By Alisa Gonzalez
When the “Me Too” movement started, I was brought to tears at the bravery of these women speaking publicly and loudly to their abusers, saying that enough was finally enough. This has created a new world, one where we can raise our daughters that it’s never okay for a boy or a man to touch them.
But where did the idea that it was ever okay come from anyway?
It wasn’t so long ago that I had to explain to my now grown-up daughter that when that boy hit her in school it was NOT because he liked her. He was being mean and a bully, and that it’s completely unacceptable for that boy to put his hands anywhere on her body without her permission. So, by the time she was in high school she was perfectly confident in punching a young man in the face who felt the need to snap her bra in the middle of class.
There’s an entire generation of women that were raised to stay silent about their abuse. Whether it was a simple pass in the office or an outright attack, a surprising number of women were taught that men were basically animals and couldn’t control their actions when around “the fairer sex.” Terms like “the fairer sex” says it all. Women throughout history were thought of as dainty submissive creatures meant for baring children and staying silent and for generations our mothers and grandmothers believed this insane notion that women were meant to be seen and not heard.
My mother was one of these women. She was raised to believe that women have control over how a man reacts to them by how we dress, how we act, and what we say. If you said “yes” to a man kissing and touching you, there was no going back. Your initial consent gave permission to you in total. And you didn’t change your mind at any time.
I was taught to believe you couldn’t change your mind. That you brought him to the pinnacle of arousal, therefore, you must allow him to complete his task. I know it sounds crazy and stupid and it is, it’s also disgusting and degrading. But my mother believed this, and so many other women did too, and in turn taught us, their daughters, that if you dressed provocatively you were to expect a man to react and therefore deserved whatever attention you received.
That sounds utterly ridiculous, right? It is. But that doesn’t mean a woman should stand for it and thank god we’ve begun taking a stand. Why did it take so long?
I grew up a victim.
My brother was my abuser and his sexual abuse was compiled with physical abuse by my mother, none of which I could understand. I grew up extremely fast and at a very young age. So, as I matured, being sexually exploited became normal to me. Therefore, I believed abuse was just a part of life. So, as an adult when an employer grabbed my ass or brushed against me it was normal, even though it felt wrong, it was a normal occurrence in my life.
Not everyone that has experienced abuse goes through life feeling like this and I only speak from my personal life, but I have found there are some of us who haven’t even felt like our stories mattered. We believed that things that happened early in our lives didn’t give us the right to proclaim our freedom from the chains of shame. So, we stayed silent because that’s what we were taught.
I have learned from the deafening silence. I want more for young women today. My oldest child is now 19, and she can say she has never been sexually assaulted in her life like that’s supposed to be an accomplishment, but it is – it is from where I come from. And where a lot of others come from too.
Thank God she will live in a world where it’s going to be okay for a woman to stand up for herself, a world where it’s okay for her to say “no.” It took the strength of women, spanning many generations, to finally say enough. To be heard.
I just want to say thank you for being the voice that was taken from me, a woman who wanted to be heard but was taught to stay silent.