I can tell you that every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted (RAINN).
I can tell you that in my personal social sphere, more women than not have been sexually assaulted.
I can tell you that I have been, more than once, the first time when I was 3.
And I think that you would believe me.
The word choice “think” is intentional there, though.
Because here we are in the midst of Weinstein, Spacey, Franken, Louis CK, and now Matt Lauer. I know that I have fellow warriors everywhere saying “me, too” and “YEP” and so on as we stand in solidarity beside these victims speaking up. I see you – I appreciate you. But I am also baffled by those who are baffled. Skeptical. Questioning the victims’ intentions.
And I will go so far as to admit I know of a person who has falsely accused another of assault. But that is one false accusation among dozens of confirmed cases from those with whom I have close, personal relationships. So even with that concession, my personal sphere of statistical probability is in favor of the victims being the ones telling the truth.
Today I had 7th grade students sorting out this particular news of Lauer. I heard mixtures of parroting their parents and asking innocent questions that still go so deep to the heart of the issue. “Why now?” “Why so many?” and I point them to statistics, and I tell them we listen to victims, always – that doing so does not undermine “innocent until proven guilty,” it in fact supports the purpose of the judicial system because it starts the justice process rolling. I want to simultaneously protect my kids from the scary truth, but at the same time I want to SCREAM at them to stop objectifying one another – to stop rating one another – to stop perpetuating rape culture because they already are because that is what we all live in and condone every day. But instead I find teachable moments and speak the truth firmly yet gently and often and hope it gets through.
I believe we are in a linchpin moment in history. I shake with anticipation that maybe this momentum means that finally new standards will be set. That I won’t be viewed as overreacting when I walk into a high school football meeting and lecture those boys (and their coach) for objectifying the women that I work with – and women at all. That perpetrators will know they will be held accountable. That employers will know they need to shut things down, all of the time, every time. That if we start holding perpetrators accountable every time, those times will actually become less frequent. And that MAYBE objectification that leads to assault (or objectification at all) can cease to be so rampant. That no one will be immune of being held accountable, instead of no one feeling safe. But I also shake with fear that this is a spike that will decrescendo. That toxic gender norms will prove to be too entrenched. That people won’t be able to take it.
And then I get angry. And then I get sad; I find pity seeping in. Because people can’t take it. People don’t want to hear about assault. Maybe they are actually blessed enough to never have experienced it directly, and it is all coming out of willful ignorance. Or maybe it’s because they have, and they are entrenched so deeply in denial that they will do anything to shut it down. The thing is…none of these things can be an excuse.
Even if you aren’t bringing the darkness of assault yourself, when you squelch things coming in to the light – you are bringing darkness. You are letting it reign.
So I’m going to tell you again – every 98 seconds an American IS assaulted. And that comes from what has been reported – to say nothing of what lay dormant or dismissed for so long. Because my assault at 3 was not reported. And even my assault at 23 was not reported. Will you believe me?
Instead of asking “why now?” it’s time to ask “what now?” and create a culture of asking, telling, and holding accountable – so that we can ultimately create a culture of healing and consent.