You may have seen #MeToo on social media this week in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood. Women and men used it to show victims of sexual harassment and assault that they are not alone. Like it or not, there is a perceived safety in numbers. Once the initial brave person comes forward, it usually bolsters courage for so many more to share their stories.
I put up #MeToo for about six minutes last night on Facebook and then panicked and deleted it. My hands are shaking as I type this blog post, but I think it's time for me to step forward as well. Part of the narrative of sexual harassment and assault is that these predators rely on their victims feeling shame and doubt and staying silent. When a victim finds their voice and shines a light on the crime, we all take back our power.
I was raised to be a good southern girl and not make people uncomfortable or upset. To be polite, friendly, and a "lady". Not to make noise or "cause a commotion". That is exactly what a sexual predator counts on.
So, here's my story. I was sexually assaulted at the age of twelve when I was at a public pool in Denton, Texas with my gymnastic team. My parents weren't there at the time, and I told absolutely no one about what had happened. I was ashamed and terrified and wondered what I did wrong? Why me?
Fast forward decades later. I was married and had my then four-year-old son with me shopping. In a parking lot, there was a man who stopped his truck as we were leaving the store and entering the crosswalk. He rolled down his window and made a crude comment to me. I ignored him and grabbed my son's hand tighter and rushed to our car. He pulled his truck up behind the car and blocked us in for several minutes. Unfortunately, this was before the days of cell phones. All I could do was lock the doors. I angled my rear view mirror in an attempt to get a good look at his license plate and facial features. This apparently scared him off, but not before I was able to get the numbers written down. The man had a record as a sexual predator.
Another incident involved a man stalking me in our local mall. He originally approached me and told me I was beautiful. I said, "thank you" and walked away. He followed me around the mall until I approached a female clerk and asked her to call a security guard for me. She did, and the guard escorted me to my car.
Driving home from Dallas, TX, on the interstate, a man tried to box my car in with his as I drove and made lewd gestures at me until I was in fear for my safety.
These are incidents that have stayed with me and shaped who I've become. I'm a private person and very shy. It is hard for me to trust people. This is not easy to share, but I'm tired of feeling like a shell of who I could have been because of sexual predators. This is my attempt to take some of my power back. I've carried this around in silence for too long.
I realize some people will scroll right past this and not want to hear it, and that's fine. However, I know there are people like me who have gained strength from others coming forward with their stories. This is for them. Please know that I am here for you if you need someone.