A few weeks ago while strolling through Facebook, I came across this hashtag #MeToo (in the weeks following when The New York Times and The New Yorker first broke stories of the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long abuse of women he worked with) and began to see post after post of women using the same hashtag in their timelines. Then, actual stories of way too many women (some I knew, some only through Facebook) using the same hashtag began to populate my news feed. I kept thinking to myself, this can’t be true. There can’t be this many women affected by abuse. But there it was, in black and white, glaring at me and saying DO SOMETHING! So, I reached out to several women who were brave enough to share their stories with KW Magazine. Their stories follow, and I want to thank them all for their strength and courage! I hope their stories help others who cannot express it in writing…
#MeToo – Priscilla Hudson
One day while in H.S., leaving the girls locker room to head out to the track to warm up and practice for an upcoming meet, a very large football player whom I had known since I was 5 met me while coming up the stairs and shoved me into an adjacent room. He pushed me to the floor holding me down with one hand and a knee while he was taking my flimsy track shorts only held up by an elastic band with his other hand. Although I fought against him with everything I had, he was clearly in control and had no intention of stopping. The whole time I’m asking him not to do this, what if my brother did this to his sister? To which he just laughed. Thank goodness, my angels were watching over me that day because one in the form of a janitor rattled the doorknob which caused him to let go of me briefly. I took that opportunity and bolted out of there. I told one of the older girls on the track team what had happened and she told me to forget it, it would open up a huge can of worms and no one would believe me so it’d be better if I just let it go. So I didn’t tell anyone else; I just told my parents last year and they were horrified, asking why I had never said anything to them then, so I told them why I hadn’t told anyone—that no one would’ve believed me, that everyone would’ve rallied around him and I would be treated as a pariah because of outing a big h.s. football hero, or at least *big man on campus*, and that unless there was actual footage of what happened that I (and my family)would be the ones who’d suffer, which they sadly agreed.
Despite having done forgiveness work around this situation and this person, last year seeing him at an event surrounded by old H.S. people, with so many others around I felt obligated to hug him and say hello. It was a happy occasion and I didn’t want to ruin it for them because of wanting to push him away instead of hug him when he reached out for me. So here it is all these years later and someone else’s inappropriate behavior is still affecting me. Sure, forgiveness is possible, but there’s never been an apology offered.
This is just one time. There have been many times as most every woman I know, and some men, will attest to. This one cut deep because it was perpetrated by someone I felt I could trust and in no way, shape, or form had I ever done anything to show to him that I “wanted it” or was “asking for it”. This was someone in my family’s inner-circle, so to speak…or neighborhood anyway.
And yeah, I quit track after that. It changed me in a lot of ways. It has affected my whole life, the way I look at people, the way I interact, my trust level, including my trust in myself.
Rape culture. He saw that he was entitled to take whatever he wanted and he was going to do just that regardless if it was what I wanted and despite of my saying no and resistance to it.
Thank God for that janitor, my life was forever changed that day and thankfully that man was an unknown life preserver. It could have very easily gone the other way.
A Collective NO resounds soundly…and some still refuse to listen, much less hear.
Thinking I was beyond it, sharing a formative “me too” story spontaneously on my Facebook page made me realize that I continued to shoulder the shame and embarrassment of it all despite not having invited the interaction. I didn’t expect it to take me down all day, sobbing, shaking, and heartbroken. It wasn’t the physical harm because there was none. It was the mental and emotional anguish of betrayal and feeling like my place didn’t matter as much, that my voice didn’t matter. Although I know that it’s something many, many people, women especially, have to deal with, one still has the tendency to feel alone in it all despite it being such a wide-scale happening.
Thankfully I was shown love and support by people on my page but sadly found that the same wasn’t true for all of the women who dared to add “me too” on their own walls, harassed for a simple “me too” indicating that they had had experiences of their own.
One that was particularly egregious was after a friend posted “me too”, no other words, no story to go along with it, one of her male “friends” immediately come back with: #namenames #nameoffenses #bespecific. My eyes nearly popped out of my head, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! This was the response she received when she dared add her “me too”. Anyone has the right to add their name without having to go into the gory details. The whole campaign was not about shaming and outing people but acknowledging and saying No More to this kind of abusive, over-powering, and bullying type behavior in whatever form is used to express it. Sexual assault is at the extreme end of what is acted out on a daily basis, case in point.
