Self, Sex

How The #MeToo Movement Is Teaching Survivors To Find Their Voice And Self-Worth

Photo: courtesy of the author
#Metoo movement

Before the #metoo movement (originally coined by social activist Tarana Burke but made popular by Alyssa Milano after the many sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein went public), I had never talked to my peers or other women about sexual assault and sexual harassment. I mean, we talked about it but it we described it like an annoying reality of our everyday lives more than a traumatizing and silencing part of our lives.

When I saw the neverending stream of #metoos on my Facebook feed, my stomach sank. Almost every woman and man I know had been affected by sexual assault and some had even confessed to being the abusers.

RELATED: 31 Women Explain How They Want Men To Help Change The Sexism Culture After The #MeToo Movement

#Metoo has undoubtedly changed the way we interact with each other and see one another. It has definitely changed the way I use words when talking to fellow survivors.

In a political climate that is anything but kind right now, I can see my generation becoming more and more empathetic and it gives me hope. People are listening or at least making an effort to listen. People are finally believing the cries that survivors have been shouting for years.

But I can’t help but feel like there is a chip on my shoulder about it all. Why does this have to happen to so many people for us to listen? Why do we only listen intently when it happens to famous people?

I’m survivor of sexual assault and abuse. I posted #metoo on my Facebook and Twitter after seeing how many other survivors were sharing their stories, and it made me feel heard. I felt a bond between the many survivors in my life. I felt empowered by the many people who came forward showing their support.

I had only one problem with the eruption of the #metoo movement, which was that some of us did not think about how triggering it can be to survivors who don’t want to share or relive their trauma. It’s a very sensitive subject which should be dealt with, with immense care, empathy, and listening. I think that is one of the main lessons I’ve learned during this time: the importance of listening to others, including ourselves.

Before #metoo, I don’t remember accepting the fact that I would get catcalled almost everyday when I walked down the street, but I also don’t remember actively fighting it. We are trained at an early age that cis (I'm glad we now use this word) men are superior and everyone else is lesser.

Little girls have been raised to be delicate, accommodating, understanding, and submissive. Little boys have been raised to be confident, commanding, successful and, last but not least, “men.” We have beaten toxic ways of thinking into one another that have ruined our own identities. I’m not saying that all abusers are just terrible people, but I am saying it does come from somewhere.

After I was raped, I pretended it didn’t happen. I ignored it. I continued seeing the guy who did it to me only to break it off after I found out he was cheating on me. That was the line I drew. Cheating.

I had been taught by the role models in my life that cheating was the ultimate violation! Anything outside of that was to be endured. To keep the family together, to keep your friends happy, to not cause a scene, to do it for the kids.

Even in film and television, only now am I actively seeing stories written about characters with an objective other than sex and power. Roles acknowledging all gender identities (though we could always use more) with plots and empathy.

As a woman of color I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see marginalized people in the limelight and appreciated. Even though Moonlight’s oscar win last year was the epitome of how marginalized people feel a lot of the time.

But the media and storytelling is important. It's where the most sensitive topics are introduced to us. I learned about sex from the movies. I learned how to “act” during sex. Moan until he climaxes. Be finished when he finishes. Then lie there, angelic, ready to make him a sandwich (dear god no!).

RELATED: The Secret Fantasy Life Of A Sexual Abuse Victim

I’m happy to see sex-positive and consenting characters written and showcased because WE NEED THEM. We need to see that you can say “no” in the middle of sex if you need to pee or you don’t feel like it anymore. We need to know that it's our right to decide who touches us and who doesn’t. We need to know that the boundaries we secretly want to set are ours to set!

This goes for everyone. And we also need to acknowledge how we have learned to accept abusive behavior.

I know for a fact I used to accept abusive behavior because I was raised in an environment that did.

I was taught to comply and to not make noise, otherwise it might disturb the “man” in the house. I was taught to put the needs of a grown adult before my own at 8 years old.

I was taught to understand that the reason he acts that way is because he has been through a lot and has a lot on his mind.

I was taught that the reason he calls you a slut and a whore when you are 16 years old is because he never thought his mother loved him.

I was taught the reason he touches you then hits you and then belittles you is because you are his daughter and he needs control.

I was taught that if a woman spoke up and demanded respect she would be cornered and shouted at and pushed around until her soul was destroyed.

So, in turn, I learned to make excuses. I would create scenarios in my mind about consent (I didn’t know what it meant then); I would swallow my needs because if I didn’t, the guy I was with might lose his temper and be mad at me.

I would justify everything so much so that I would even look into astrology and horoscope readings. If there was something about him “having an emotional time,” I would take comfort in that, hoping it would pass with the next moon cycle.

As much as I love astrology and will always love it, I was paying attention to the wrong things. Their behavior wasn’t supposed to be excused for a bad moon cycle. If I am expected to control my emotions during PMS, I expect them to do the same.

Ever since I learned that I could speak up, I could never really find the perfect time to do so. Because it had to be the perfect time, right? I couldn’t just speak up whenever I wanted to, right? They might think I’m annoying, right?

But the best thing about the #metoo movement and the millennial generation is that we aren’t really afraid of being annoying. We like to be annoying. We post and post and post which is extremely annoying. We aren’t worried about what the older generation thinks of us. We actively tell the older generation they are wrong. We don’t care what anybody thinks of us.

But at the same time, it does feel like smack in the face realizing it’s our responsibility to change the way we view consent and one another. #Metoo is teaching us about self-respect and self-worth in this way.

RELATED: I Was Raped By A Director — Then Warned That Reporting Could End My Career (Or My Life)

Becca Beberaggi is a NYC-based writer and comedian. She has written for various online publications and sometimes performs in sketchy basements and sometimes performs in not so sketchy basements. It depends on the day. You can follow her feelings on Twitter @beberagg