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US: I Am Unsilencing Myself

Initially hesitant to share her #MeToo story, Ali Weeks speaks out to reclaim the upper hand.

He didn’t beat me down. He threw a hammer at me so I could build a platform and raise myself up.

Scrolling through social media, #metoo was etched in black and white beside nearly every female name I passed.

It was inspiring. Not necessarily eye-opening...I had more of a feeling of “Yes, of course. All of us.” But I was moved by the courage all of these women had to stand together and demonstrate the pervasiveness of sexual assault.

Despite the outpouring of solidarity and bravery, I never posted this hashtag on my own channels. Even though, of course, me too.

I poured my soul into a blog post reflecting on a time I was assaulted by a friend. I spent hours revisiting it, honing its points and softening its curves, but it still lives in the dark corners of my drafts folder. I told myself I was waiting to share it until I could tell my family; I didn’t want my mom to find out what happened through my blog. Then I told myself I wanted to tell them in person when we were all together. But those opportunities came and went, and again I stayed quiet.  

Of course I want men to be held accountable for their actions. Of course I want women to be believed when they accuse a man of sexual assault. And of course, me too. So why didn’t I add my voice to the choir?

“This can ruin my life and I need it not to.”

The day after that friend took advantage of me, he texted me those words. Amongst his half-hearted apologies and excuses, he wanted to make sure I would keep my mouth shut.

Up until now, I have. But it’s time for me to unsilence myself and share my story.

I was out of town for the weekend with a big group of friends. Through a series of chance events, events I watched play out in slow motion, this guy and I ended up at a different bar than the rest of our friends, surrounded by oblivious strangers.

It wasn’t the first time he had hit on me, not even the first time that weekend. I tolerated his come-on’s because I thought it was harmless flirting. I respected him and admired his intelligence; I thought he was funny. But I wasn’t attracted to him and that pissed him off.

That night, I felt in my gut that it was different: He was more insistent, more aggressive. He’d had a few drinks and used his size to his advantage. Despite my every attempt to shove him off, I felt like a child fighting a bear. And knowing him as a friend changed things. Had it been an aggressive stranger, I might have had the instinct to punch him in the face. Instead my intuition told me to try and reason with him to stop.

He grabbed my hand and led me outside of the bar, between a nearby house and a truck parked next to it. He kept trying to kiss me, pull my skirt up, reach underneath my top. I insisted he stop again and again. I tried to combat every touch and push him away from me. I said no more times than I could count. Then he unbuckled his belt and dropped his pants.

A man came out of the house (he must have heard me). I took my chance and ran.

I was lucky. I was groped and kissed; I felt threatened and powerless, but I didn’t get raped. I walked away without a scratch.

So yes, me too. Nearly all women can say me too. In varying degrees, destroying various levels of trust. In varying scenarios stumbled into backwards, in various unlucky turns of events...

Maybe I was afraid telling this story would ruin my life, too. I didn’t want to be treated like I was fragile. Once my story is out there, I have no way of knowing who’s heard it and who hasn’t, or how they might look at me differently.

I wasn’t surprised when every woman I knew said ‘me too’, but in addition to seeing the sheer number of women who have been assaulted, I saw something else.

I saw an army of women standing in their resilience. And to keep living in our male-dominated world, to try dating again and trusting new men takes even more than resilience: it requires incredible depths of understanding and empathy.

Sharing my experience will not ruin my life. Instead, it will add my number to the statistic and empower me to show my own resilience and understanding.

He didn’t beat me down. He threw a hammer at me so I could build a platform and raise myself up.

“This can ruin my life and I need it not to.”

To him, I say:

You’re right: it can ruin your life. Allegations of sexual assault are being taken more seriously than ever before. People will listen to me if I tell them what you did. I didn’t tell your friends or your girlfriend or your employer, but I will always have that option. And you gave me that option.

So to you and to anyone else who is the cause of a ‘me too,’ know this: In exchange for doing something reprehensible just to feel in control, you have given up all of your power. You might have been physically stronger in one moment, but that upper hand is long gone.

Your strength crumbles next to the strength of a woman. And you are no match for women united.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

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Comments

thank you for sharing your story and be encourage that your story has been heard. Thank you for having the courage to speak...

Connect with a heart.  Live a life of empowerment. Influence to accomplished.

 

 

Thanks so much for this, many of us did not use the hashtag but my soul is already tagged. Every story of my violence fueled me to struggle more.

 

The powerful man lost his power while trying to overpower his victim.

 

 

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale Founder/Project Coordinator Star of Hope Transformation Centre, 713 Road, A Close, Festac Town Lagos-Nigeria https:

Wow. You and your writing are incredible, you have captured something so elusive to me before and made it so clear in your statement here: "In exchange for doing something reprehensible just to feel in control, you have given up all of your power." You are absolutely right - and the strength of women is no match. Thank you for sharing your story and please keep writing!

Dear Ali,

Thank you for sharing that image of the strength and power of a united world of women.  We are getting there, and your voice and story are fuel to the fire.

Warmly,

Julie

Thank you for sharing. I resonate on so many levels. The silence that  surrounds abuse is unbearable but thanks to this platform and the changes that have happened in the world no one need suffer in silence anymore. Important to remember nothing can justify abuse and as more people become conscious of that the more serious abuse will be taken

Thank you for sharing. In my younger days people would have said, 'Nothing happened, get over it.' But I know what abuse of trust does to women, it leaves scars that often stand between her and happiness. You are brave and you are seeing it in the true light. Blessings!