Triggered by his response, I wanted to crawl through the computer, grab his head, shove his nose in the words he had just written, and say “THIS! THIS is harassment based on her sex. Would you say the same thing to your male friends?” I wanted to scream at him, “are you questioning her Integrity? Her honesty? This friend of yours that you have known for years, has she ever shown herself to be the kind of person that would just throw around accusations, especially being a Board Certified Trial Lawyer? Has this woman, in your knowledge of her, her life, her presentation of herself and values—which for all intents and purposes she is seen as “a good upstanding woman” in her community, of which he was a part of and she has always presented herself to be such, then why would the response be to prove it? I was livid! This is the base of the problem, when a man feels he can discount and dismiss a woman for just that, being a woman.
Waiting all day to see if someone else responded or came to her defense, I finally wrote: “I believe you.” Right after my post she started “naming names/dates” and being specific as well as defending herself and her toughness in keeping the old hound dogs at bay as well as adding that she always loved to flirt. Flirting is attention without intention, it is about recognizing the aliveness in another being and consciously and playfully interacting, it is not sexual and it is not a come on to anything more.
Her friend came back with a “sorry, didn’t mean to diminish your experience but…” So there was awareness there before dismissing her all over again. Other people chimed in but it was all “they and them”, other people who carry it too far kind of thing. Not one other person responded to her personally. Interestingly enough, although I guess not surprisingly, she responded to everyone else but the only post that acknowledged her as a person was the only one not responded to.
This broad-stroke dismissiveness of women who have dared to speak up and say “me too” seems to assuage and deflect any feelings of a guilty conscience of those not willing to look at how many times lines were crossed because it was “the norm” or out of guilt of fear of having encouraged or participated in such behavior.
The “me too” campaign was an unexpected cauterizing of a wound. Although there is more reckoning to be done, we are turning the corner toward creating more open, honest, and better ways of relating and being together. That begins with acknowledging where we came from. We have a right to our story because it was our experience and the story is far from over. We’re all in this together, or “me too”. Let’s start acting like it.
Priscilla Hudson lives in the South, writing and sharing her thoughts and experiences through various mediums and is the author of soon to be released book “How I Created My Perfect Mate—and Married the Man of My Dreams”. Priscilla may be found at www.patternsandpotentials.com
TRUST – Tikila Adolph
Sophomore year at Spring High was very surreal and at the times, I felt that being a teenager was horrible. Many times, I was alone. Towards the end of my freshman year, I joined the track team and made friends with many of the players and trusting in building new relationships. I was truly fitting in with the cool kids! It was exciting, but when the summer came, we were left to maybe calling on the phone, to slowly nonexistent relationship. In the fall, classes began and friendships were restored, but now it was time for boyfriends. I am the eldest of four children and majority of my time is spent taking care of them. My parents trusted me to make good decisions and I made sure that I could be relied upon. My father was very strict and an entrepreneur, always watching over finances and teaching us to take care of ourselves. Our mother worked at a childcare center and during my freshman year of high school, she became a school bus driver and still holds that position today. Needless to say, I spent every opportunity with my siblings at home. Till the day my new friends and I developed phone relationships. We were able to communicate over the phone and at times, with no restrictions. Our bedrooms were upstairs, including my parents, and it was easy for me to sneak down and talk on the phone for hours.
One of my girlfriends from high school and I decide to have boyfriends from one of the nearby high schools. My boyfriend was so sweet, kind and trusting. It was refreshing to fall in love. Mind you, I was not a virgin, so I was very familiar with having sex and sexual acts, which is another story too long to tell at this time. During this timeframe, I did not have a boyfriend so telling stories of sexual escapades was not unusual to me to speak these stories to my “boyfriend”. Each night we ended with an “I love you” and “I cannot wait to see you!” And each day at school, my girlfriend and I schemed of ways to go meet our boyfriends. Till one day we decided to go to one of their home games. I devised a way to get there and back, she was supposed to do the same; unfortunately, she was unable to attend their basketball game. I did not know this until the next day; and I definitely would not have gone to the game. My ride dropped me off and we figured it will be over in a couple of hours, they trusted in me and believed I was actually going to watch the game. Trust is firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone…a funny word and highly misused.
