Social media feeds have been buzzing with the hashtag #MeToo, a movement started 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke that catapulted into global attention this week with actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet to ‘give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.’
The problem being sexual harassment, abuse and assault.
For many women, it’s a chance to speak up. To be heard. To realize we’re not alone.
Although not an easy thing to share, I add my #MeToo as a victim of violent assault: third year in university, wrong place, wrong time, bad stuff happens. Lying in the snow, battered and bruised, violated; suddenly life seemed important, a gift.
Faced with death, I asked God for life… and miraculously I survived.
Why is it so hard to share our stories? Why is it victims are ashamed? When will we get it through our heads “it’s not our fault?” Part of this shouting out is to let others know we are NOT alone.
And, we are NOT to blame.
Many suffer in silence, too afraid to say anything that might chip away at masks we put on that everything is OK. As a southerner I can masterfully whip on an ‘everything is fine’ mask. But, when you’ve endured abuse and assault, it’s certainly not fine or OK.
Back then, it was hard sharing even with close friends, because I didn’t want to drag them into the dark place of fear where I lived for awhile. Total terror, even in bright sunshine? Not an easy place to be.
A few years later, while working in D.C. in 1990 when a speaker couldn’t come to a monthly women’s gathering, a friend said, “Virginia, you should share your story.” It took a bit of courage to ironically give that talk entitled ‘Courage,’ but it opened something up in the women in that room as over half shared personal stories of abuse, rape, and assault.
Wealth, color, age – didn’t seem to matter (although we were mostly 20-somethings.) It opened my eyes to how violence and abuse against women is such a horribly big issue. Not just here, but all around the world as I saw later in Kosovo, where rape was used as a weapon of war, and with Congolese refugees in Tanzania.
Today, when there have been over half a million tweets & Facebook “MeToos,” the magnitude of this challenge has not diminished. If anything, it’s worse.
“You are more than the bad things that happen to you. You are the grace that follows.” (Malaya, Code Black)
There’s a lot of horror associated with abuse and violence. Victims do not just immediately bounce back into the groove of life. It can take years to sort out, especially dealing with fears that jump us in all shapes, sizes, and ways. Insecurities, ditto. How we view ourselves? How we find our beauty grooves when denigration chips away at our insides?
Life is a gift, but sometimes it’s hard to receive when it comes in wrapping paper of suffering. It takes courage to open our hearts to love, the healing kind that’s God’s specialty, to find beauty again inside the gift of our lives. To let ribbons of celestial joy lift our desolation. To let the Everlasting Arms of God’s everlasting love encircle our hurts and ease our pain.
We cannot change what happened to us. Some scars will stay with us forever. But, we have a choice: these scars can be red and throbbing, debilitating, or we can let the white-hot poker of God’s love pass over them with healing grace.
Scars still, but white & fading.
It’s an arduous journey, courage required. One size does not fit all, but the love of God does, will, and is, all about helping us deal with impossible hurts in our hearts, our minds, our lives.
For me, there has been so much grace, so much healing, so much love.
God used that horrible event in my life to open my heart to helping others. From being scared of my shadow to later standing between gun-toting-soldiers and children in conflict zones – God dried my tears, took away my fears, and turned my pain into compassion for others with the healing love of Jesus.
As all these ‘#MeToos’ overwhelm us in magnitude, there is HOPE.
We are not alone.
grace, peace & hope
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.