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Writer, Retreat Leader, Resource Creator
I never shared my story before.
I was twenty years old, a student studying in England for a semester abroad, traveling around Europe by myself. A great adventure in independence and resilience.
On my first day in Paris, a man followed me out of the subway station, refused to leave me alone, grabbing me, groping me, and kissing me.
I had never kissed anyone before. I was disgusted and mortified that this would be my “first kiss” experience. I tried to block it out, tried to forget about it. Even kissed someone I didn’t know or like very well soon afterwards to get that horrible first experience out of my mind.
But it was there. That assault happened.
The few times I have told someone personally about it, I’ve been scoffed and ridiculed. “Oh, that’s nothing.” In some ways, I would agree. I do not know, nor wish to know, the pain and trauma that so many people I know have experienced, years of sexual abuse and rape.
But it still happened to me. And I never had the courage to talk about it until now.
Because of that experience, and because of how others reacted when I told them, I thought the shame and disgust I felt was my fault. When other experiences of harassment and assault occurred, I still felt it was my fault, that I should have known better, should have said no more forcefully (even when the man told me I would like it if I would let him continue).
On Sunday, when my Facebook timeline became full of “Me Too” posts, I was reluctant to post, knowing others have had far worse, more terrifying experiences that they have survived. I hesitated, knowing that this might not change anything—certainly not those who desire to have power and control over others. Because that’s what assault and harassment are about—not sexual attraction or sexual addiction, but about domination through power and violence.
I hesitated because I was still ashamed.
But I saw almost every woman I know post “Me too.” And I typed those two words and clicked post.
Almost five years ago, I had the privilege of attending the last show of Burien Actor’s Theater (then known as Burien Little Theater) run of Jesus Christ Superstar with an all-female cast. I have kept the program all these years. On the front cover is a photo of a hand with a nail through it—but the hand’s fingernails are painted pink. I wrote a reflection about that performance here.
As I watched that performance, I saw a female Jesus stripped and whipped, beaten and crucified, and left to die. And the flood of emotions overwhelmed me as I thought of all the women who have suffered abuse, assault, and rape; and for the first time, I knew that Jesus had suffered the same.
My Jesus is not only male; My Jesus is fully human, embodying all genders, taking on all the violence of the world. My Jesus knows my pain, and her pain, and his pain, and their pain. My Jesus took on the suffering of the world, and that includes mine.
I don’t know that much will change from us typing “Me too.” I don’t think assault will stop. When scores of women (and men, and people of all genders) cry out and say, “this happened to me,” it doesn’t seem to stop the violence from happening. But for the first time, I feel I can talk about it.
When I remember how the actress playing Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”