Our boyfriends were on the Junior Varsity team and I made it just in time towards the end of their game. Not really a basketball lover, I had no clue on timing of these events. After his game, “he” or who I thought was he, came up to me. I was so excited! You see back then, I was a tall and gangly that NO-ONE in my school thought I was attractive (in my mind, hence the other school boy romance). So, we kissed and he we walked outside and around the corner of the building… knowing this was wrong, I began to feel uncomfortable. But trusting this boy…my boyfriend…I went. There I was confronted by the actual boy that I had been speaking to on the phone. Imagine my shame when both of them laughed at “the joke” that was played on the ugly, naive, little girl from Spring…
He apologized and said, “…remember when we talked on the phone and said all the things we were going to do when we saw each other?” I said “yes, but not now, we just met…” He assured me that I was HIS GIRLFRIEND and we were supposed to live up to our promises. He obliged himself, but it didn’t stop, eventually four boys had run a train on me and left me there when finished. Ashamed, I put my clothes on, went back into the gym of the varsity game and waited for my ride home, assuming no one will ever know.
The next day at school, my friend asked why did I have sex with her boyfriend. “What are you talking about?” trying desperately to forget last nights events. She informed e that we were to meet in the girls’ restroom at lunch and we were to fight. She wanted to fight me because I was a whore and tried to steal her boyfriend. In my mind, being raped and having sex with different guys WAS NOT my plan of excitement and neither was it enjoyable. So now, in school, I was scared, and at that time, I should have reported the incident. But I was not supposed to be there and I should not have put myself in THAT situation, and I should not have placed that much trust in a boy that I did not know, nor ever met. I went to class distraught and one of my friends asked why I was upset, I told him and he offered his assistance. He told me to be strong and this was my chance to prove myself and to not back down. I trusted him and he told me some techniques and built my confidence to a new high! At lunch, as planned, my friend and several other girls met in the girls’ restroom. I had no clue how I was still standing and what I was doing, but I was not going to defeated a second time. A principal came into the restroom and I and my friend were pushed in a stall to continue to fight after she left. Fortunately, the lunch bell rang and we were to return to class. Thank God, this incident was never formally brought up again, nor continued.
I pray that teenagers have more confidence and trust in themselves to fight temptations and resist peer pressure. I would like to say that this is easy to do, but it is not. Being the mother of four children, I still find it hard to keep my children from challenging situations. I blame myself for this incident, but I believe every experience in my life has made me into the strong woman I am and I thank God for pulling me through. I still wish it had not have happened… Tikila Adolph
Sexual Harassment – Part I – Christine Scioli
Reporting sexual harassment in the workplace, especially in entertainment and politics where power rules, has reached a feverish pitch in the last few weeks. I sent my story to www.wesaidenough.com where they are very concerned about confidentiality. I have some problems with this as I think naming names is a very good thing. I also have problems with women who say, 30 years later, that they were forced to do things to and for men to advance their careers. For example, the actress who said she was forced to perform oral sex on a film producer. To my way of thinking, this is a very proactive endeavor, and I truly feel she could have taken a huge bite out of the problem and really made some news, right there and then.
My tale is as old as time. I quit college and married way too young to get away from a bad home situation and within a short time, divorced and headed back to college in Philadelphia, this time on my own dime. I found out about Congressional internships in Washington D.C. and was on the next Amtrak. I was hired by the Congressional Clearinghouse on Women’s Rights. Here’s how the Congressional Record explains what it was:
The Congressional Clearinghouse on Women’s Rights began operation in June 1975. Established by Representative Charlie Rose (D-NC), the Clearinghouse provides an information service about women’s rights to participating members of Congress. The Clearinghouse publishes a weekly newsletter which they hope will deal broadly with the issues involved in equality and rights for women. A bibliography of articles (news and research), books, editorials and Congressional Record inserts, a compendium of legislation affecting women, guest editorials, and information on pertinent federal regulations of concern to women, are included. In the future, they are planning to expand the scope of the newsletter and are interested in knowing about pertinent research, etc, that anthropologists might be involved in. Members who would like to contribute information and/or source materials to the Clearinghouse or wish to find out more about it should write Carol Forbes, Director & Legal Counsel, Congressional Clearinghouse on Women’s Rights, 722 House Annex Bldg, Washington, DC 20515, Supporters hope that as the Clearinghouse becomes better known among members of Congress, it will have a significant effect on the Hill. It already has played a role in defeating attempts to disapprove Title IX.
In fact, Carol was having a high-powered affair with Charlie who was funding the Clearinghouse in a nearby House annex building, and was anything but the fabulous feminist she purported to be.
Within a short time, I was offered a full-time job with a nice salary and the opportunity to attend American University Law School. I was quite proud of my accomplishments as a legislative aid and obliviously naive.
The day AFTER I accepted the job Charlie called me over to his office in the Longworth House Office Building. He said, “Chris, I’ve been good to you, haven’t I? Now it’s time you start being good to me, ya hear.”
