“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” Maggie Kuhn
What remains unsaid in us remains alive. It is the trauma that we cannot acknowledge that burrows deeper inward, sapping our ability to trust ourselves as well as our capacity to connect to others. And among the traumas we experience, sexual abuses are one of the most potent in the ways that it imprints on our memory. This is why Beverly Young Nelson was in tears, some 40 years later as she recollected “trying to fight him off… and how Roy Moore squeezed her neck, forcing her head into his crotch.” His warning that “no one will believe you” if she told anyone about the encounter in his car, kept her silent for the last four decades. But not today, and maybe not ever again- Beverly and millions of other women are speaking up, and we believe them.
Although some accuse these womens’ testimonies of being politically motivated, what we are witnessing on the national political stage is actually a culmination of courage. This movement of Me Too should be called NO MORE. In June 2016, the courageous letter by the young woman raped by a competitive swimmer at Stanford was read aloud to a nation that has for too long looked away from the long-term damage that sexual abuse creates – not only for individual women, but for our society and culture.
Reading her statement to her attacker, who still has not admitted his crime, was a collective wake up call. She said “I want the judge to know that he ignited a tiny fire. If anything, this is a reason for all of us to speak even louder.” As she shared her symptoms first hand, of PTSD and major depression, it made us look at the life-changing impact that most survivors suffer long after the attack. And it also emboldened more women to come forward with their stories. Many experts believe that the recent federal study showing a huge surge in sexual abuse on campuses is a sign of more reporting.
And then there are the famous athletes and Hollywood producers, stand up comedians… politicians who were once law enforcement agents. The sex abuses that women suffer happen at all ages and socioeconomic levels. In fact, the most disturbing statistic about sexual abuse is that, according to a National Crime Survey conducted by the Department of Justice, four out of five sexually assaulted women were attacked by a current or former husband, cohabitating partner, friend or date.
The great news is that the gig is up. NO MORE. With each courageous woman who speaks out and holds perpetrators accountable, the tides are turning. NO MORE silence, NO MORE shame. NO MORE fear is where we are headed in this lifetime. And no matter how long it takes a woman to stand up and speak out, you can bet that we will continue this inexorable march to sexual freedom and choice. Gentlemen, take a lesson from Louis CK- and own up. The reign of your denial is over: be contrite, promise to do better because women will continue to speak up and they will be heard. And we will believe them.
It is kind of thrilling to be swept up in this sea of change that will inevitably bring more sexual empowerment and freedom to all of us.