Me too. Two words that express the pervasive narrative, “I’ve been sexually abused.” It was the intention of organizer Tarana Burke to use these two words to create a movement where women would find “Empowerment through empathy”. Using Myspace in 2006, Burke wanted for survivors, in particular, Black and Brown sisters, to talk to each other and continue the conversation of what healing as a community could potentially look like.
The movement reached critical mass when Alyssa Milano used her celebrity status to ask survivors on her Twitter network to tweet, “me too” if they’d ever experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault. The response was overwhelming. Women, unknown and those with a Hollywood megaphone, took to the social media outlet to publically air out their “me too” and call out men in positions of power who sexually abused them. The result? Mass awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse; dialogue on virtually every TV show with experts and survivors; major companies denouncing CEOs and celebrity sexual abusers; and the news becoming a source of education on the gross stats of sexual abuse experienced by children, women, and men. The one amazing thing the Me Too movement has produced for many survivors of sexual abuse–a lifting of the veil of shame. I’m personally grateful to see men, especially Brothers, who feel it is their time to express the hurt and shame they’d been carrying for so long. A first step to dissolving hyper-masculinity.
But Burke wants for people to have more than a media/social media platform to express their metoos. She wants a container for people to process their hurt and heal. Especially women of color. She does an amazing job highlighting the discrepancy between how the media and the public nonchalantly reacted to R. Kelly and the girls he abused versus Weinstein and his abuse of Gweneth Paltrow and a host of white, known and unknown, women. The major difference, Burke explains, is that people view the victims in R. Kelly’s case as fast girls, whereas the women Weinstein sexually abused are women that need protection from predators. The sexualization of women of color, especially black girls and women in the media, creates an acceptance of sexual abuse toward them.
I think it’s important for us as contributors to the American culture to discuss what we can do as individuals, as parents, as professionals, as athletes, as entertainers to make sure that sexual violence is not accepted, reserved, or justified for any population. What biases do we have towards girls and women of color that get in the way of our empathy for them as victims of sexual violence? And, what can we do to help change that?
We are now at a critical point where we literally cannot afford to let employers, preachers, politicians, doctors, entertainers, teachers, and executives to get away with stealing the joy and opportunities for a better quality of life for women, children, and men. The statistics these days reflect that 1 in 3 women and girls experience sexual abuse. 1 in 6 men has experienced sexual abuse or assault.
According to RAINN.org, every 98 seconds, another person experiences sexual assault.
To deal with my own experience with sexual abuse by male teachers, employers, and men in my church and cultural communities, I wrote poem, after poem, after poem and journal entries that could burn through my desk. I’ve decided to empower myself by giving myself permission to call out any man who enters my world with even the slightest degree of disrespect.
With that said, here’s a poem I wrote about being conscious of men in power who abuse those vulnerable in our communities. This is about the power dynamic between abusers and those they know do not have representation AND the witness who do nothing but watch. So it’s up to you and I to not blindly follow those ‘highly respected men’ and women in power. It’s time to speak up for yourself and those who can learn from you to do the same.
Sometimes killers don’t pack guns.
Sometimes they pack the Bible or the Koran.
Sometimes they pack the Torah.
Tell you how to fix your aura.
Tell you how to unify self in community.
Tell you how to be the best you the best me.
Tell me now; how can it be?
That he can be the Shepherd, Lost leading the sheep?
Tell me now; do the people not see?
It’s blind loyalty that turns a monster into a king.
Says he’s got the keys to the kingdom.
Can bless you with new life and freedom.
Says he’ll make America great again;
As long as you turn your head when he’s sinning.
Sure he’s done some good,
Sure he’s changing the world,
He’s doing all of that,
While he destroys the worlds
Of good little boys and girls.
He’s divided into three, you see?
The man who never had a father.
The man who claims to know the father.
The man who’s too scared to be a father.
Never seen him run so farther,
Until he heard he was going to be a father.
He Jumps in front of a camera
Throwing his fist in the air,
Talking about Black lives matter.
He’s got black lives at home that haven’t even eaten yet.
Talking about all lives matter;
Womanizing women while his wife’s life shatters.
The truth is….
Imposters come in all shapes and sizes.
Sometimes they even come with prizes,
And surprisingly, some pull it off with finesse.
Never thought he was one of them? But look closer, sis.
Does he move with confidence?
But then dismisses your intelligence?
Look closer, brother;
Does he profess to know the way, but lives in ignorance?
Does he live without direction?
Does he live for his erection,
As he fails to erect the God in him?
But becomes resurrected every Sunday Morning,
8 AM… “Better be there…. God’s watching…”
Then speaks to the youth about the God in them.
And when the youth speak the truth,
He tries to slaughter them.
And he Speaks of single mothers as victims,
Tells them their beautiful as he undresses them.
Then goes out and creates more of them.
Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.
And…. continue…. to choose not to.
Forgive those men,
Because hating them only creates more of them.
But speaking up changes everything.
Speaking up sends them back under the rock they came out of.
There’s no way they can hurt us
As long as we stick together.
So which man in which suite, how can we tell?
Time will tell.
In the meantime,
Trust the God in you and don’t follow them to hell.
Illustration & Poem by Mical Asefaw