Duh. So there and then I told Charlie he’d better go ‘f himself because I certainly wasn’t going to. Ever. He was not happy about that response.
Later that evening I attended a cocktail party — parties, mixers and networking events occurred just about every evening with the Congressional crowd. Charlie was there and saw me walk in the door. He leaned over to his buddy Doug Frost, who was the pervy Congressman Wayne Hay’s staff director a/k/a henchman, and minutes later Doug came over to me and pulled down the front zipper to my black velvet jumpsuit. I remember seeing the bow on my underwear pants as I guess everyone else did.
I zipped up and left the party; the next day I loaded up my car and headed back home.
Charlie even called me at my parent’s home to give it one more shot. My father told me he didn’t know I knew the kind of vocabulary I retorted on the phone.
And I’ve succeeded just fine without appeasement.
I am a filmmaker, writer and lawyer. I work with my husband of 37 years and he’s a lovely man and my best friend.
My caveat to all young women who are being asked to compromise their integrity — don’t ever do it.
Sexual Harassment – Part II
I just read that a female judge in Hawaii ordered a young man to write 144 compliments about his ex-girlfriend as a part of his sentence after he sent her 144 “nasty” texts and calls in violation of a protective order. She also specified he can’t repeat any words in the writing assignment. What a badass woman. I met so many fantastic women when I attended law school in the late 1970’s, most of us plugging through the sexism, typically from male professors, not fellow students.
For example, I remember Carol who was older and the wife of a minister in a rural town in southern Delaware, who drove up to Wilmington to attend class every day, then back down again to care for her special needs daughter. She aced just about every subject every semester.
Then there was Dina. She remains my quintessential badass heroine to this very day. She was short and slight and she headed up the school’s Women’s Caucus. And here’s what she did to right the wrongs in her unique fashion:
We were studying the First Amendment in Constitutional Law class. One of the dicey issues was, and continues to be, the legal term obscenity, and within its realm, pornography, which is the erotic content of books, magazines, films and recordings. Long story short, the First Amendment does not protect obscenity in its purview of freedom of speech and press. The question then becomes what defines obscenity and that’s been bandied about judicially ever since.
On the second day of pondering this concept, I walked into the lecture hall with my friends, both male and female, to find pictures of nude women à la Playboy Magazine hung on all the various blackboards. It was uncomfortable to say the least. Our male professor then appeared at the podium and with a twinkle in his sexist eyes, happily announced his question, “Is this obscenity?” (Obviously he had pulled this stunt before but this was pre-Dina.)
On the third day, I again walked into the classroom and lo and behold, there were photos of nude men on every board, wall, door and across every inch of the podium. I didn’t know men came in so many sizes, shapes and colors, and whereas the naked women were coiffed, these guys were scruffy in most cases. There was a large sign on each picture that said, “is this obscenity?” Soon the professor came in and he was livid. And to add to his chagrin, the entire class stood up and applauded. He stormed out the door under a picture of a big, hairy, naked man.
Dina had spent the entire night buying every Playgirl Magazine in Wilmington, Delaware and posting them accordingly.
I don’t know where she ended up but I am sure she blazed some trails on her journey — my guess is she’s rendering justice in some capacity, beating sexism one case at a time! Christine Scioli – Film producer, freelance writer, Partner at www.zanmedia.com.
#METOO – Crystal O’Connor
My ‘Me Too’ involves TOO many stories. As I find it difficult to choose which story to point out as most significant or the one that carries with it an impact, I decided to start from the beginning.
I was fifteen. He was seventeen. It started as a crush and ended up with him inviting me to his house. I showed up with a girlfriend. There were many other boys there and how I ended up in the basement with him I’ll never remember the specifics. I was ornery in the classroom and never really took academics seriously, but honestly, I was just like any other fifteen-year-old girl when it came to boys. I was interested in them but that didn’t mean I was interested in sex with them. So what happened next left me ashamed and confused. Even though I’d said no over and over and tried to push him off of me I still felt deep down it was my fault. I didn’t tell anyone but my girlfriend and frankly she didn’t have much to say that I could remember. It was just ‘shrugged off.’ As if this is what boys do and I shouldn’t have gone downstairs with him. I shouldn’t say anything because she too could find herself in a world of trouble with her own parents.
