I hate that there are scumbags out there like Harvey Weinstein. I hate that it takes multiple accusers for anything to happen with predators that do this shit or for people to start believing the accusers. I hate that victims take the blame.
I hate a whole lot about these situations and it always brings up a flood of emotions from experiences with my own Harvey Weinstein to how terrifying it is that so many people still voted in our current President after he proved over and over his misogynistic and disgusting view of women. But this post isn't about that.
Talk About It came as a response to people asking how they can protect their kids, how they can help prevent this, how things could have been different for me back then. Basically, many people were asking, how can I be sure this never happens to my child. And well, unless your kid lives in a bubble, you can't be sure it won't.
You can be sure your children know how to not sexually harass someone (sounds stupid but I’m so dead serious) and you can be sure your kids can talk to you.
The following, with some updates, are some of my thoughts on what we can do to help stop this behavior before it gets bad and especially before it gets worse.
Talk About It. Early.
1 - Talking about stuff like this is AWKWARD. Do it anyway.
Talking about sex can be awkward and weird. I remember listening to my parents (our house was small and I have ears like an EAGLE when I need to) talk about giving me "the talk" and Dad saying, I already knew and Mom saying "How do you KNOW that?" - well, I being of infinite wisdom at the age of maybe 9 strolled all nonchalant through the kitchen and said "I DO have an older brother you know". Conversation. Ended.
My parents didn’t shy away from much but we did shy away from talking about anything TOO in depth. I didn't need "the sex talk" I knew what that was about, but I probably did need to know it shouldn't be so weird to talk about it.
Talk about sex, talk about sexual feelings, normalize it, because sex IS normal and pretty important. You know, procreating and healthy relationships and all that. Talk about the good stuff and don't shy away from the bad. If you make it not weird - it won't be weird for your kids to say something to you. If sex is seen as shameful, they will feel ashamed to tell you if something sexual happens to them.
2 - Being polite and being liked is good and all.... but there is a time to not give a rat's ass about being miss (or mr.) manners.
As kids, most of us are taught to be super polite which is an amazing thing and an attitude that can get you far in life. However, teaching kids (or learning as an adult) that it's ok to throw being polite out the window if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe - is much MORE important than manners.
I wish I would have had the gumption to not worry about “what would be thought of me” and to have kicked my Harvey Weinstein in the penis he was so eager to thrust into me. I wish I had the nerve to turn to his coworker who saw and call him a coward for not stopping his boss. I wish when he had followed me to my car I would have ran, or I would have screamed because turned out the begging in my eyes toward said coworker wasn’t enough to get help. I wish I wasn’t worried about ruining my career by doing any of those things. I wish I knew enough to know then that if that career was ruined, it wasn’t the career for me.
In an instance like that, screw being polite.
3 - Trust Your Gut
Not everyone has your best interest at heart. I assumed everyone did and always would. Teach your kids (and yourself) that if someone makes you uneasy - there is a reason. TRUST THAT FEELING, even if it is only a feeling.
Most importantly, talk about these feelings and let the people in your life know you will back them up, you will believe them and you won’t judge them on their outfit, appearance, circumstance, tone of voice, amount of makeup, amount of liquor, cleavage, eye contact...you get the idea.
4 - Watch Your Mouth
What are you saying that your kids, your coworkers, your significant other are hearing? What are you posting, emailing or joking about? Do they hear you victim blaming? Do you tease about it?
Take an honest look….You hear a headline and think - "ya but why was she out that late? How do you "accidentally" drink too much? I mean if she can't remember part of the night what makes you think she remembered going for it with him? She just wants money, fame.... Etc. Etc. Etc. " If you've ever said or thought those things - you're doing it - you're victim blaming.
As someone who has been assaulted I can tell you, we blame ourselves in every way possible and every way not possible. We don't need other people doing it too.
But most of us probably have done it and ya, I have too. When I looked back in some serious self reflection toward an article some time ago I realized I had been defaulting to..... "well, she could be making it up, she's just saying that to get attention, she might just be embarrassed b/c she had been drinking....."
And Holy Shit....that realization about myself left me feeling gutted. I couldn't believe that I had been doing the same thing that I feared others would have done to me if I had said something or even if I were to name names today. I was doing it immediately without even thinking. Talk about rape culture. This has to change.
If you're looking for sanctity of human life, try treating those lives around you with some respect. Listen to yourself, listen to others. You hear someone joking about assault? Call them out on that shit, let them know “locker room talk” is a myth and it’s not OK, it’s not a joke. It means something. It all let's victim blaming be ok and that quite simply, is never ok.
5 - If you’ve experienced sexual assault - know you are not alone. Ever. Talk about it.
Circumstances like this Weinstein crap, when multiple people start coming forward, is further proof that this is true. It is never just you. People who do this always have more victims before you, after you or scattered throughout their lives. When I wrote about my creepy 70yr old neighbor who assaulted me, I got a message from someone telling me, they too had been assaulted by him. I was shocked. I had assumed it was a one time thing, that surely he wasn't a serial sexual offender. I was wrong and it left me feeling physically ill that by not making a bigger deal of it than I did, I left him out there available to prey on another helpless 15 year old girl. UGH.
You’re never alone. You’re not the only one. Talk to friends. Talk to family. Talk to a counselor. Talk to an organization like MOCSA (Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault) locally in KC or RAINN (National Sexual Assault Hotline) . Both have staffed 24/7 hotlines you can call for help. You are never alone.
The more we talk about it, the less stigma will surround sexual assault, the less incidents there will be. I believe in us. We can make this better. We are better.