This week my social media feeds were flooded with the #Metoo movement.
"If all the women who have been sexually assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."
It's not been a small number of statuses. Some are only the words "Me too," some include a story, an example—or several. Some have begun lengthy discussions where I've been able to witness a coming to terms with the participants.
I didn't see the need to give an explanation for my own declaration of "Me too."
But then the private messages started rolling in.
I often forget that the people I know now, my current circle of friends, don't know about it. I don't make it a point to tell every new person I meet. I've never kept it a secret, so I always assume everyone already knows. Sort of like how they already know I'm super weird and have a goofy sense of humor. Or that I bleed tacos and coffee.
But I was reminded last night, it's not as obvious to everyone else as it is to me.
I had a boyfriend in high school. He wanted to have sex and I didn't. He won.
I remember feeling hollow. Carved out like a jack o'lantern, my insides discarded.
And I remember, very clearly, feeling guilty.
I had to tell someone so I told my best friend. She shrugged and rolled her eyes. "You guys have had sex before, though, so..."
She told everyone else. It spread through our friend group in under a day.
I told my parents.
They went to talk to his parents. And the pastor (since it actually happened at his church during a church function).
After that, life got a whole lot worse.
His mom began stalking me. She'd wait for me outside the school everyday, yelling at me from her car. She called the house at night and pretend to be one of my friends. His sister harassed me at school and got her friends to join her. I was called a whore and a liar and other horrible things.
Even now, nearly 19 years later, I still hear rumors about me told by them. That I moved to Iowa to have his baby and how horrible am I for not letting him see his child?
But the truth is much simpler than that.
I was 15. And he was stronger than me. So he took what he wanted. Twice.
And then he was done.
And I was alone.
I don't think about it everyday. It's there. I can access it if I need to. It took time to work through all the residual issues. Some of them I'm still dealing with. Like how easy it was for my friends at the time to take his side. I truly think that season of my life is why it's so unbelievably hard for me to trust female friends now. I have to consciously make the choice to trust women. Because that betrayal didn't really heal.
The young men I was friends with at he time did believe me. I will never forget how angry they were on my behalf. They made it a point for the next several months to walk me to my car after school, they took me to lunch to get me out of the school and away from the whispers, they met me at the curb in the mornings to walk me into the school, they'd stop by my house on the weekends to "hang out." They surrounded me with all they were—young men who recognized wrong and declared it.
It's those things I hold onto. Those things that healed me.
When I talk to others with similar experiences of my own, there's usually one thing we agree on. We don't need or expect anyone to understand. It's not the kind of thing that can be understood. What helps, what we need, is to be believed.