You see, I was the bad girl. In my home, I was the only girl and the rules were different for me. I was not allowed to do much of anything. I “couldn’t be trusted.” This was the echo throughout the walls of our home for years. I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up, skirts that went above the knee or clothes that I picked out. I wasn’t allowed to be alone with boys and wasn’t allowed much freedom without permission. I wasn’t allowed to watch rated R movies. I certainly wasn’t allowed to be at a boys house. It was forbidden of me to be at a friends house, without their parent’s direct supervision. This one was a little over-the-top but true none the less, I wasn’t allowed to spend time with girlfriends whose parents were ‘divorced.’ Yep, that’s the truth and sure enough those girls would find their way to me. Other forbidden activities were: NO phone calls from boys, NO home visits from boys and NO boyfriend talk. Now, this might all sound slightly normal but in my home, they weren’t just ‘strict rules’, there were serious consequences attached to breaking them. Consequences that resulted in belittling, bruises, being thrown around the house and worse than that was being completely ignored for weeks on end. Complete shame was rained down on me and this was 80% of the time.
To make things even harder on myself, I was a born rebel. I did all of these activities anyway. Not a lot, but I figured out with a little determination a way to break all pretty much of these rules. I would ‘get caught’ part of the time and sure enough, they’d point out just how much I couldn’t be trusted and was the ‘bad girl.’ Not sure why being a normal teenager was looked upon as harshly as it was in my world but in my mind, I’d been conditioned to believe I was a bad seed. Born to break rules and pegged as a liar in my own home. Many times, I was even blamed for things I did NOT do. It felt constant, inevitable and utterly painful.
As any level -headed person could imagine, this overall energy fed my unconscious mind leading to me not trusting my own judgment or instinct. I truly thought anything that happened was somehow my own fault.
I contribute this conditioning to the biggest reason I chose silence. This silence was also found in many other instances in my life. The trouble-maker, the rule-breaker kept quiet out of shame.
As years went by I slowly realized the root of the problems were ugly, ‘handed down’, generational flaws. I later learned my Grandfather was an abuser. He’d abused all 4 of his kids. My Aunt came out and shared this news years after his death. I started to put the puzzle together and saw it was likely linked to my Uncle’s suicide in his early twenties. Later, my own brothers suicide at 23 and many other abusive and controlling behaviors my own parents dished out. No love. Just power.
This abuse was likely at the root of my own father’s abuse of daily drinking and his physical abuse of me.
As I carried the burden of these unconscious beliefs with me it clearly points to ‘why’ I would stay silent as other harassment issues presented themselves. I would brush them off as normal. I would hide them because of the ridiculous belief I was the ‘problem’ and somehow deserved it. I would attempt to change my behavior and not be so ‘nice’ and ‘friendly.’ I would choose my clothes wisely. I would second guess myself. I would suggest to myself it didn’t really happen the way I’d experienced it.
A good example was the family psychologist that would ask me perverted questions during our one-on-one therapy sessions. I never told anyone until recently. I would tell myself he was asking because my skirt was too short, or maybe it was because he knew I was a bad kid. He’d been told by my parents I’d kissed a boy and he was digging for information to give them. He’d ask me if I enjoyed feeling a man’s ‘hard-on’ on my leg. As I would sit in complete shock he’d watch me squirm and watch my reaction. I would chalk it up to ‘psyho’ babble. He must be testing me to run and tell my parents. He’d tell me at age 17, about his mistress and how he’d pay her to have sex with him. How it was a good way to make money. I would just sit and listen. I thought it was a trap. He must be be testing me, I’d think. I could never figure out why he’d tell me these horribly intimate details of his life. He’d ask me ” if my nipples were hard.” Yes, he’d ask a 17 year old these questions and I never told anyone, not even friends. I finally stood up in the middle of a session when I became uncomfortable but more like grossed out and fed up and said “I’m done here. I don’t need sessions anymore.” I walked out and felt good. I still never told anyone. Honestly, I thought it was my fault. I truly did.
This behavior from men throughout the years I learned was just typical behavior. I did come to understand not all men were this way but never found it to be shocking because so many of them were. It was ‘just life’ as a woman.
As I’ve had two daughters of my own, now teens, I’ve had to learn to keep open lines of communication by never harshly judging their opinions or experiences. Hoping this approach serves them well and they know they always have an open ear that will listen and will always take their side.
The #MeToo stories are a revolution and it’s been a long time coming. As speaking out was once a way to tell the world you’re a bad girl and will only get you a bad reputation it’s now going to prove staying silent only feeds the wound. Hoping this short story will lead to others realizing they weren’t the problem either. This will heal wounds that have been in many cases, generational and quite oppressive.
As I’ve grown my business online teaching women how to ‘Unleash their Moxie’ I’ve had to heal my own wounds in order to help them.