Why The "Me Too" Movement Needs Acknowledgement From EVERYONE
By: Amy Cooper, ACRONYM
It was 2012. It was the day of my former job's Holiday Party. We went out and had an open bar and a party bus. It also happened to be the night before my birthday. After a lot of drinking, we headed over to one of our co-worker's houses and were trying to decide what to do next. The group of us that were still looking to party decided to head out to the bar again. It wasn't even midnight.
I needed a glass of water, so I walked into the kitchen, and one of my co-workers proceeded to follow me. He got very close to me, and I tried to get him to drink water, realizing he was very drunk. I then walked out onto the porch, and he followed me. We were alone. He pushed me up against the house and tried to kiss me. I can't remember if he succeeded before I pushed him off me. "You feel it too, don't you? I know you do." I told him if I did or didn't, he had a wife and kids at home, and this was wrong.
We all piled into my manager's car and went to the bar. He had a sports utility vehicle that sat 7, and a few people piled into the trunk, and other's sat on each other's laps. I was pulled onto the same co-worker's lap, and he proceeded to try to feel at my vagina through my pants. I couldn't act for the fear of my coworkers reacting and knowing. I tried to very calmly shove his hand away from me. He didn't stop. The bar was a 10-minute ride - one of pure hell where I was sitting.
Later that evening, after I proceeded to make sure that he didn't drink anymore, and fed him lots of water, I got him a cab. I was still caring for him. He was my co-worker and my friend. From what stories tell, he passed out in the hallway of his hotel, and never checked in, and woke up the following morning.
My night didn't end there. Midnight hit, and everyone kept buying me drinks. I accepted, after the stressful night. It was my birthday, I deserved to have fun... Didn't I? My wing woman coworker was telling everyone at the bars we went to that it was my birthday. People kept buying me shots. One of her friends came to meet us up. We lost another coworker to the streets of Royal Oak, and we headed home on foot.
Once we got there, the police called, and they had found the other coworker, to which the owner and wing-woman said she would go get him, and her friend followed. I laid down on the floor near her front door, just in case I needed to let them back in, though I could barely see, let alone function. Some would call it irresponsible to let myself get that drunk. I wasn't driving and I was with friends, I thought I was safe.
Her friend returned without her, saying that he told her that he felt it was probably a good idea to "watch over me." He was also very drunk. He pinned me down to the floor and began making out with me furiously. I kept pushing him away as best as I could and kept telling him no. He said he was very lonely. He said that I was cool and interesting and that I should stop texting the guy I was hoping to get a reply from, because he clearly didn't care about me. But he did. I blacked out.
I woke up on the couch when she'd returned with our other coworker. My nipples were sore. They felt like they'd been gnawed on. I had sores on my neck. I felt pressure in my hips, and this guy was laying on the couch next to me, passed out. My bra was missing. I told my coworker to get him away from me. She dragged him into the other room and shut the door.
I don't know what happened to me that night for sure, but I know for a fact that I was sexually assaulted by not one, but by two men in one night.
This was not the first time that some form of assault had happened to me. Harassment is of course assault. But this was the first incident of a physical assault. It wasn't the last. The list goes on, and I've taken to not drinking nearly as much as I used to, and make sure to keep company with people I trust. But with that reaction, thinking that I have to alter my behavior to protect myself, that's just the issue.
I accepted the blame. I felt it was because I was drunk at the time, that equaled me being "responsible" for what happened to me that night.
Sexual assault does that to a person. When something happens to you, you go through a series of grief-stricken issues. "Did I do something to deserve this?" "Could I have prevented this?" "Was this assault or a just a mistake?" "Should I tell someone? Or will I look bad for doing so?" "Will they believe me?"
Hell, the third time I was sexually assaulted by a friend, and when I told my other friends in the same group, they told me to "get over it," and "he was drunk." That it wasn't a big deal. I still encounter my third abuser at least once a year socially. And even if I have tried to suck it up and deal, and have become sort of numb to the incident, I still remember what it felt like with him shoving me against my car door, and me begging him to stop.
We're always told that "these things happen." That it's not a big deal. To heal and get passed it. But most of us don't. Most of us don't heal from those wounds. Even if we physically do, we mentally don't forget.
This may be hard to read. But this is a reality to many women.
According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, an average of 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) are subjected to rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, and while many are out there hiding their pain, some even take to false accusing. And those false accusations make it all that much harder to come forward when you have indeed been a victim of assault or rape.
The sad part? In my case, I consider myself lucky. It could have been worse for me. I could have been murdered. I could have been beaten or hurt, like some of the other victims. And my reality is, I don't know if I was raped or not. I can't tell you at this point. It's all a blur. But it could have been worse. And it is worse for many other women.
Alyssa Milano, an actress, tweeted out an image on October 15 that read the following:
Since then, many women have taken to multiple forms of social media to express their "Me Too" instances. Either just saying the phrase as a Facebook Status, or elaborating with their own stories. Noting that their abusers were strangers, friends, fathers, and even the select few men that shared that they too have been victims.
None of this should be taken lightly, or a fad for that matter.
A friend of mine shared an article entitled "What I Don't Tell My Students About 'The Husband Stitch' which was a very important and powerful read, but had a very prominent, stand-alone quote from writer and instructor Jane Dykema:
“Maybe this is why we don’t believe women. If their experience is true, we can’t stand to see our role in it.”
I think that this quote fits this "Me Too" movement, for the reason that many people don't want to believe that these things can occur to women. If they believe it, it means our society is messed up, more than we care to admit. But it does happen.
So far, I have seen one male say they've been sexually assaulted from my friends list, and one man post that he was disgusted that so many of the women he knows have gone through these things.
And while we watch the news on Harvey Weinstein, as well as have a President who thinks it's okay to grab a woman by the pussy, it's more apparent now than ever that sexual assault, rape, and violence occurs everywhere in all walks of life.
Bottom line: your body is your own, and their body is their own. If you think it's okay to touch someone else without their permission, say derogatory things to someone who did not consent for you to do so, or create a victim by your own hand or mouth, then you are the problem.
Feel free to share my story. I wrote this so people could feel empowered to speak on their own experiences, and feel as if they are not alone.
This Saturday in the Metro Detroit area, join us as we raise funds for RAINN, nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. If we all can make a little bit of difference, that's what counts.