I remain in awe of the strength of the survivors who shared their stories with me. Women and men both, with terrible tales of past abuse. We must find a way to do better.
It’s hard to feel safe, I am finding. It’s hard to feel truly looked after, truly cared for, despite my many advantages, my middle class privilege, my pales-in-comparison story, my large and loving family, my rock solid husband. And if I am finding it difficult, how much more difficult is it for those who must push forward while doing without.
We must find a way to do better by each other.
I believe in conversation, I believe in action. I believe in art, I believe in listening. I believe in the power of people, but I don’t know what it will take to get a majority rowing in the same good direction.
I used to have a thing about what I called cosmic hints. Things the universe seemed to be doing to get my attention. You know…hitting you over the head with what it wants you to notice. I don’t really go in for that kind of stuff these days.
This week a heavy, full, glass jar fell off a high shelf in the kitchen and landed on my head. I put my hand in my hair and staggered around the kitchen, shout-crying in outrage and pain. The blood on my fingers when I pulled my hand away frightened me. My husband came running, fresh from sleep, unsure whether I was furious or wounded or both.
I am fine and not fine. Like everyone else I know right now.
So what do we do now?
So, that was surprising. I don’t know what I expected when I pressed publish yesterday. But I couldn’t have predicted the wave of response — especially from those who shared in the comments and in emails to me their own stories of violence, of pushing for change, of wanting to do something, anything, about the way things are in our culture, in our society, right now. Thank you for those conversations. If you are awake and wanting to help, you have my heart.
Let me say here that if you don’t want to help, don’t. But don’t hinder, either. If you want to address violence against men, or how the family court system works, or issues related, you should definitely do that. No one is telling you that you must join this fight. But recognize that this is the fight in which I am engaged, this is the issue that is top of mind for me, and that’s what I’ll be talking about here.
I have heard from men who do want to help roll the boulder up the hill, but who are unsure what it is that is wanted or required of them in this struggle. If we are not looking to them to lead, what should their role be? That is a great question, and as luck would have it, I’ve been thinking a lot about that, too.
1. Amplify women’s voices: There are smart, thoughtful, experienced, amazing women already thinking and writing about these issues. They are all over the internet. They are not hard to find. Read them, learn from them and most importantly, amplify them. Talk about their work with your friends and colleagues. Tweet links to their articles, post them on Facebook. Normalize the issues these women bring to the fore as issues for everyone to consider. Take equality out of the “special interest” cubby and mainstream it, baby.
2. Recognize sexism and misogyny and call it out: It is everywhere. This could be a full-time job, and for some of us, it is. Keep marketers and the media accountable for the language they choose, the images they show, the messages they relate. See it, say it. Don’t leave it to women to be alone in pointing it out. When we do, we are often met with: Can’t you take a joke? Imagine how tiresome that gets. And I’ll say here that speaking of jokes, you should also call out sexist portrayals of men as buffoons who can’t do anything right. That’s not helping any of us either.
3. Rock the vote: Politicians do, eventually, what they think we want them to do. Would they pay attention to a sudden and sustained increase in correspondence from men about violence against women and sexual violence? Would they heed calls for the need for more restorative justice approaches, and support for survivors? Would they make room in an election campaign for a conversation about these issues? There’s only one way to find out.
4. Put your money where your mouth is: There are amazing organizations working for equality, caring for survivors of sexual violence, providing educational services around consent, abuse and more. They are chronically underfunded, and often on the brink of extinction. You could make a donation of money, or time, or both.
5. Keep listening: Have conversations about all this, but make sure you’re listening at least as much as you’re talking. If there are questions you want to ask, like: Why wouldn’t you report a sexual assault to the police, you should maybe google that first. You will find hundreds (thousands?) of essays explaining some of the reasons. Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall with questions you could find the answers to yourself. Come to the hill ready to roll the boulder with us, and we will be glad to see you.