Time Magazine Person of the Year — Silence Breakers, aka #metoo
This is for my grandmother, who as a 15 year old on a boat to the United States was cornered and molested and then nearly thru the man who did it to her off the boat. When she did she was labeled by the rest of the boat passengers and crew as “the angry girl” and y es— -she was. To her courage for telling me this story before she died and the courage that conversation has instilled in me to face my own predators like a warrior, never a victim, and to embrace especially the angry parts of myself — Nani — this TIME cover is for you and #metoo.
For all the powerful bad ass women who saw the #metoo going around and weren’t quite ready to post it because they need to prepare to have THOSE conversations with their partners, husbands, children, colleagues or friends. Know that you are no less brave or powerful and we honor and provide you the space to break the silence on your own time.
This is for my college roommate and her quivering lip as she asked me to drive her to the student health clinic after a blind date and the look between our eyes that with absolutely no words and 100% certainty made it clear for me to ask the nurse for a RAPE KIT for her so she didn’t have to say it herself. To all the college girls who never wanted RAPE KIT to be part of their college vocabulary, but unfortunately find themselves in situations where they struggle to say it out loud.
This is for all the women and girls — — who have experienced sexual assault or abuse not at work, but within the confines of their own homes and at the hands of people whose very roles in their lives are meant to protect them. While most of the #metoo story has been about the work place, the reality is that most women and girls experience their first sexual assault from someone they know and trust, before the age of 18, and under their own roof. This is where the silence is even more scary to break. To those women #metoo.
This is for my college advisor — who held my degree over my head, made references to me being his intern during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, telling me to wear a navy dress and cut bangs because I looked like her and making creepy comments on the daily like “you always make me feel so presidential”. It was with great pride that I walked in graduation and then following day walked straight over to student services to file a report to ensure that no other woman behind me would fall victim to your creepy ass again. Props to ASU for #firing you immediately and to your wife for kicking you to the curb.
This is for Monica — for being #metoo before #metoo made you a covergirl and for paving the way. Getting to hear you speak about your experience a few years ago validated so many women and your courage and what you have endured at the hands of our society as kind of the first victim of cyber bullying is a debt no one person should have to face. Back then there was no playbook for this sort of thing and you went to bed unknowingly to wake up to living a life long scandal. Your entire future has been effected by it. To the many women you have inspired by telling your story and showing up with such grace — you deserve to be on this cover a few times over.
This is for the startup women who are the new Monica’s facing founders who turn blind eyes to sexist comments and nicknames because “oh come on — they are just jokes” and who encourage women to dress sexy and “cozy up” to investors to secure deals. To those women- we know you have no HR and but you also have no other income and know that you shouldn’t have to give up your sweat equity or your job because the men around you are not decent. We know you were expecting and rightfully so your own bed in the Airbnb on a business trip. We must find better solutions for getting you out more swiftly while also making sure these startups and their staff suffer the consequences for their actions.
This is for the men in our society who HAVE listened, but who still don’t instantly reply- “not ALL men.” You have a level of compassion that we are all grateful for. To those who taught us respect and compassion in honoring our stories even the scary parts. To those who knew our strong walls were built brick by brick and overtime and who help us to discover the vulnerability and power of truth by wanting to know what is behind it. To my college sweetheart who took me to a slam poetry night and cried tears in the back when I let it all out on the stage in front of complete strangers with such POWERFUL FORCE. There were so many things left unsaid in my words that night and yet whenever I hear OPEN MIC NIGHT, it recalls that inner feeling inside myself of hearing my voice amplified into a microphone and finally feeling heard and capable to say anything at all.
This is for the boys who have been not so much of the above. Yes, I called you boys. Who don’t have time for the depth of relationship required to even go there or who label women who share anything along these lines as a victims especially when it was convenient. We hope you eventually mature beyond that stage of superficiality.
This is for my husband and the depths of your manhood that have not just opened up my heart to my own voice, but who encouraged me to reflect longer and not rush past any stages of my story that needed to be reexamined so that I could step more powerfully into the woman who I was meant to become. You drove me to every session in case I needed to cry on the way home. You understood if I wanted to talk about it or if I needed to just sit and stare out the window. You stood beside me in a way every human deserves a partner to understand things that should never have to be understood.
