Becky Fein is a member of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau. Bring her to your campus or organization to share her story.
I was shocked at how long it took me to type the words “me too” into a status update on Facebook. For nearly a week I watched my social media feeds fill up with #metoo posts, and tried to pinpoint my hesitation to write those words myself. As someone who has been speaking publicly about my experience being raped for many years, I felt like I should post those powerful words. So, why wasn’t I?
For those who haven’t heard of it, the “me too” campaign went viral on social in the aftermath of the tidal wave of allegations against the powerful movie producer Harvey Weinstein, in early October. Hundreds of thousands of people posted the hashtag #metoo to indicate that they too had harmful sexual experiences in their past. Some simply stated, “me too”, and many included their own personal stories.
I can’t say I was surprised by the numbers. Indeed, I’m certain that it is a stark under-representation of the harmful sexual experiences endured in our culture.
The words “me too” from a close friend many years ago were for me, like for so many others, what finally relieved some shame that I felt around my sexual assault, and let me know that I wasn’t alone. Those mighty words changed everything, and forever shifted the trajectory of my healing journey. “Me too” are truly profound words to me.
The #metoo campaign created the space for solidarity, strength in numbers, and that potentially life-saving sense of community around an extremely vulnerable experience. Sexual assault is often shrouded in silence and shame. #metoo brought these stories out from the shadows in an unprecedented way.
It is without any doubt, a game-changer.
That said, I still wasn’t fully ready to type it out in my own status box right away. And I now understand why.
As a public figure whose focus is on sexual assault, I’ve learned that maintaining control of when and to whom I share my story is of the utmost importance to my own mental health maintenance. I’ve learned that I don’t owe anyone my story, and I have nothing to prove. I’ve chosen to share my story publicly in service to healing, both my own and others’, and I’ve learned to listen to my body when I feel a boundary being pushed.
In the first few days of #metoo, my body was telling me not to post yet, and I listened. I didn’t have to know exactly why yet. I now recognize that the feeling of “I should post” is why I hesitated. When it comes to my story of surviving rape, there’s no room for “shoulds” anymore.
I did eventually type #metoo, and proudly shared the status with my Facebook community. I did so when I felt ready, and personally empowered.
To those who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, and/or harassment, whether or not you chose to post #metoo, know that your story is yours to share with whomever you choose, when you are ready. You do not owe it to anyone to share. And when you do share, you are entitled to your own terms and circumstances. Your solidarity with the movement does not need to be made public to be real, unless that feels right to you.
You are believed, your story matters, and you are not alone.