Yesterday, the hashtag #metoo went viral. A rally cry for those who have suffered sexual harassment or abuse, social media flooded with the stark reality of the sheer number of people (mostly women) who have experienced this horrific injustice.
As Dan and I talked about the hashtag while we got ready for bed I made the comment, “Almost every woman can make that claim.” That’s crazy, right? Surely an exaggeration after being swept up in the emotional toll of an online movement.
I would be hard pressed to find a single one of my women friends who hasn’t been the subject of unwanted looks, comments, advances, or touch. Some by strangers, others by people they knew, even trusted and loved. This is staggering but not surprising anymore. #Metoo has been trending in hushed whispers and trusted companionship for ages. It’s not new to women. So why has it taken so long for women to speak up?
First, it hasn’t. It’s just taken this long for people to listen.
Second, the answer to this (offensive, victim blaming) question is easy.
We as a society have decided that there are a million things more important than the bodily, spiritual, and emotional safety of our people. And in doing so we have decided to protect the abuser and not the abused.
We protect them in our education system because we have decided that game wins and school pride are more important than the human spirit.
We protect them in our churches and cathedrals because we have decided that appearances and reputation are more important than the holiness of a person’s intrinsic worth.
We protect them in our entertainment because we have decided a few hours of amusement and distraction are more important than the shattered lives littered behind the scenes.
We protect them in our government because we have decided that money and party lines are more important than the value of human dignity.
We protect them in our communities, neighborhoods, our homes because confrontation is hard and messy and challenging and why rock the boat when it’s only a very battered, shame filled, broken heart at stake?
We live in a country where a man can PUBLICALLY sexually assault an unconscious woman—he can literally be caught in the act of sexual assault—and he will be sentenced to six months in jail. And only serve three.
We live in a country where a politician can brag about his sexual predatory ways, and remain unapologetic for it, and we will give him more power by electing him to the highest office in the land.
We live in a country where a football coach can abuse countless children for years, and school officials will cover it up for the sake of a solid sports program.
We live in a country where I don’t even have to name names or post links to the situations above because we all know who they are, and yet it still isn’t enough.
We place both the blame of the incident AND the burden of finding a solution at the feet of those who are in desperate need of help. “Why didn’t you speak up sooner?” We don’t get to be surprised that the abused don’t speak up. We as a nation have given them too many reasons not to do it. But when they get brave, when a movement sparks and safety comes in numbers, then for the sake of everything good and holy, pay attention. Don’t write it off, don’t play dumb, don’t act like it’s someone else’s problem. It’s our collective problem, our burden to share. And we need all hands on deck to create a solution.