Power Without Sexual Violence

One side effect of Trump’s statements about women, about people of various ethnicities and religions is that it is allowing some things to be flushed out into the open.

I’m not much on social media, but even I learned of and was awed by the fact that one woman could tweet the question, “Tweet me your first assaults,” and have a MILLION women (& men) respond within 24 hours. #NotOkay is already a powerful statement, but has potential to become a transformational movement if it creates a shift in how people think of themselves and their own power.

The fact these accounts are of “first assaults,” (not 2nd, 3rd) which fall on the spectrum from groping to rape feels like a huge wave of awareness that people are not alone in this experience as part of being human. My first assault occurred at age 15 (unless I count being flashed by a streaker while walking to school at age 11). At the time, I was terrified and relieved an older adult intervened. I soon brushed it aside, thought it was no big deal and didn’t even know it was sexual assault until I took a self-defense class years later where I got to scream “No” at an imaginary attacker. My experience was not rape but it was two total strangers groping me and trying to rip my shirt off. I think we can define sexual assault as any groping, touching, fondling or otherwise crossing someone’s personal boundaries without their permission.

Does this terrifying experience have to be so normal, so much a part of every young woman’s entry into adulthood and every man’s experience of their own power?  Men are definitely victims too, but fewer come forward, and this Twitter sharing was specifically addressed to women.

After all the examples across the political spectrum of men in positions of power using that position to cross personal boundaries, I have been wondering, “Is power possible without sexual violence?”  Ghandi comes to mind as one version of powerful male leadership, though I hope men don’t need to starve themselves in order to lead with strength and authenticity.  Many women have held high offices and positions of power around the world, but I am not aware of examples of them abusing others physically or sexually when in those positions.

Sexual violence has been a readily used tool of war throughout human history to control groups of people. But if we are living in a society that is relatively at peacetime and supposedly “civil” or “enlightened” what does it mean when so many are #NotOkay?

Thank you to Trump for showing us we are really not okay.  Can we learn to use our energies to benefit ourselves and those around us? Can we focus our energies on creating spaces where people can feel safe to be themselves and okay in their own birthright of a body?




About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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