Living

Me Too: A Rape Victim Sounds Off on the Harvey Weinstein Scandal

Women are tired of being quiet

I’ve never met Harvey Weinstein. But I’ve known men like Harvey Weinstein my whole life. Men like Harvey Weinstein abused me, raped me, and discarded me just because they could.

Shadows of them haunt my memory, splintered and absurd, like the jagged shards of a fun house mirror. 

The powerful male boss who told me he and his friends wanted to take turns with me.

The married men who used to call me before I got married, under the guise of setting me up with their friends, only to proposition me.

The man who accosted me in the grocery store, licking his lips at me when my husband faced the other way. 

Recently, after ending a casual conversation on the telephone about unwanted physical advances, I started to count the number of times in my life that a man has touched me without my consent.

I stopped when I got to 100.

My husband found me an hour later, sitting on our back porch in the dark. My body was shaking in a low tremor, my chest tightened like a vice. I could barely breathe. It surprised both of us because these facts are not secrets in our house, but in that moment, I realized I had never counted the experiences.

Sexual harassment has become so ubiquitous, such a common part of life for many women, that few of us have probably ever stopped to count the offenses. In fact, as the Harvey Weinstein scandal unfolded over the last few days, it quickly became clear that you’d be hard pressed to find any woman who has not experienced some form of harassment herself. Today, Twitter confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the hashtag #metoo had been tweeted over half a million times, aided by celebrities like Alyssa Milano, who wrote: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” This comes on the heels of the temporary ban of Rose McGowan’s Twitter account— and the rallying call among women for a twitter ban. Though Twitter soon reactivated her account, explaining that they closed it because she published a private phone number, not because of the views she expressed in her tweets, the incident did move the company to make further strides to protect users from trolls and empower those seeking to use the platform for positive change. In a statement, they said, we are  “proud to empower and support the voices on our platform, especially those that speak truth to power.”  

Like thousands of women around the world, I’ve watched this spectacle unfold over the last few days with simmering anger. As the number of victims increase daily, the men around me express shock. Not surprisingly, the women do not.

Women are not shocked because many of us think about these very issues every single day. I know exactly where the man who sexually abused me lives. I also know where the man who raped me lives and works. I am methodical to a fault on these facts. This allows me to compartmentalize this part of my past so that I am not constantly looking over my shoulder every day waiting for them to come back. 

Victims of abuse calculate these risks on a daily basis. When I go grocery shopping after dark, I park under a light, near an aisle closest to the exit. When attending social events, I avoid the men who make myself and other women uncomfortable. Before I got married, I knew the men not to date because I was warned by other women. In prior jobs, I knew which men were safe to be in a room alone with, and which ones were not: it was part of my first day on the job training by other women. These open secrets passed between us like bad jug wine.

We calculate and warn because when we do try to report, we are not believed. I’ve had several well meaning men infuriatingly ask me this week, “why now?”

It’s now because the women who have been telling these stories for years have rarely been believed. Often the money—or the position—of the man being accused was more powerful than the voice of the woman reporting it. Or perhaps there wasn’t a law on the books that was broken at the time. Or perhaps the woman thought about how much she needed her job—and how it would affect her future endeavors—if she told the truth. Consider this: If you do report, to whom do you explain ‘a bad feeling’ or ‘lewd comments’? Do you report sexual harassment to an HR director whose boss may be the very abuser/sexual harasser in question? Often times, when these issues are reported, they are swept under the rug: the women is quietly paid off (as was the case with many of Weinstein’s accusers) or transferred to another division.  

I write frequently about being sexually abused and raped. After one of my most recent articles, a (female) troll asked me to cite my sources. Someone asked me to cite my sources on my own experiences and life. Because, as a woman, my word is not good enough and I am questioned about my complicity in my abuses. Being questioned like this—and having to constantly calculate risks in my daily life—is emotionally exhausting. I am too tired to pretend to be shocked. But, like thousands of other women, I am also too tired to keep sweeping this issue under the rug. That rug is filthy, and roaches scamper out every time I turn on the lights.    

So yes, I know men like Harvey Weinstein. Every woman in your life knows men like Harvey Weinstein. But now at least, we have a dialogue. With every woman who comes forward with her story, every women who types “me too,” you are witnessing a reckoning.

We’ve done our part. Have you? 

Audrey Hayworth
Audrey Hayworth, creator of the blog, Sassmouth.net, is a frequent contributor to Scary Mommy and The Huffington Post. She lives in the deep South with her husband, two children and a fabulous chihuahua named Ruby.