This is for my older brother who texted me every group day little words of encouragement. Your little messages of “Stand in your power today” and “I’m here if you want to chat after!” gave me a knowing sense of support and love that will never be forgotten. You are the only person in my biological family who has actively participated in this stage of my person and our relationship I believe greatly reflects that on-going conversation. If you are the sibling of a warrior — the greatest thing you can do is walk with them into their fear.
This is for Lucky….I was the luckiest to find you. A counselor from the Bronx to call me out on my shit and to help me overcome my excuses and finally say the words- “I was raped” but in a way that didn’t make me a victim, and instead a warrior handed both a sword and a shield. I argued with you almost every session and told you all the ways you were wrong about me, only to discover later- how right you were. Thank you for seeing instantly the woman I needed to become and helping me get out of my own way so that I could find her.
This is for the girls and women in corrections who have bravely shared with me their stories, their hopes and dreams, both before and after — their “IT” moment or moments. You women are the ones whose faces should grace this magazine — because all too often — your life of ‘crime’ began out of survival and trying to escape a predator who likely still walks wild and free, without any such consequences. To you I carry your light and hope one day to shine it back to you like a mirror, or the the sun, hoping to warm your cold jail cell enough so that you remember to sing until your caged bird heart is finally free.
This is for my daughters — -both my refugee foster daughters and the international students who have graced my home and heart. In broken english we often found the languages different but our stories the same. I found that #metoo is sometimes translated into collective tears of understanding. To the hope and inspiration our heart strings will always be connected by.
This is for my son. Who I will one day tell is never okay to use power over anyone— not inside the context of any role that you play in their life. I will be sure he knows that respect for women (or any other partner) is at the core of a person’s character and is just part of being a decent human.
This is for all the people who commented on social media — “why did it take them so long?” or “what is making them come forward now?” — — we know it is hard to understand but trauma is paralyzing.
It has been very challenging as a survivor over the past several months. The stories are sometimes similar to your own which triggers feelings that you can’t really explain in words — but it feels kind of like a dust stirred up inside your heart that you thought was settled or gone.
Among my warrior women circles we had the safe space to discuss this with each other. To express to other people who understood how sometimes reading things made you both sad and angry at the same time. How having women sometimes write the worst comments on a thread was heartbreaking and reminders of the doubters and ridicule you faced yourself long ago by colleagues, sisters, and friends….”why are the harshest critics almost always women?” is a doctoral dissertation that someone should do if it has not been done already. The self-hatred in women not supporting another woman is something I find difficult to understand as a human soul.
The most uncomfortable and surprising part for me- was even though we all have completed our formal program long ago and are well on our way and through several other complimentary experiences that have strengthened us even further — — in different ways we all experienced moments where we found ourselves silenced again because of this new conversation.
Even though based on our experiences and all the scientific and evidence based therapies we had done to resolve our own personal trauma —and being so knowledgable of not only the trauma but also the recovery experience making us in almost all cases the experts in the room — ironically we found ourselves saying the least. More than a few times, I found myself completely unable to engage in casual conversation about it. A fellow warrior shared with me that her reasoning was — for her this shit was real, real life, in real time, with real consequences — not a “topic of conversation” or a “movement”.
For me it was that often I knew the people in the conversations would be shocked and didn’t see me as a potential survivor. They see me as powerful and strong and the looks of surprise if it does somehow come up are often reminders of the shame attached to this experience being part of your heroine journey.
I also work a great deal with men- who often have no realm of experience or who find themselves so deeply shaken, that it is often something they don’t know what to do with. I watched as someone commented in the startup forum asking if the news stories had stirred up any conversations in their offices. I was saddened as the poll count on the comment leaned heavily towards NO even though I was not at all surprised. This cannot and should not be translated into that the men in these companies were unaffected by the news stories. In many cases, I think it is because they are affected deeply suddenly caused to question- how many women around me has our society looking away really impacted.
During this new rising, I have felt grateful to have this warrior circle around me and often found myself feeling for those survivors out there who don’t have this kind of community.
