Guess what? #MeToo — How a Hashtag Inspired Me To Speak Up

“Me too.”

It’s such a validating statement. Just two simple words and boom — instant kinship and an evocation of mutual understanding.

metoographic

 

“Have you ever been to that sushi place on Main Street? I love that place!”

“Me too!”

 

“Christmas is definitely my favorite holiday.”

“Me too, it seriously is the most wonderful time of the year.”

 

“I was sexually assaulted.”

“Me too.”

 

That last couplet is an echo that has been sweeping the nation (and beyond) in the aftermath of the stories women have been coming forward with regarding media mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Actress Alyssa Milano’s “me too” response tweet soon went viral with thousands of women relaying their own personal stories of sexual assault. Some kept their revelations straightforward with a simple “#MeToo” and nothing else.

But there is nothing simple about this. The mass response of just those who felt comfortable sharing their stories exemplifies the magnitude of the problem surrounding rape culture and sexual assault.

This is not a Harvey Weinstein thing. This is not a Bill Cosby thing. This is not an aberrational thing.

What this is, is an epidemic.

It’s a silent killer. It is embedded into the fabric of our society. It’s how women are portrayed in the media. It’s the fact that women still get paid 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. It’s how a painful disclosure instantly becomes a game of “he said, she said,” but most people make up their minds about the truth before a woman even finishes her sentence. It’s the law requesting proof, when oftentimes, the damage took place years prior and all a woman has to show for it are invisible scars on her soul and those don’t hold up court. It is a $150 billion global human trafficking industry, including 4,000 reported cases per year in the United States. It is a person (whether a child, adult, male, female, trans, or an agender identifying person) feeling like their assault is either too shameful, too “trivial,” or too futile to report.

So here I am, saying “me too.”

I was assaulted in February.

It was an unseasonably warm afternoon and my husband and I had decided to go the pool to read. We found some tables in the shade to sit at and flipped open our books. We had only been there for 10 minutes when my husband spotted a man who lived in our apartment complex, whom we’d been formerly acquainted with, coming through the pool entrance gates. My husband warned me of this sighting and I instantly tensed up because our previous interactions with this man had left me very uncomfortable.

This man was extremely overly friendly, gave me very unsettling vibes, and to be honest — just seemed kind of off. I always tried to be polite to him when I would see him in a common area of the community, as did my husband, but we did our best to avoid this otherwise complete stranger if and when possible.

“It looks like he’s coming over here,” my husband said in a nervous, hushed tone.

As my back was facing this man, I did not see him approach, but I did hear his voice as he called out a greeting to my husband.

And then in an instant this man was behind me, with his left hand on my left shoulder and his right hand firmly cupping my right breast — like he belonged there. Like it was nothing.

In a flash I can barely remember, my husband stood up and grabbed this man and pulled him away from me. I tried to steady my breath. My heart seemed to beat a million miles per second in the pit of my stomach. I was in complete shock.

The entire thing lasted perhaps 30 seconds.

After calling the police, we learned that there was a warrant out for this man’s arrest after he’d exposed himself to four underage girls at a public restaurant. He’d also assaulted various other women at the community pool in a similar manner that day. According to authorities, he suffers from mental illness and had stopped taking his medication and had been acting out as a result.

The brief experience left me feeling scared, confused, guilty and upset.

Scared, because I had done nothing to “entice” this man. I was fully clothed at the pool. In fact, I was wearing a sweater. I was also with my husband. I was surrounded by people. I was in a public setting. (So, if anyone tells you that you are dressing too provocatively, or that you shouldn’t go somewhere by yourself, or that it wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t drinking, or that you’re asking for it if you go to a private location with someone — I hope you tell them that it can happen anywhere, at any time, to anybody and to unlearn the bullshit they’ve been force-fed.) I found myself frequently checking the locks on all the windows and doors in our apartment and having anxiety each time I left my apartment alone.

Confused, because I felt deeply violated by this man but also had sympathy for him because he wasn’t in a mental state to make the best decisions. Should I feel sorry for him? Should I hate him? Could both feelings coexist inside me simultaneously? Why did I now feel oddly linked to a complete stranger? It made me feel dirty.

Guilty, because I was one of the “lucky” ones. My assault “really wasn’t that bad.” The experience didn’t last long. It was “just a boob tap.” There were even witnesses. It wasn’t like I had been raped. Why was I complaining? I should be grateful that this is the worst thing that’s happened to me because other women have had it so much worse.

Upset, because well, I was assaulted. And it brought up memories. Memories that aren’t even my own.

My mother was gang raped at the age of 19. Hers is not my story to tell, but it is a complicated and heart-wrenching one and it doesn’t have an ending. My mother’s experience has taught me that sexual assault does not have to write the chapters of your life, but it certainly influences them. It’s the reason she has an inherent need to be in control. It’s the reason she had a PTSD episode in a group boxing class in her 40s when she witnessed someone “defending” themselves against four assailants. It’s the reason she can’t watch certain television shows. It’s the reason she never let us have sleepovers growing up.

And it’s the reason why I took out a restraining order against the man who “barely” sexually assaulted me and testified against him in court. I did it for my mother. I did it for the four underage girls at a public restaurant who will forever have to remember a man’s unwanted advances. I did it for any potential women this man could have further assaulted had his behavior escalated. I did it for the girls and boys being molested in some dark corner, because it’s happening somewhere as I write this.

I did it because one of my high school teachers put his hand on my back too often and once complimented me on my looks. I did it because a teenage boy once threw dollar bills at me as he catcalled me as I passed him by on the sidewalk. I did it for the time I was on a run and four men in a vehicle barked and howled at me as they wagged their tongues. I did it for the time I was walking a New York City sidewalk while eating a popsicle and a construction worker I passed by muttered that I “licked it so well” as the rest of his crew laughed. I did it for all the times I was called something derogatory for not reciprocating a man’s flirtations or for my refusal to dance with a man in a nightclub.

I did it for me. And I did it for you.

The man who assaulted me is being held accountable.

The men who raped my mom got away with it. A lot of men do.

But they didn’t get away with my mom.

And we won’t let any man or assaulter get the best of us.

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  • Ebony-Rose Vienna

    Oh this breaks my heart, but I am so proud that you’re brave enough to speak out.

  • This is so beautifully written, Latisha. Thanks for sharing your story and so sorry that happened to you.

    • Latisha

      thank you girl, sincerely ❤️.

  • Ashley Faldmo

    With each story I am more and more shocked, but grateful that my eyes are being opened. Thank you for having the courage to share!

  • This IS beautifully written, as someone else said. And #METOO

    • Latisha

      ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

  • I’m so sorry this happened to you & thanks for being brave enough to share your story! The more we speak out about it, the more awareness grows and we can (hopefully) put an end to this awful epidemic.

    • Latisha

      Thanks Allison ❤️