“Coming Out” As An Assault Survivor and What It Means For #MeToo
During this trying time we might call The Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Epoch, every day brings a new revelation and a new match point. The Judiciary Committee voted to advance Kav’s nomination to the full Senate (point: GOP). Then two woman cornered Flake in an elevator with their heart-wrenching testimony of surviving assault, and Flake flipped, calling for a “limited” FBI investigation (point: DEM).
The White House ordered the investigation, but saddled it with so many caveats that it seems unlikely the FBI can learn anything (point: GOP). Backlash, outcry. Kelley Conway says that she too was sexually assaulted, but #notallmen (point: ?). A pundit notes that only Flake and his moderation crew (Manchin, Collins, Murkowski) will be able to decide if the investigation was worthwhile.
And I grew angrier still. How many more women will have to share their trauma before we accept, as a culture, how pervasive and insidious violence against women is? All of them? It feels like we are being asked to perform on command to enlighten and shock the conscience of the men around us just to stop an obviously ill-tempered, injudicious man from being appointed to the Supreme Court.
But then I considered what this resembles, historically.
When I was growing up with a gay father in the 1980s, no one I knew admitted that they had a gay family member, so neither did I. Most people didn’t know themselves. I kept it secret until 1988, when I finally heard a classmate casually mention, “My aunt and her girlfriend.” I was floored. I “came out” to her, telling her that my father was gay. She shrugged and smiled. It didn’t faze her. At the time, most people, including all my family and friends opposed gay marriage and equal rights for gays and lesbians. My father thought those things would never happen. That was the status quo.
It has been head-snappingly gleeful to see the change that has occurred over the past thirty years. I went to my dad’s Little Gay Wedding in 2015. A majority of Americans support gay marriage, and know and love gay and lesbian family members and friends. My own family has dramatically changed their views on, and tolerance for, people of all genders and orientations.
All this came about because of the courage of LGBTQ people who spoke up and came out to their loved ones. Their friends and family were forced to choose between a hateful and outdated social view and someone they loved. These days, most people choose the person they love, and shed the crappy attitude. Not in every case, and it’s been a long a painful struggle, but we are in a different place today than we were in 1988.
For a lot of people, it’s hard to admit that they were once homophobic. They don’t like to be marked with such an ugly and hateful word, especially since they know that they have worked hard to accept a different perspective. More people should say, “I used to be homophobic/have homophobic ideas, but thankfully, I’m getting past them. I now think people should be able to love whoever they want.”
This provides a great road map for #MeToo, which is, in essence, a coming out process. Women and men are finding the strength to share their stories in order to enlighten those around them that rape and assault survivors walk among us EVERYWHERE. Women and men are casting off their shame and expressing their pain with a purpose, which is to end the violence and pain and shame for others, just like our forefathers and mothers in the gay rights movement did.
Hopefully the #MeToo coming out movement will result in similarly dramatic social changes. The way that it will do so is for men and women to keep sharing, and to keep believing the stories of others. We* need to start saying, “I didn’t realize that violence against women was so pervasive, but now I believe it. I believe women, and it needs to stop.” This needs to replace #notallmen and #boyswillbeboys and #shescrazy and #herfault.
*We means = men, women, x gender, GOP, DEM, all races, creeds, etc. Everyone.
So as much as it upsets me that more women will need to share their stories before change happens, I think it’s true. And it doesn’t make me angry, it makes me slightly hopeful. There are lots of stories, and the more men and women hear them from people they love, the more things will change. I fervently pray that this is where we are headed as a society, so that the Brett Kavanaughs and Clarence Thomases of this world are seen for what they are: bullies, rapists, harassers and outcasts.