Why Our #MeAt14 Stories Matter

I didn’t jump to post a #MeAt14 picture/story when the trend started. My story is not dissimilar to so many of the interactions that have been recounted.

The logic that finally got me to post was this: younger women (and I have a 21-year-old daughter, so that’s a factor) need to hear these stories. They need to know that women they have looked up to as invincible (this is a link to Diana Nyad’s incredible account) have faced down episodes in their lives that invaded their privacy, physically and psychologically. They need to know what we would have done differently in order to stand up to sexual harassment in their own lives.

Sexual Harassment

#MeAt14 (I guess the “band geek” part goes without saying?)

My Story(ies)

Incident #1

The first incident for me happened when I was 13 and a trusted male adviser in a fraternal group kissed me repeatedly against my will.

Incident #2

The second incident happened when I was a college freshman. Unlike Incident #1, it happened in a room full of other people. A trusted (and revered, at the time) male professor groped me.

What I would tell a girl/young woman to do if Incident #1 or Incident #2 happened to them:

Incident #1

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Whether you’ve spent one hour or 100 with a particular adult, trust your gut when they put their hands on you (or their tongue in your mouth).

MOVE TO A PUBLIC PLACE. Due to my ceremonial role in the organization, I was outside of the room where the meeting was taking place. I could have put an end to the situation by a) telling him to stop and b) OPENING THE DAMN DOOR. That would have violated some sacred obligation of our fraternal order, but some situations warrant breaking the rules.

TELL SOMEONE. As I’ve written repeatedly, the fact that my parents believed me made all the difference (and the fact that they created an environment where I could tell them in the first place).

Incident #2:

Many of the same recommendations as Incident #1, but with a few twists.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. One of the biggest challenges of sexual harassment (and something perpetrators probably rely on and are incentivized by) is the “shock” factor. It takes split second instincts to realize what is happening and adjust mentally to the loss of trust (if the perpetrator is someone you know already). I didn’t have that at 17.

SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM THE INDIVIDUAL. I’m honestly not sure (still) whether to say “confront the individual publicly by saying ‘Get your hands off me'” or to tell you to retain any facts you can (who else was present? what exactly happened?) so that you can recount it later. But get away — that part is a definite.

TELL SOMEONE. Tell someone, but do your research. I went to a Vice President who seemed to me the appropriate choice, since the circumstances of the incident’s occurrence were academic in nature. Unfortunately he had a relationship with the perpetrator — as his brother in law. I’ve never known what transpired after I left the vice president’s office.

OTHER THOUGHTS

Like many other women who have a #MeToo story or a #MeAt14 story, I have spent the last few weeks bouncing from resignation as the sheer quantities of stories rolled in to mobilization (a better choice than resignation, by the way!).

I recognize that many of the current allegations and descriptions of incidents that sometimes date back several decades have to wind their way through the legal system. I guess it is possible that people sometimes claim to be victims for reasons that are self-motivated and aren’t true.

But we don’t tell our stories to have attention focused on us (I don’t anyway). It’s really the last thing I care to discuss anymore. We do it to keep other people from being victimized, to try to renew our confidence in the fact that there are people in the world truly worthy of our trust.

I want my daughter and every young woman out there to trust their instincts, have a plan if sexual harassment happens to them, and have a way to address the issue publicly (and legally).

(I also want my son to stand up for the women in his life if/when he witnesses or hears about them being subject to harassment.This post is mostly about my perspective as a woman but men definitely have a place in changing the tide of this issue in our country (and world)).

If you have a #MeToo or #MeAt14 story that has lain dormant for years, eroding your happiness and making you question whether it makes a difference to share it, I give you my support (and an ear if you need it). I also encourage you to seek counseling to work through any lingering effects.

Sexual Harassment

I recently ran across this picture of my boyfriend at the time, me, and the professor who groped me (now deceased). My body language makes sense in retrospect.

Sexual Harassment

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Hung By the Chimney with Care

When my daughter, Tenley, helped decorate for Christmas this year, she hung the stockings up on the mantel.

Because we never seem to have a full inventory of stocking hangers, there were only three hangers available in our Christmas supplies box. We needed six (my husband, me, her, my son, my father-in-law (who lives with us) and the cats (who share one stocking)). When she completed hanging stockings, the three she had put up were my husband’s, mine, and my son’s.

When I said, “we need to get yours up there,” she said “it’s okay. I’m not going to be here anyway.” While it is true that she was not home for Christmas (because she is at Disney World with a friend, has been there since 12/23/15 and will be there till 1/3/16), it’s not true that her stocking does not need to be there.

I should give her kudos for putting her brother first. There have been times in the family history where I might have predicted she would put her stocking up and let him fend for himself.

That one visual of the mantel without her stocking has stirred up so many thoughts. Forget those creatures not stirring (not even that mouse); my thoughts and feelings were stirring.

I am thinking of the time Wayne and I went to Lake Butler for a wedding when we had first started dating and refused to stay with my parents, in an attempt on my part to make some kind of statement of independence.

I am thinking of numerous friends who feel distant from their adult children, like everything they say is misunderstood, ridiculed, rebuffed, or minimized.

I am thinking especially of one friend, a fantastic and devoted mother, whose only child has broken off all communication with her. I simply don’t understand.

I am thinking of the pros and cons of how I have handled being a parent, of the times when for various reasons Wayne and I have both walked on eggshells around our daughter, thinking of that extremely unrealistic filter that is Facebook which makes almost every other family look happier, more relaxed, more whole.

I am grateful that, on balance, I have what I consider to be a solid, honest relationship with my daughter, and for the fact that she is a lot nicer to me at 19 than I was to my parents at the same age.

I am acknowledging that I still desperately want to matter, that I can’t help myself insecurity-wise when she is leaving after a visit from saying, “you’re going to come back and give me a hug before you go, right?”

I was okay (mostly) with her being gone over Christmas because a) Disney is her happy place b) our home with all the eldercare issues is not all that relaxing a place to be and c) making her stay would have only led to having a resentful teenager around over Christmas and who wants that?

What I’m not okay with is the idea that this mantel is complete without her. Therefore, while I didn’t get a picture of the original setup, the one that matters is this one, with its full complement of family members.

 

Mother Daughter Relationships

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.