I’m not one for uncomfortable conversations.
Correction: I used to be.
Politics. Money. Religion. Sex. Anything that could cause an argument, kick up a dust storm of accusations, force lines to be drawn or shock the seemingly calm waters of social niceties, had me hiding or running for the hills.
And then I became a mother, and realized my desire to “keep things pleasant” was quickly turning into apathy and that apathy would eventually become accepting the status quo where change is required.
In the two months since the New York Times report outlining Harvey Weinstein’s extensive and repugnant list of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, 38 other high-profile men from all manner of industry leadership have faced allegations ranging from inappropriate behavior to forced sexual misconduct to rape. Coupled with the “me too” movement on social media, it is apparent that we are all – men and women – vocalizing a requirement and desire to change the status quo of sexual misconduct and violence.
As a mother of two school-age daughters, I tried to silence the news reports outlining the gruesome behavior of these men as we got ready for school in the morning or prepared dinner in the evenings. When my oldest asked questions about what “me too” stands for or why someone was fired, I redirected the conversations to more pleasant topics. I filed it under the guise of wanting to keep the dark underbelly of the world away from their pure minds, but once I was honest with myself, I realized it had more to do with not wanting to have the uncomfortable conversation.
And isn’t that at the crux of the problem of sexual misconduct in our country? Wanting to remain silent because it’s difficult to speak up? Preferring the smooth, easy path of looking the other way even if that road is shrouded in secrets and darkness and eventual regret? Not having the uncomfortable conversations, not making the difficult decisions – because change, especially necessary change, does not come easily.
So the next time my oldest asked about it, I answered. We talked about what these men in particular did and why it was inexcusable and why she should never remain silent when she knows something is wrong – all on a level in which her seven-year-old mind can understand. We talked about how it was not the fault of the survivors, and that they should not feel embarrassed or responsible for others’ actions. We talked about what we can do to make sure it does not continue to happen.
America stands at a tipping point in our history as survivors bravely come forward and face their accusers and share their stories with the world so others who may be suffering can join the fight to end sexual misconduct in and out of the workplace.
As parents, it’s on us to have the albeit uncomfortable but honest conversations, when our sons and daughters ask us the tough questions. It’s about mothers talking to their sons, fathers speaking to their daughters, parents shaking the taboo of this topic and breaking the cycle of silence that surrounds sexual abuse and violence.
We can push the tipping point to fall to the side of making sexual misconduct extinct, but it is up to their future generations to make sure it stays so.
Because “me too.”
Because I stand with those who have courageously come forward with their stories.
Because my heart and my strength goes out to those who have chosen not to share their stories. You. Are. Not. Alone.
Because I refuse to let our children to be “me too.”
Because our children deserve a better future.
Because we can all be silence breakers.
Listed below are some community resources for any affected by sexual violence, how to help those affected and general FAQs when speaking to your children: