As some of you might be aware, the #metoo movement touches me personally. In fact, I jumped right into the the viral wave of women sharing their experience with harassment and abuse merely hours after the movement got started.
When I posted, I was coming from the place of being a woman who experienced sexual assault. But within a few days, the #metoo (and more recently, the TimesUp) movement gave birth to a couple of trends with which I don't entirely resonate.
#1 While every woman's experience is valid, I cannot place assault and crass behavior in the same bucket.
Some women posted #metoo in response to being cat-called on the street. And while I don't negate their experience, nor the possibility that it might have been a threatening one, I do find that mixing crass behavior with sexual assault muddies the waters.
Any two people might find themselves debating the topic, thinking they're talking about the same thing, when in fact their mental references for #metoo are likely vastly different.
#2 #metoo quickly went from being an acknowledgment of the problem, to calling people out, to tearing people down.
Many powerful men have been knocked down. Some men truly deserve it. Other men, who are also being torn down, committed faults along a spectrum of bad behavior: from assault, through harassment, to stupidity. Some may not be guilty at all.
And while people need to be accountable for all of their actions, simply calling them out and holding them accountable does not create healing nor true culture change.
And THAT is my concern.
Justice and retribution do not equate to healing.
Getting perpetrators out of the positions where they were able to abuse others, and sometimes send them to jail, is no doubt a hugely important step. It stops them from committing further abuse. It's a good thing that men like Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar will forever be deprived of the position of power they so horrendously took advantage of.
It is also a good thing that women (and other victims) are collectively finding a growing voice and power. This will hopefully mean that future victims will feel more empowered to speak up, and importantly, be believed.
All of this is good; and yet, just as incarcerating KKK members did not end racism or heal the wounds of slavery, taking down sexual predators alone will not heal the wounds of assault nor create a society where men do not harass and abuse women.
Sending Larry Nassar to jail for the rest of his life is warranted. He will no longer be able to hurt another little girl, and his 160+ victims now have a sense of justice being served. They also had the opportunity to vent their anger in court.
The venting and application of justice will give them a sense of relief. But again, that does not equate to healing.
As a survivor of sexual assault, I can tell you this: the feelings of pain, shame, and anger from abuse run deep. These feelings can undermine the quality of victims' relationships and their sense of trust in men and other authority figures.
It takes a whole lot more than venting, justice, and even retribution in order to heal.
So how do we create healing for both the victims AND for our society as a whole?
From both my personal experience and from my work in helping others heal the wounds of abuse, it takes:
- Reclaiming our power to heal ourselves. When we do, the feelings of victimization begin to soften.
- Realizing that we can actually free ourselves from pain, shame and anger.
- Doing the work of acknowledging and processing all of these painful emotions that have been buried deep.
(I do all of this through writing exercises, EFT, encodement work and neuro-linguistic programming.)
Once all of this is done, we begin to find that the pain no longer has a grip on us. We discover that we can revisit the memories and tell the story of the abuse and no longer feel pain, shame or even anger.
The fact will always remain that we were victims of abuse and yet, we can absolutely be free of feeling like victims.
And the beautiful thing about this is that it's entirely in our hands. We don't have to wait for anyone else to bring healing to us.
We can start right now.
And what about the men?
Yes, men (and all abusers) need to be held accountable for their actions. But beyond accountability from those who've already hurt someone else, we also need to create a culture that no longer fosters boys to somehow become perpetrators.
I believe that in order to heal our society from rampant abuse, both men and women need to actively engage in conversations around the following questions:
#1 What do we need to do collectively to raise boys into men who have open hearts, self-respect, and honor?
There are many men who fit this description, and yet we still have a massive collective experience of oppression of women by men.
#2 How and where are boys systematically abused and stunted emotionally?
Having healed the deep wounds of my abuse allowed me to see that the man on the other side of my story was a very wounded person himself.
Some abusers have serious mental health issues. But as despicable or sick as some of these predators may be, I believe they were not born that way. Not only did their life shape them but somehow, they also did not get the support they needed so as to not become abusers.
Granted, not all wounded people turn around and wound others; but the more we seek to understand why one human harms another, the more we tend to find that the perpetrator was wounded him/herself, sometimes at a very young age.
If we all want to see a world where #metoo no longer exists, we must ALL participate in the healing of our society.
We need to engage in healing conversations around these questions, rather than blaming.
We need to ask ourselves how can women and men help each other heal?
And perhaps the two top questions for bridging the masculine-feminine chasm:
#3 Men need to ask themselves, what can we collectively do to make amends to the wounded feminine?
For men to feel that they're not on the defensive, or watching out for a "crazy woman" who will "accuse" them of something, they need to step in and be a part of these conversations.
Critically, as I've already seen some men do, they can step forward and be a part of creating a different masculine culture, where it's no longer cool to boast of their stories of oppression and forceful conquests (their "locker-room talk",) to one where perhaps it's more cool to be honorable, respectful, and dare-I-say, gallant!
#4 Women need to ask themselves, how can we also participate in the raising of our boys into a new generation of men?
We will only heal through working together, not through feeding the feminine-masculine antagonism. The witch-hunt fervor of the last few months is perhaps a natural outburst of the long-held power imbalance, but let's not feed it or accept it as the new status-quo.
Frankly, I hate the idea that men will be subdued into restraint simply driven by the fear that a woman will tear them down. Not only is it not compassionate, it also doesn't work. Jails are filled with people who knew the consequences their actions might have.
I believe we can create a better, more compassionate and caring society. I know wonderful, honorable men. I know powerful, compassionate women. I want more of both.
Only together can we create this. Only together can we bring true healing and balance to our individual and collective experiences.
Webinar: Healing #metoo
Let's start taking the steps towards healing, together.
Join me for a live evening webinar on Feb-15, where we'll explore:
- The four-step journey through which I've helped victims of abuse heal. (This is an invaluable process for anyone who's experienced any form of abuse or trauma.)
- How do we move past the unforgivable? (We'll talk about why forgiveness is hard, why not letting go can keep us from healing and what we can do about it.)
- They types of conversations men and women need to have in order to create collective healing. (We'll engage in a bit of a round-table discussion around these topics.)
This webinar is for anybody who wants to be a part of creating individual and collective healing.
...Whether you're someone who's ready to heal from an experience of abuse, or
...Whether you're a man or woman who wants to create a more compassionate world.
Here's the link to the webinar. It's free. Hope you'll join me: