Lessons From #MeToo: Part One

By: Peter Cappon, MA, LLPC

Updated 1/23/2019

Tarana Burke created the Me Too Movement in 2006 which eventually gained significant moment last year during October of 2017.  Many sexual assault survivors began to courageously name their stories of abuse for the first time. I grieve the suffering so many have known for a long time in silence.  The sorrow, rage, and helplessness have also been accompanied by healing and a path forward.

I’m grateful for the survivors near and far who have decided to speak.  It has been an honor to walk alongside clients navigating this process. Along the way I have been taught numerous lessons by those who have come forward and asserted their truths.  Through this year of the Me Too Movement I have continued to be both challenged and inspired by women and marginalized populations in particular. The need to seek my own growth as a fellow human is as clear as ever.  I want to follow the lead of women and marginalized members of our society who have shown us all a way forward. By their example and their impacts upon me I have been reminded to trust my gut, speak my truth, and remember to listen with empathy.  I’m grateful for being shown the way.

1. Trusting Your Gut

After years of being disconnected from what they have known in their guts to be true I have personally witnessed women begin to trust themselves.  It is often difficult to hold to one’s view of reality, as we may be threatened by both real and perceived consequences for accepting what we know in our guts.  Perhaps the pain of accepting our truth seems like too much to handle. Messages come from every direction which contradict our own senses. We inaccurately learn that what we know in our guts to be true must be wrong.  Maybe trusting our guts as a source of knowledge has gotten us into trouble with people we love and need.

There are daily messages which contradict what I know in my gut to be true about myself, others, and the world.  I am continually learning how to hold onto my truth with tenderness and curiosity. I might have unanswered questions about my experience

but I have been reminded over and over again during the last year to not give up my truth too easily or too quickly.  Remembering to breathe deeply and settle into my body helps me to remain present with my own experience. Being more connected to my deeply felt instincts has led to a more settled sense of myself.  For me this is a challenge worth working through everyday. For many this need is even more complicated and challenging.

It’s tragic that many people are attributed smaller amounts of credibility, and even personal significance, based on race, ethnicity, gender, sex, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and so much more.  Women experience more sexual assault than men and are also less likely to be believed, which is a combination often leading to injustice. Women, people of color, and the trans community all experience more sexual assault than other groups.  The overlapping categories of marginalization some experience include but are not limited to racism, sexism, ageism, and classism. People who know higher levels of this intersectionality, and who have continued holding onto their truths amidst all of the external rejection, are wonders to behold.  I’m grateful for for those who have shared their #MeToo’s and illustrated lessons for us all in trusting our guts.

2. Speaking Your Truth

Putting words to what you know to be true can be a difficult next step.  Doing so, however, is a crucial step toward embracing your own truth and having your truth acknowledged by others.  Speaking our truth puts us at risk of rejection but also opens the door to being joined where we’re at. Messages women in particular have received time and time again have caused anxiety about “coming across the wrong way.”  During the last year I have heard clients begin to describe sexual or gender-related abuse while seemingly wanting to avoid coming across as whining, overreacting, dramatic, or appearing weak. What we see in the media only confirms the real risk of speaking up. There are so many hurdles to get over in order to begin talking about experiences of harm or oppression.

When speaking truth which has previously been unspeakable it is OK to begin slowly; what is important is that we begin at all. Learning to articulate the depths and the breadth of one’s truth does not need to happen overnight.  Sometimes it has been easier to describe actual past events while maintaining some level of objectivity as a safer first step. Simply naming that “something seems off” about what happened can be a perfectly adequate way to begin speaking and recognizing your truth, in addition to having your truth recognized by others.

Having my own therapist has been one of the most rewarding types of relationships I have ever had.  Having someone who will listen without judgement and with no expectation for me to “have it all figured out” has been an important support for me as I have continued down my continued lifelong path of self discovery.  I have entered into new areas of my own self because my therapist is both curious and patient with me. I can say what I need to without having it all figured out or even sometimes without needing to make any sense. It is often the process of speaking what I know in the moment which leads to what I might know next.  We don’t have to have it all figured out. Please speak your truth to someone you trust. If you must, and if you are able, I hope for the freedom to speak as loudly as necessary. I’m grateful to those behind the #MeToo’s for reminding me of this as well.

Blogpost has been updated to reflect the in-process learning of author, based on feedback from Michelle Jokisch Polo who is an inclusion expert in Grand Rapids MI.