#metoo

 

Chances are you have heard about this by now…if you have social media, undoubtedly you are coming across #metoo on almost every news feed you scroll.

This is not a small deal, nor is it something I felt I could just pass by. 

Earlier this week, Alyssa Milano tweeted: 

 

 

And it only took moments to my social media to be flooded with similar messages. 

Some have found it empowering, some, like me, have found it disheartening. 

In every emotional and business coaching session I have ever taught or trained, the message of “what we focus on grows,” keeps coming back to mind. 

And truly, this is not something I want to focus on. 

As a survivor of sexual assault, I battled with the idea as to whether or not it was worth sharing a piece of my own story. Despite running a very public food and wellness blog, I am actually a rather private person. There is much about my past that many don’t know, and much that I will never, ever share. I don’t want the attention, I don’t want that kind of publicity. I don’t want my family, my husband, my children to feel shamed about anything. I don’t want my name to only be associated with what happened in my past…because I am not the past. I am far more than the sum of the things that have happened to me. 

But today, as my feed multiplied with messages of sexual harassment, traumatizing memories of physical abuse, I felt the need to not only share a bit of my own story, but to also share what I am DOING about this.

Because in the end, it isn’t what happens to us, it’s what we DO with what happens to us that matters.

With that in mind, I am sharing this as a means to help empower the silent. Those who are in the midst of their battle. Those who may still be under the control of the one who has assaulted them. Those who are working with their harassers. Those who just haven’t found the strength to speak up for themselves. 

For me, the story begins at 3. 

One of my earliest, most vivid memories is waking to the awareness that our male baby sitter had entered my room. I pretended to be asleep, thinking he was just going to check on me and then leave…but he didn’t. As his hand moved the blanket and lifted my nightgown out of the way, I remember feeling scared, confused and not sure what I should do. I stayed silent and prayed that it would end quickly. Which it did. 

I don’t remember where my brother, with whom I shared a room was, nor do I remember anything else from that night. 

I suppose what I do remember is enough. 

I do remember telling my parents, although given that I was so young, I don’t remember the details of what happened after that. I just remember that this baby sitter and his family didn’t live in the apartment complex which my parents managed, much longer. 

And I was okay with that…I really never wanted to cross paths with him again, anyway. 

My relationship with boys from that point on was always awkward. I never knew exactly how to properly interact with them. I thought it was “normal” for them to want to touch me, to want to exploit me for being a female. I thought it was normal for girls to do this, too. There are so many moments I wish I could go back and change…to speak differently, to believe differently.

If I could go back and talk with my 6 year old self, I would make sure she knew that she deserved to be respected and what respect means.

But I can’t. And I never really had that kind of talk with anyone at that young age. 

So life continued. Being the first girl in my grade to wear an actual bra, there was much attention drawn to me. 

Boys snapped. They laughed. I laughed. I didn’t think it was funny, mind you…I just didn’t know what else to do about it.

Cat calls happened as my body blossomed into womanhood. Men, grown men, sought my attention. I walked everywhere I could, took public transportation when walking was too much…and drew the attention of many in the process. 

I remember being 16 or 17, going to the hair salon that was owned by the friend from high school’s father. 

My mother and I were his only customers that day…so he took me back first, leaving my mother in the front waiting area…out of sight. 

As he washed my long, curly locks, my eyes remained tightly closed as he brushed himself against my face.

I couldn’t really be feeling that, could I?

I tried to relax and convince myself nothing was happening…

But it was.

Finally he brought me into the studio area where my mother could see, and he innocently gave my hair a beautiful trim. 

I tried to ignore what had happened before, but then he finished with me and got ready to work on my mother. 

He sent my mother to go change so he could work on her hair, too…and he and I were once again left alone. 

He kissed me, grabbed my hand and simultaneously placed it on his penis. 

I pushed him. Hard. I told him no. 

It was a moment of strength. 

He apologized and proceeded as if nothing happened when my mother came into the room. 

I was too embarrassed to say anything at the time. 

I stayed quiet. 

Until I found out my mother had invited this man and his wife over to our home. 

Then I told her. 

She was understanding, and angry. And while she intervened and told the couple that we did not want to speak with them afterall…neither of us took it to the next level like we should have. 

And while there is nothing I can do about it today…older Grecian men still give me the creeps. (Sorry guys)

As time went on, I had many learning opportunities come my way. I had many moments I don’t care to relive, many that are far worse than what I share here.

Eventually I learned to speak up for myself. Eventually I learned to take care of myself and protect myself more diligently. 

But it took time.

It took way too many incidents for me to get there.

And really, it took a male friend looking at me and asking why I dressed the way I did.

As he explained, “You’re not trashy or anything, but you show more skin than you should. You’re too good for that. You’re not going to attract the right kind of attention like that.”

Some may take offense to this…

“It doesn’t matter how I dress, I should be respected no matter what!!”

And you’re right. We should totally respect others, no matter what.

But tell me…A man walks by you in a fitted business suit, leather shoes and perfectly trimmed hair. Another walks by you in baggy, dirty pants, shoes that are worn well past their day, a shirt that probably hasn’t seen the wash in months and a face that hasn’t seen a razor in years…

They both may be millionaires. 

Or the man in the suit may be buried under a mountain of debt, barely able to keep his neck above water while the one with the baggy pants may have a grand savings and simply be content with his life. 

You don’t know…and you should love and be kind, no matter what.

No matter what. 

But the way they present themselves tells a story, doesn’t it?

It is the same for all of us… 

So with that, when my friend said this to me, earnestly caring for the way others saw me without placing judgement on me, just wanting me to see myself as valuable as he did…my eyes were opened. 

It took me 30 years, three children and two marriages to figure out that I mattered.  It took me 30 years to understand that the way I carried myself, the way I dressed, the way I presented myself did not represent the person I was inside, nor did it serve the life I was aiming to create. 

So I grew. 

I still wear LOTS of fun, colorful clothes. I still own crazy heels and love to do my hair in all different kinds of ways. 

But I make certain that everything I wear represents the level of respect I deserve, first and foremost. I make certain that what I wear is something that I would be okay seeing my daughter’s wear because they are all at an age, or rapidly approaching an age where people are going to start to take notice, too. 

So what do I DO about all of this?

I am fortunate to have found a partner who helps me to be the woman I was always meant to be. Who has always loved and respected me, no matter my health, no matter my size. 

More importantly, I have found a partner who is helping me to raise my sons to respect the women in their lives. Helping them understand that how they speak to women, how they look at women and how they treat women all says a lot more about THEM than it does about the women they are saying it to. 

As our boys edge towards adulthood, we focus on making sure that they know every action has a consequence. Good or bad, there are consequences for what we do…

And if they wouldn’t say it to their mother or to their sisters, it shouldn’t be said.

They hold doors, they say, “Yes sir,” and “Yes ma’am,” they know when to give up their seats.

THEY are the future. THEY will be the ones to lead the way. Good or bad, what they do, what they say matters. And we are aiming to help them be the best men they can be!

And our girls? 

Our girls know to stand up for themselves. To speak up if something inappropriate happens. 

They know they have a home that is a safe haven, a place to speak up and be supported. 

And they know that the way they talk to men, matters too. 

Unfortunately, I am all too aware that if my daughters had access to social media, at least one of them would be represented by #metoo. 

Still, we get up. We learn. We speak.

We diffuse a little Forgive Essential Oil Blend and we move on. 

We are stronger than those who would try to have their way with us. Those who would harass or assault us. 

Evil will triumph when good men do nothing.

It’s time we do something.

Stop being silent. Speak up. Know that you are surrounded by people who understand.

Share your story with someone you love. Get help if you need it. Not only will it help you, you may empower them along the way. 

You deserve better. 

We all do. 

#silentnomore

#metoo

 

 

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