I’m loath to write this piece but I feel like I have to… I don’t want to, because it’s embarrassing, and because I’m afraid he’ll read it. But I have to — I know there are women out there who are being sexually harassed by their husbands this very minute and they don’t even know it. Or they know it deep down but don’t call it that because, well, they are married to him. We can’t call it sexual harassment if we are married, right? Oh HELL YES we can. Especially now.
On October 15th, I saw a Facebook post that read, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘#Metoo’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” I quickly posted “Me too” on my page thinking of the professor who failed me when I wouldn’t respond to his “flirting” … and the time another guy ground his groin into my backside on a crowded subway … or all the countless times any guy stared at my boobs while “talking” to me. But in that moment of my #MeToo post, my ex husband didn’t enter my consciousness. And I certainly didn’t think my “Me too” would become part of something bigger. (Thank you, brave and bold women.)
Fast forward to now and I don’t know about you, but every morning when I wake up and see yet another celebrity or politician or executive on the news with a sexual harassment charge, I get a tiny little thrill. FINALLY the dirty little undercurrent that literally every woman everywhere has had to live with is coming to the surface and being called out. It seems the floodgates are open and we’re hearing about more and more men (and it is mostly men, let’s face it) who have behaved anywhere from inappropriately to downright horrifically. And we know, because we know what we’ve experienced throughout our lifetimes, that this flood is not receding anytime soon.
Let it continue. Let it expand as it eventually includes all kinds perpetrators, not just those who are high profile. And let it encompass all kinds of behavior, not just the obviously egregious. Because the fact is, sexual harassment comes in many packages, including within the context of a marriage.
For those who worry, is the #MeToo movement going too far? SAS’ response is this form of disrespect and violence has been going on too long and has been, far too insidious. Sexual harassment, as shaming and uncomfortable as it is for the victims, needs to be aired before our society can metabolize the lines of what is “too much.” It’s been too much.
Thanks to gender and power dynamics, victims throughout history have had to keep silent; or if they have spoken out, are labeled and called names for saying the truth. Up until yesterday! Consider how the women who’ve accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment were not taken seriously. Until now. Think of Anita Hill and what she went through. Think of the women who work in hotels as chambermaids, housekeepers and laborers, what they face everyday and must keep shut up about, because they cannot afford to lose the jobs that support them and their children. It is too much. And not enough. Those who have a voice, a power, must speak out now — not for themselves, but for their daughters, their sons, and all the victims who cannot.
If you look up the definition of sexual harassment, there are variations on a theme but one phrase comes up over and over again, regardless of whether we are talking about sexual harassment in the workplace or not: “Unwelcome advances.”
That was the crux of the matter for me. This is when I was certain that yes, the way my ex behaved did count as sexual harassment. I cannot count the times that I felt uncomfortable in my own marriage bed, times when he would want me to do something or wear something or say something that I was uncomfortable with. All so very unwelcome but my options were to shut up and do it, or ignite a fight that would escalate to epic proportions. So time after time, I put my own wants and needs to the side in an effort to appease and placate him. During those times, I just thought I was compromising, as we all have to do in relationships. But also, deep down those experiences made me feel gross, ashamed, lonely and sad. If he loved me, why would he want me to do things he knew very well made me feel dirty and pained?
I wish I had listened to that little voice that told me it wasn’t okay, that I had every right to stand up for myself. In my particular story, I feel that because I did not find the courage to stand up for myself along the way … because I did not say no nearly often enough … because I implicitly gave him permission to harass me, to do these things to me … that the onus was on me: I allowed it to escalate. And escalate it did. By the end of our marriage, he was trying to invite strangers home from the bar for a threesome. The day I came home to find the computer open to a notice on a porn site where he was advertising us as a couple interested in orgies, THEN I found the courage to put a stop to it.
If any part of my story resonates with you, please don’t wait around for it to get worse. He will keep pushing the boundaries until he finds that threshold, the place where you are so horrified that you cannot take one more minute. Please don’t wait for that, it could be a long way off and in the meantime you’ll endure, you’ll tolerate, you will suffer. It’s not necessary. It’s not fair and I would argue, it’s not healthy.
This is the beautiful power of the #Metoo movement. As women, as young people, as men, we no longer have to bear this burden alone, with only our inner voice trying to reason with us. We now stand together, with safety in numbers, and if you tell your story to the right people, they will listen.
We recommend you identify someone you feel safe talking to and start there. Can you share with your sister, your best friend, your mom? It feels really good to tell someone, I can attest to that. Then move on to finding a professional who can help you figure out what to do about it. Therapists and divorce coaches are trained to lead you through a process – not to divorce necessarily if this is happening in your marriage; but to decide what to do to address the situation. It may or may not mean splitting up, that remains to be seen. What you do know is that something fundamental has to change. Figure out how you can do that.
Every woman deserves to feel safe, heard and respected in her marriage. It’s the baseline, not a luxury. If you can’t say that’s how you feel in your marriage, we gently urge you to think about that.
If you haven’t already taken us up on our free confidential consultation, we are a safe place to begin — to start hearing feedback on your situation. Married or not, we’ll listen to your story, perhaps share a glimmer of our own stories, and most importantly, offer you perspective and next steps for lightening your heart and head. By the way, your heart and head are often not in synch; and understanding that is part of your process for healing. If you aren’t sure about talking to anyone just yet, start with our website where you can read, watch videos, and take classes, all of which you can do in complete privacy.
We can feel it, your #Metoo moment is coming.