I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t have a “me too” story. I had something happen to me in my early 20s that up until the last few years ― when I started doing a massive conscious inventory on all of my choices and actions ― I had brushed off to the side as no big deal. But climbing out from underneath a man who was holding me down was in fact a big deal.
I was 24 and had been in L.A. for a little over a year. I was all about that independent woman lifestyle. I had moved all the way across the country from Atlanta to a city where I barely knew anyone. I’m one who integrates quickly and can make friends easily, so it was no surprise that I was out on the town and often on dates.
I’d met a handsome man through a friend. He was in his early 30s, nearly a decade older than me. He had a house in Bel-Air and the Bentley to go with it. We went to dinner, then back to his house afterwards. We got in his hot tub in the backyard for a bit, and his hands did not shy away from my body. I told him I was fine with this but I would not be going any further on this particular evening. He agreed and continued to touch and kiss me. Eventually, he picked me up out of the hot tub, wrapped a towel around me, only to pick me up again to carry me into his bedroom, on the other side of the patio.
I asked where we were going; he said to get more comfortable. I reminded him of my limits; he acknowledged. He laid me down on his bed; his hand slipped into my panties, surpassing my limits. He removed his hand, and I thought I was in the clear; he unzipped his pants. I said no; he wanted to know what was wrong. He reached for a condom from the nightstand; I slipped out from underneath him, sliding off the bed.
I grabbed my purse and ran into the bathroom, locking the door behind me; he pounded on the door. I called a male friend and put him on speaker so that my date could hear I was on the phone with another man; he stopped pounding on the door. A few minutes later, I snuck out of the bathroom and then through the back patio. There was no direct exit from the patio to the front, so I crawled through bushes. I have a scar on my right hand from the thorns. I walked down Casiano Road to meet the friend I had called who had come to my rescue (Uber wasn’t a thing yet… thankfully, I’ve always had amazing friends).
For years, I had let this story go, brushing it aside, because in my mind I was lucky. I had escaped ― he didn’t rape me. After consciously choosing to analyze my life and everything I had experienced that has gotten me to where I am today, I now understand that this isn’t a story to bypass.
We all have some version of “me too” story… it’s clearly an epidemic. But now what? The first part is opening up the conversation – allowing women - and men - to come forward, tell their stories and heal. The second part is implementing action, but this is the part where America seems to be in purgatory. (How many more mass shootings until we have better gun control?)
Like any change movement, action has to happen from individuals. We have to change how we personally have the conversation about sex. Sex is a natural and sacred part of life, yet in our culture, sex is not only taboo but also simultaneously over-exposed. It’s something we don’t talk about with honesty yet can watch online anytime.
In the ’90s, my middle school sex-ed in Cobb County, Georgia was about reproduction and abstinence. But, at the same time, the Monica Lewinski scandal was in the headlines, conflicting with my education. There’s so much confusion in how we discuss sex ― no wonder our culture has such issues with harassment and assault.
Without clarity, this leaves room for misinterpretation, the harm. I don’t have the answers. But I do know that we all need to collectively start searching for them. We need a better sex education – from our schools and from our homes. We need a new way of thinking about sex, understanding its sacredness and purpose. We need people rising to the occasion, coming forward, telling their stories, healing their lives. It’s about time this movement got started. We desperately need it.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.