OH FFS, SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!!!!!!!!!!
This, believe it or not, was the BOLLOCKS I faced during a lunchtime conversation this weekend. The comment (and more) came from an otherwise intelligent, kind and caring man in his fifties, married for thirty years to a wife who had been sexually abused as a child, and who himself had been adopted.
Referring to a recent survey that reported over 80% of women have been sexually harassed or assaulted, he became more and more agitated and upset. Repeating time after time that "women are women, men are men, it's natural to have an attraction isn't it? Surely this is life!" he demonstrated his argument by lightly touching me on the shoulder and asking, "so now even a greeting among friends could be counted as assault?"
I truly believe that this man meant no harm in what he was saying, and that he was actually trying to understand. Emotions were running high - and a large quantity of wine had also been flowing freely in his direction. With intimate experience of the aftermath of sexual abuse, I was certain he would never belittle the damage it creates! So the way I chose to take his words, rightly or wrongly, was this:
Ignoring much of his less concrete and wine-fuelled arguments, I told him calmly that I had experienced abuse, without specifying any details. This came directly after his observation that he sees me as a strong, grounded, intelligent and independent women. The immediate silence was deafening, and we agreed to revisit the whole subject - including how my work helps women and men to overcome these kind of experiences - at another time.
Still, for me, even years after I have freed myself from my own prison, his words irritated me. From somewhere deep within I remembered again the helplessness and exasperation I felt at that time, trying to explain the inexplicable, even to trusted friends who loved and cared for me. Questions like "did he hit you? Did he threaten you?" and all kinds of other enquiries that stemmed from the well meaning innocence of ignorance, simply resulted in triggering my shame and self-doubt.
No, it wasn't easy to speak about what happened. It was soul-shattering to realise and accept that the strong person I believed myself to be had become a victim of systematic abuse. My own healing took years of hard work to overcome - and still to this day, as shown this weekend, even innocent words can sting. Today though, I know who I am and I understand what happened. So it was only a little prick (no pun intended). Nothing more. And my work today helps others to understand and free themselves so much more quickly than I did myself! This is why my work has become my life's mission.
This is also why I am 100% in favour of the #metoo movement, and every other body that supports men, women and children to speak out, stand up and reclaim their peace. I am constantly horrified at the continued ignorance (at best) and refusal to accept ("it's not my business" an often quoted excuse) or (at worst) the deliberate ploys to belittle and silence those who've experienced abuse at any level.
It doesn't matter whether we have physical scars or bruises to show for what happened. It doesn't matter that we may not be able to put into words exactly how we came to be in the situations we found ourselves - and frankly, why should it be deemed necessary to justify pain? Hurt is hurt. Bullying is bullying. Abuse is abuse. End of. And the more people who are speaking out, each with their own unique voice, the more others will finally be able to hear. Then more people can start to accept the facts, even without experiencing the horrors themselves. And then we can all do something to change it.
Years ago, when I was doing my best to make sense of my own situation, I came to the conclusion that it is our kindness and compassion - coupled with the BOLLOCKS misguided teachings that encourage us to aways put others first, to put our feelings aside and understand the other person better, to walk a mile in their shoes before making judgement - that unwittingly allow manipulators to live, breathe and thrive among us. Here's an excerpt from the blog I wrote as a result, entitled "Pain, Shame and the Winning Game - a Shark's Tale", published in August 2010:
It's these very same attitudes of optimism, self-exploration and personal responsibility that made people perfect bait for the coldest most ruthless of sharks. Sharks who sneer at the pain of another and who thrive on confusion as they deliberately muddy the waters to disorientate their target even more. Pain and shame is what allows these sharks to win - and that's all they want to do. It's the only thing they know how to do. Anything else they pretend to be, is just that. Pretence. But for the rest of us, the 96% of the population who have a code of ethics, an emotional response, a conscience, we simply cannot comprehend that this kind of creature can exist among us. It simply will not sit in our frame of reference - even once pointed out. For even once the truth is laid bare, we will still struggle to come to terms with the fact that the person we thought of as being like this or like that is actually no more than a hollow shell. Automatically we will still revert back to our own feelings of guilt for some imaginary support we failed to provide. And that's what can make recovery such a slow and painful process.
Now is the time to listen to what's happening inside. It's time for us to go within, to reclaim our own light first - and then shine brightly so others can do the same. I believe we are rising. Men, women and children. I believe our collective cries of "what the f**k!" are gathering volume, pace and power. The times they are a-changing. Our voices may be small. For now we may be few. And yet, just like David and Goliath, the bullying giants are finally starting to fall.