As a man, what do you do if you have a daughter, girlfriend, wife, friend or mom has been sexually harassed or assaulted? Have you asked? Have any of the woman in your life answered #metoo on social media or shared their story? Do you know what to do or say? Do you feel helpless?
I woke up this morning thinking about this and the cacophony of male silence in response to the #metoo outpouring by woman. I believe that men are key, if not ‘the key,’ in helping this wound heal. This is not a man-bashing post, it’s a discussion, and it’s a plea for your help. So, please bare with me as I write this… warning… this may get uncomfortable.
First, thank you to the men, the handful of you, who have engaged and responded. Thank you as it is truly soothing to know that ‘you HEAR US – the woman of the world crying out.’
Guys, if you have feelings of helplessness, defensiveness, anger and/or confusion with this #metoo awareness campaign, I invite you take the time to look inward at the roots of these feelings. You might be feeling paralyzed and don’t know what to say. It’s possible you feel uncomfortable, angry or victimized yourself by all the #metoo stories of woman’s sexual assault or harassment.. simply because YOU are also a man. Have you thought to ask yourself, why you are having all these conflicting feelings or why you have remained silent?
Woman are expressing what we need and trying to heal from the dark, disturbing, hidden and repressed violence against us in our lives. We are seeking to be heard, to find safety, compassion and balance in our World… we are seeking change, we are seeking help from YOU, the men in our lives. Woman have carried this pain, these stories, these wounds, in our bodies, minds, emotions, spirits, and matriarchal lines for generations. We are trying to heal by bringing awareness to the acts of violence against us. Woman carry tremendous repressed fear and rage for these violations. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t make it out to be about you personally. Don’t make the mistake that it is directed at ALL men. Look, WE, woman and men, have all made mistakes. We have all likely been disrespectful or hurtful in our lives. We’ve all been out of line. Woman have oppressed woman based on the same generational power and patriarchal programming, but just because this power differential was handed down to all of us for centuries, doesn’t mean we have to keep operating this way. Change is in order. Change is possible. Change now lies in our hands. It our responsibility, our generation’s work, it has been handed down to us, and to YOU, the Patriarchs of today. We are all responsible.
This doesn’t make excuses for the offenses, harassment and violations that have occurred, everyone should be held accountable. Our generational work is to look at where these beliefs and behaviors came from in the first place. Look at what we’ve been programmed to believe and from that, how we behave. Is this really what we want for ourselves and our children?
Just contemplate on this… do you want to raise boys, that girls and woman fear? Do you want to raise girls who are not valued equally in our World, who are subjected to harassment all their lives? If NO is your answer, then the change starts with you now. Acknowledging this… That was the first step! Wasn’t that easy. (Put your awareness on something and instantly it starts to change.)
I want to speak to your hearts, as Men. I believe you are essential to the solution, but FIRST we must address the problem itself. So, let’s go there… Why the silence? Let’s look at where the conflicting feelings (anger, intolerance, confusion, etc) may be coming from.
These are merely possibilities, the answers are within yourself…
-Maybe you are shocked and appalled at the magnitude of the #metoo stories.
-Maybe you’re a guy who never said or did anything derogatory to woman.
-Maybe you’re the guy who stood by, witnessed and said nothing, as other men talked about woman as objects or bragged about using a woman for their own sexual pleasure (conquests).
-Maybe you were that guy!
-Maybe you got carried away under the influence of alcohol and aren’t sure if a woman gave you consent.
-Maybe you’ve catcalled, verbally harassed or ranked woman’s bodies.
-Maybe you groped or touched a woman inappropriately and without her consent.
-Maybe you’ve been disrespectful, derogatory or frankly just don’t value woman the same as you do fellow men.
-Maybe you want all this to blow over… go back to the way it has ‘always’ been and turn a blind eye to all the #metoo posts.
-Maybe you want to show solidarity, but just don’t know how.
-Maybe you want me to just shut-up and stop posting this crap.
Okay, whatever it is that keeps you silent… I encourage you to do the work, check it out and see what you find. Once you admit that to yourself, take some time to acknowledge it. Is it guilt, shame, or something else. This is an important part of our healing, men and woman. To be honest with ourselves. I invite the conversation if you are willing to share.
