#MeToo: No Longer Anonymous

It didn’t take long for #MeToo to fill my Facebook feed. Friend after friend was testifying that they were harassed, abused or raped. From unwanted sexual innuendo to non-consensual sex, these were no longer isolated experiences—this was a large-scale, societal epidemic, so common yet unseen. Until now.

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With the exception of the 2016 elections, I usually don’t get upset by the news, but the #MeToo testimonies were profoundly upsetting, cutting through my protective layers. It exposed a problem that was not specific to one powerful man in a particularly superficial industry.

#MeToo was everyone, everywhere, all the time. #MeToo was happening on the train, in the office, in houses of worship, on campuses, at home. There were more than 500,000 people who tweeted with the tag, and many more who didn’t. Scrolling through my feed, I was cast into the emotional turmoil from two decades ago. Our bodies relive even old traumas when they unexpectedly resurface.

#MeToo resonated with me—because it happened to me, too. It was 3 a.m. when I ran out of his apartment and waited in the dark stairwell for the sun to rise. I managed to get to my transatlantic flight and spent the next 12 hours in tears. I was upset and very confused. Was it my fault for trusting this man as a friend? Could I have said “no” more clearly?

I looked back at my computer screen, filled with stories. For many, this was the first time they publicly acknowledged being a victim. There is comfort in numbers, even if the shared experience is traumatic. The prevalence of these behaviors makes it clear that these acts have little to do with us,the victims—what we said, how we dressed, who we trusted. Sexual harassment and abuse are unfortunately part of our culture; so common that they are almost impersonal. Misogyny, like racism or homophobia, is indifferent to the particulars of its victim.

But if the abusers are the ones who should be ashamed, why do so many women remain silent? Early last year, after weeks of tortured editing, I published a piece on this very blog suggesting that it is precisely the lack of consent that some abusers seek in sexual abuse and rape. I hoped that by pointing this out, women would realize that they were not to blame. These crimes were inflicted by men who fully understand their victims’ wishes; they heard them and got a thrill from violating them.

I felt empowered by writing about my experience, but when my piece was accepted for publication I anxiously recoiled: Would I be comfortable if my clients found this piece? Was I ready to discuss this with my daughters? In the end, I found a comfortable compromise. I published the piece anonymously and then spent the next few weeks sending it to close friends, educators, rabbis and family.

I found a way to speak up yet maintain some privacy. It was a comfortable solution—until now. Reading the stories of friends and acquaintances, I realized that we can no longer defend this privacy which allowed a widespread problem to hide in plain sight for so long.

All those who joined the #MeToo campaign took a brave step by exposing a frighteningly widespread problem in our society. But the campaign’s importance goes far beyond the support one gets from joining a huge group-hug. If sexual abuse thrives in the dark, then the act of speaking up—proving the magnitude of the problem and strongly denouncing it—is a necessary step in fighting it.

Will the #MeToo campaign become a turning point that brings about a real change towards the treatment of women or will it be yet another example in which loud social media voices are mistaken for political activism? That remains to be seen. But one thing is already clear: Together, we need to demand systemic changes to eradicate these behaviors. The #MeToo storm is a first step. By exposing abuse, we are fighting to obliterate the violence we faced.

Less than two years ago, I worried about exposing my daughters to the fact that I was abused. Now, I realize that the silence around sexual violence is a greater danger to them than the truth.

Esther Sperber is an architect, founder of Studio ST Architects in New York. She writes and lectures about Architecture, Psychoanalysis and Culture. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Ms. Magazine, Lilith, The Jewish Week and The Huffington Post as well as in books and academic journals. Born and raised in Jerusalem, she studied architecture at the Technion in Haifa and Columbia University in New York. Contact: esther@studio-st.com

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  1. METOO..I feel I should tell my tales but to what point? All abusers are dead and gone now and
    their families would not benefit from my METOO. I always ask myself .”what are my intentions on say or doing this?’

  2. Danelle Taylor says:

    Me too.
    I am nervous at the thought of putting my words out in the light of day.
    What startled me into writing were friends on social media.
    I had not been on Facebook for a while, so I was scrolling, and strolling through the pages on my phone sitting in my favorite coffee shop. One after one the friends I had known for years were saying, “Me too”. I wanted to cry. I had no idea that they experienced “sexual over-powerment”. Similarly, they may be surprised by my own post of “Me too”.
    There is only one type of predator and that is the person with the “power over”. I am a dog walker and I know that when another dog tries to hump another it is not about sex it’s about dominance.
    I believe we need one word that encompasses any and all invasions of a person’s personal and private space. This space should not be penetrated in any way or form. People think, well she was only sexually assaulted it could have been worse.
    No, we should not have a term for touching and another for penetration. You cannot put a scale on penetrating my “safe zone”. All of it hurts. And the person with “power over” should not have a scale to apply to his/her crime. They broke into someone’s personal space and stole a part of a person’s soul. Period! Damage done. Period!
    You might think that it gets too confusing because all people have different personal spaces. But it is not all that complicated because if people are willing to listen, the word “No”, makes it all very simple.
    There should not be different punishments and leniency for sexual crimes. There is only one level, type, or scale for sexual crime, it’s “crossing a zone”.
    This growing movement of people revealing that they too had been victimized and are trying to survive and heal from “sexual assault” is incredibly empowering but for many, many years, people with “power over” have been breaking people that are under their power, and these victims have taken their secret to their grave in silence.
    In 1975, I was a freshman in college, and I went to a rally for women’s rights. I had been sexually assaulted at home for many years leading up to college. I felt scared to go to hear women exerting their power because when I had tried to fight my father’s attacks, I was cruelly punished for it. Self-empowered was a dangerous thing.
    It was a coed audience and at one point the discussion escalated and raised the tension in the room, which raised the hair on the back of my neck. A man stood up and said, “If a woman dresses like she wants it, it is her fault.” There was an eruption in the room, people jumped to their feet yelling back and forth. The moderator tried to get control of the room, and I was in a panic.
    What happened next I will never forget and it brought a change in my thoughts and feelings about my view of what had happened to me. A woman jumped to her feet and with a loud and powerful voice, she yelled, “If all of the women in this room walked the campus naked it would be no excuse for rape.”
    I am naked in front of you and I am not less than you.
    You cannot touch me.
    You cannot leer at me or call me names.
    You cannot silently approach me from behind.
    You cannot drug me, or beat me.
    I am naked and I am powerful. I am me. For the first time that night I felt like I was standing and feeling like no one could blow me over. But the rush of the women’s movement around and before 1975 could not hold my newly laid foundation of freedom and empowerment.
    I am still trying to understand the past and the present constant existence of power over.

  3. Lydia Weinberg says:

    The meToo movement is allowing victims to be heard and be taken seriously! All too often victims are marginalized and wrote off as being overly dramatic. Now is their time to let the world know who took advantage of them, and what happened. I was able to tell my story on https://www.wikipredators.com , im hoping other do the same.. the world should have an easily accessible list of sexual predators so we know who the perpetrators are.

  4. Tom Fields says:

    Since my wife has taken a new job and working later we have been looking into these stories more often. She has started taking a self defense class and to started carrying a little protection. https://tinyurl.com/ybm4gfor. She likes this because it is small and gives her a bit more piece of mind.

  5. My wife and I helped create this video in support of the #MeToo movement with Jess Novak in order to keep the conversation going. Please use and share without restriction to further the cause and encourage those who could use the support: http://www.JessNovakMusic.com/MeToo

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