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  • A Reason Women Who Could Say #MeToo Say Nothing

    “Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them to Amnon her brother in the bedroom. Now when she had brought them to him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” But she answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing! And I, where could I take my shame? And as for you, you would be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.” 2 Samuel 13:10-14

    What happened to Tamar in the Bible happens to women all too often. Amnon was her brother and sexually violated her – and this was in the biblical era. Today we call this acquaintance rape. Some statistics show 70% of women sexually assaulted know their attacker.

    But how many actually speak up?

    With the #MeToo movement, many are finding their voice to speak out on the experience of being sexually assaulted. Others just now realize that actions done to them – even without sexual penetration – are also a form of assault. It’s eerily too common, as Viola Davis recently told Variety.  “I cannot tell you, at any time in my life, that I was not sexually assaulted in some way. It is so steeped into our culture, and the silence is about the trauma. You leave your body and you compartmentalize that pain, she stated.

    A sad truth? Too many of our sisters never speak out because they fear being victimized all over again.

    You know how society does.

    “What did she expect? Look at how she was dressed.”

    “Wasn’t she drinking? She should have known better.”

    “Oh please. She’s (insert negative connotation of choice). She probably wanted it.”

    And the ugly list goes on.

    When women come forward about sexual assault of any kind, they are often balked at due to these scenarios – and others. But make no mistake about it: unwanted sexual encounters are never justified.

    Period.

    Looking back it makes me grateful for a situation I faced. I’m going to be brutally candid. My purpose is not to place blame or put anyone on blast.  I’m coming from a place of transparency, wanting to give a perspective as to why women who could say, #MeToo often do not.

    When I was living in the land of tomfoolery and shenanigans, I made many poor decisions – including romantically. Over twenty years ago, I had given permission for a consensual relationship with someone.  It wasn’t a healthy connection but I never imagined I’d feel endangered in his presence.

    Albeit not by him directly, his complicitness could’ve been devastating. I’ll never know for certain if he was an accomplice.

    A girlfriend and I were visiting some buddies out of town. I slipped away with the guy and sometime later, it became eerily quiet outside the room. Finding it odd, I was getting my things together when he slid out the door and his friend slipped in.

    My heart dropped. I hadn’t ever feared him before but this didn’t feel right.

    As he lunged for me I grabbed everything I could and ran into the bathroom. He beat on the door and said some pretty disgusting things to let me know why he came in.  So many things swirled through my mind.

    Where’s my friend?

    I need to get to my car!

    Who all is still here?

    If I leave this bathroom, what will happen?

    Back then I didn’t have a cell phone so all I could do was sit on top of the toilet. I thought maybe homegirl had made a quick liquor run or had stepped outside.  I had no idea but I was scared. Finally, my companion let me know I could come out – but could I? I didn’t know what to believe. I mustered up the courage to exit the bathroom, with the other guy scoffing at my hysteric fear – which I thought was warranted.

    Could I have been sexually assaulted that night? Possibly.

    I was angry.

    Angry with the friend who left – and shrugged off my complaint. “I thought you wanted to be left alone.”

    Angry with him. After all, he let his boy in the room.

    And most of my anger was self-directed.

    I knew if something would’ve happened no one would believe me. Right after this incident, a nasty rumor  circulated that was contrary to what really happened. But due to our previous relationship  – and my reputation at the time – people believed it. That hurt more than anything. It confirmed if I’d been raped, I would’ve been victimized even by those I believed were on my side.

    While I am thankful the ending was different, it reminds me why so many woman never come forward. I know many women who keep this painful secret but pain left unresolved inhibits us from living an abundant life. It changes our perception, direction and can keep us hostage. Tamar was never the same.

    “Then Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore her robe of many colors that was on her, and laid her hand on her head and went away crying bitterly. And Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this thing to heart.” So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.” 2 Samuel 13:19-20

    God is the ultimate healer but part of our healing means having hard conversations. When we hear stories of sexual assault, we must listen with compassion and remember:

    A woman’s past decisions or indiscretions doesn’t negate her present situation.

    A woman’s appearance isn’t permission to violate her.

    A woman’s right to change her mind is her right – no matter how far things have gotten.

    And a woman shouldn’t feel as if she must choose silence to avoid the accusatory noise of others.