Survivors know very much how every aspect of this TIME “cover story” feels. We know the personal and professional implications of voicing who our predators were — the families broken up, the workplaces disrupted, the dominos that fell as the result of our speaking our truth. We faced the ridicule of people doubting our stories, attacking us over it because predators aren’t the creeps we picture — these men are well liked and well loved — charismatic and popular in most cases. You often read of high school rape victims becoming suicidal and I would be surprised if any #metoo women have not also suffered some various stage of depression during the resolution of their cases.
There are also silent implications to silence breaking. I listened as one of my warrior friends described recalling how her family responded to her with both listening but also with judgmental looks on their faces and knowing she was forever changed in their eyes. I recall that face myself in some friends who without meaning to looked at me differently after I had shared even just a little piece of my experience. This cover story does not mean that that judgement is gone. The ridicule is not gone. But this year — society has finally stopped NOT talking about it.
I suppose I am writing this because I feel like I should stop NOT talking about it too. Maybe what needs to happen for the people who are uncomfortable is to know that even strong, independent women like me who pretty much wear the word FEMINIST on their foreheads — have faced and do face this kind of harassment. The most powerful part of the #metoo movement for me and even my warrior group — was seeing that these women were super powerful beings — not at all victims, not at all trying to live in the past or have this define them. It’s quite the opposite and I think that’s why many women didn’t write #metoo — even though they also had experienced it.
I find myself often in this headspace. I want to move forward from it even if it is something that I know will always be a part of my human experience and walk through life. Facing it in a formal therapeutic setting was the bravest and most difficult thing that I have ever done. Most survivors do not ever make it to start — and I started, endured and finished. It is one of the things that will never show up on a resume, or on my LinkedIn — but that in may ways completely demonstrates the resilient, courageous and brave woman that I am.
Maybe what we need is more women talking about it so that people can see that it’s everyone, it’s everywhere — and it’s even the women that you would least expect because they are so grounded in their personal power.
Ironically those of us who are in these somewhat underground warrior societies — know this is what needs to happen. We know the tip of the iceberg is all that is being revealed. We know each predator walks around in a virtual hot spot of victims and is in constant grooming mode.
Today the world is more awakened to what this kind of abuse looks like, with real live examples from movie stars and TV hosts who “groomed” in the same ways our predators did and THAT ALONE is so validating to the many of us who suffered in silence not knowing “is this shit normal or am I crazy?”
I haven’t been ready to share publicly my story. But those who know it are not surprised that my little 6 year old self was a silence breaker and instantly thrown into having to show up as someone stronger than I knew how to be or even understand. My silence breaking was not well received and the resilience that instilled in me has been both a curse and a gift. This TIME cover means the world to me, because it means that 6 year old bad ass has finally been given public validation that yes — her feelings were valid —predators suck and this should have never happened to you at 6, & 20, & 35 or EVER.
Unfortunately, that was not the experience of most women including myself as a child, a college student, an early stage career professional, or a midlife divorcee.
So even though our faces aren’t the ones on the cover — we are ALL the Time Person of the Year. Millions of women shelter stories inside themselves, are harassed just trying to go to f***ing work and do their jobs, or who find this movement stirring up old experiences they thought that they had long since forgotten but are suddenly slightly paralyzed and inspired by.
Regardless of where you are on the spectrum — or your warrior walk — — whether you have spoken up and landed your face on Time Magazine, or whether you did or didn’t publicly place a hashtag after your name #metoo—TODAY you are the TIME MAGAZINE PERSON OF THE YEAR —and with that the silence in your soul is broken. For that and what you have endured based on our societal constructs as women and girls- we thank you for your bravery and your silence breaking.
Women after today will see this cover and the collective bravery behind it and hopefully the silence and abuse cycle will end with our courage so that #metoo ends here and with our brave voices.
That was my grandmother’s intention in telling me her story. I was 10 or 11 at the time. Looking back I know that it was a super progressive thing to do for a woman in her age group and in that time frame. I could tell as she watched my face intently and discovered the non-shocked reaction to what she was sharing, that she knew it was already too late for me. The disappointment and anger settled the shaking that was in her voice when she first started speaking. She quickly transitioned into a voice of power that I find coming across my keyboard today. It was almost as though she knew I already had the wisdom- so now all that she needed to give me was the understanding. She centered most of the conversation around the beauty of anger, “As a woman, in your anger, you will always find the most powerful of truths.”
“Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.”