Moving forward… once you have awareness of the roots of your Silence…
-Maybe you need to make amends, apologize, or ask for forgiveness from someone.
-Maybe admitting you did something wrong (even to yourself) makes you feel ashamed.
-Maybe you need to be angry and forgive yourself for something you did.
-Maybe you need to spend some time feeling these feelings and sorting this all out.
-How have you been part of the problem?
-What do you really believe about woman?
-Who are you… really?
-What kind of man do you really want to be?
-What do you want to change in yourself to be part of the solution.
This is all part of the conversation we need to have together. PLEASE take the time that you need and do just that, inquire, investigate, contemplate and respond. Whatever you do, do not ignore this, sweep it under the rug or just turn a blind eye. Do not stay silent in your own self-created bubble of denial or intolerance. The Silence only perpetuates the problem.
I am not beating you up… I truly value the hearts of our Men. We need you. So, please soften your defensiveness, look within, forgive, and SHOW UP for ALL of us (you included)… now.
Once you’ve looked at your own beliefs, motivations, feelings and behaviors… What do you do now? How do you help the woman in your life?
Here’s what I suggest, The Next Step…
- GET INVOLVED: Don’t ignore what it going on. If you have someone in your family who responded #metoo – you can start right there, in your own backyard. It is likely that the most deeply wounded woman, are not publicly posting their #metoo stories. So, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
- INQUIRE: Ask the woman in your life if they have ever been harassed or assaulted. Do this privately, and with permission. You want to create a safe environment without interruption. Allow plenty of time. Say, something like: “I have been watching all the #metoo posts on the news and social media, may I ask you a question?” If she says, Yes… then ask, “Have you been harassed or worse in your life.” Go from there…
- LISTEN: If she wants to share, listen deeply to what she is saying, listen more deeply to her feelings and what she isn’t saying and don’t rush.
- DO NOT “FIX”: Do not ‘fix’ anything. You are not responsible to ‘fix’ anything. Your presence, caring and listening are what is most important, loving and healing.
- ADMIT: If you don’t know what to do or say, admit it. Admit you are a ‘fish out of water’ and feel helpless. Ask for her help and what she needs. It may need to be encouraged out of us, as we are also used to denying ourselves. Woman are wise in what we need. Just ask.
- AVOID: Avoid re-traumatizing, do not ask a bunch of detailed questions about an assault. Do not ‘get curious’ or into making her tell the story over again. If you get angry, try to say, “that makes me so angry, I wish I could do something about it.” Don’t make her manage your anger. This isn’t about you. Your outrage is validated, but this is not your time.
- SAY SOMETHING: Here are some suggestions on what she may need to hear:
“I love you”
“I am sorry that happened to you.”
“He shouldn’t have touched you that way” (or “said that to you” or “violated you”)
If it was you… you need to say “I shouldn’t have…” and ask for her forgiveness
That was wrong”
“It was not your fault”Ask if you can hold her, if she consents, please hold her softly. (Hugging and Rocking softly can be helpful with trauma.)
“Tell her she is safe now” (Safety is key. Fear of our safety is common.).
Tell her “I am here for you.”
Ask her “Is anything your heart needs to hear right now.”
Repeat the above several times, she may need to hear it over and over.
At the end, you can also say, “You can let go of this” or “You don’t have to carry this anymore.” (Just stick with it as the ‘charge’ diminishes)
(8) CREATE: Create an open and ongoing dialog. You want to be there for her. Your relationships will be better for it. If you need help, please seek help from a professional together. Support her in this.
(9) BE OPEN: She will likely need to talk about this more at a later time. Be open to it.
(10) ALLOW: Let her talk and cry. She may have carried this for years.
(11) BE BRAVE: Don’t shy away from her emotions. She may need to release the rage of this violations, she may have carried these stories in her own silence and shame. Let her emote and do not try to squelch it.
(12) BE PATIENT: Take your time and honor her timing. Let her know you can listen any time she needs to talk.
All of this can be painful. Pain is not to be avoided. We, men and woman, are birthing a new way in our World and change can be uncomfortable.
I hope this is helpful. Please share, comment or private message me, I can listen. I am here for you – all of you, Men and Woman alike.
Please join me on our Facebook Community Page @thequestingspirit I’d love to hear your reflections.