually attacked.
When you see the news of a woman who was running in a public park in daylight who never returned home but her body was found after being raped and killed by a complete stranger…when you see that, do you get scared? Women do. Women see that and for years, we have nightmares.
So rather than responding with indifference to someone opening up their deep wounds to try to fix a broken society, try this attitude:
Help me to understand.
We can fix this, but we have to understand the problem. We have to understand how widespread it is. We have to understand how damaging it is. We have to understand the women we love and value so much. We have to begin with compassion and the willingness to admit “I don’t get it” and go beyond that “…but I want to”.
Silence and acquiescence – that’s how vile things continue to be the norm.
From what I can tell, the point of the #MeToo movement is to raise awareness of what a colossal problem this is: sexual harassment and sexual assault accepted as the norm in the modern American society. To all of you who suffer and any of you who want to understand, I say: Me Too.
Look, everyone doesn’t have to share their story with the world wide web for this thing to be fixed, but each woman should share with someone. Even another woman whom you trust. Keeping the pain and fear inside of you will not bring healing. It will either defeat you and you won’t live your life fully, or you will become bitter and vengeful. Rather than either of those outcomes, please share your story with just one person. Allow someone to cry with you, to carry that burden with you. Allow someone into the dark place you’ve hidden for so long. I know it’s tough. It’s not easy for me either, but there is healing in understanding. Share you story and let someone else understand you.