Post after post, each new acknowledgement has revealed the ugly truth of the violence that has been perpetrated against women and girls, almost universally, and perpetrated by a grotesque number of males, young and old. With shame, I admit that in the past I had found the reported numbers difficult to believe, particularly the one often cited that revealed one of every four women has been, or will be, raped in their lifetime. But after the courageous actions that so many women across the country have taken to announce that they too have been sexually assaulted; if anything, I now believe that the number of females having been attacked by males is vastly underreported. Having read some of the stories shared online recently, I can only imagine that for many the wounds are too ragged and raw to share at such a public level.
It sickens me to realize that virtually every female I know has been attacked in this manner. Yet it sickens me even more to know how much I have been complicit in supporting and perpetuating the culture that has made these actions possible. Even though I grew up in a household with a mother who did a great deal to teach me the inherent equality of all human beings (I wore an “ERA” bracelet in elementary school and still know all the lyrics to Helen Reddy’s, “I Am Woman”); I have had moments in my past that I wish I could take back, moments when I know I acted without the respect and care that all human beings deserve no matter what their gender identification. For those moments, I am ashamed and sorry. At the same time, I have probably done even more damage with the things I’ve said, or left unsaid, in the company of other males: laughing at what I considered jokes, making rude or suggestive comments, not calling out the behavior of other males, not challenging their lies. For these acts as well, I am ashamed and sorry.
I write all of this in support of those women who have spoken out and those who are suffering in silence. As well, I write in hopes that my words might strike a chord in other males. Just as our sisters in humanity have had the courage to speak up and announce the assaults they have endured, if we hope to ever be a part of the healing and reconciliation that needs to happen, we must have equal courage to confess where we have been wrong, where we have been cruel, or mean, or hurtful. I think by the standards of many people these days, I would be considered a fairly decent person – fairly respectable, fairly thoughtful, empathetic, humane. But I know the darkness of even my own heart and mind. I know that I have much to be forgiven and much to learn. I hope that as we hear the testimony of our wives, our sisters, our mothers and aunts and grandmothers and friends, that we will moved to make things different and better. With each hashtag I see posted, my heart grieves more. But we males need to let the pain sink in; we’ve been the ones inflicting it for far too long.
To all of those women who have spoken out for the very first time about your own experiences, and to all of those women who have been speaking out for a long time and not listened to, thank you for your courage, your strength and your tenacity. To all of those women for whom such a public witness is not the right path for your own healing, please know that at least some of us men are beginning to understand that you are also present in the pain of those who have shared their experiences in posts and writings. I and many of my brothers in humanity are deeply sorry for all the violence that has been committed against you all. Your witness to the truth has been powerful. I believe that I, for one, likely would have continued in my ignorance for a much longer time had you not all spoken out in such overwhelming numbers. May #MeToo be more than a momentary meme; may it be a movement toward a better life for all who follow.