The #MeToo movement has me all messed up, y’all. The world wants you to pick a side. You’re for us or against us. But it’s almost never that easy, now is it?
It’s always been a cause for frustration for me- that conflict you feel when you want to support something, but then someone ruins it. It happens more often than I’d like for sure.
I remember the first time I felt this discord in my soul over a grown-up issue.
I grew up in a blue-collar family. My daddy was a union worker- and the union steward during a strike, no less. It was a serious learning experience as a child, for sure. That was the year Daddy finally broke down and bought one of those new-fangled answering machines. The union helped protect my daddy from a company that was trying to take advantage of him. Our family needed that union.
I grew up and at 20 years old, I married into a white-collar family. My husband at the time held a white-collar job at a major corporation. The union in this industry was huge and wielded its power in a way that was so frustrating to everyone else associated with the company. Their demands were honestly, pretty unreasonable sometimes. Finally, the business decided to move its operations to a right-to-work state to avoid dealing with this union.
Personally, the struggle was real.
I finally concluded that the real problem was power. Everyone wanted power…the company…the union. But they weren’t happy to just have power. They had to abuse it. It was all corrupt. Neither side seemed satisfied with what was fair and just…they always wanted more…at the expense of the other. A constant war.
The internal conflict between issues arose again for me a few years ago with the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Growing up, I recognized the signs of racism early. I remember the comments that were made about black children who were my friends. I remember the looks I got going for ice cream with a friend of another color. I remember the places some of my friends wouldn’t go with me in college, because it just wasn’t safe. It was always infuriating to me. I was (and still am!) a firm believer that we needed to change the way that people look at each other. To appreciate our differences without treating anyone unjustly because of them. To judge based on the content of someone’s character, not the color of their skin.
At first glance, I would be the first to throw myself behind the Black Lives Matter movement. I wholeheartedly want to go to bat for equality and fair treatment of all people. But then came the anti-police rhetoric, the violence, the burning of cities, looting of stores, riots, glorification of criminals, demonization of people who genuinely didn’t do anything wrong. I certainly couldn’t align myself with that. That wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted to fight for. This was wrong.
Why were people routinely lying about encounters with police to paint them in a negative light? We’d hear an accusation, then see the body camera footage and realize it was an outright lie. I’ll never forget as a brand-new patrolman’s wife learning of an incident in which a man who was not even being touched by an officer threw himself against a wall and then screamed that the police beat him. I was horrified that someone could level such an accusation and even more horrified that people would believe him with no evidence of such conduct ever taking place.
But we’re led to believe we have to choose a side. Black or Blue. Union or Corporation. It’s just not that simple.
Enter…the #MeToo movement.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was assaulted in 2014 by a man who was not held accountable for his actions. When I first spoke up about what had happened to me, I was so deeply saddened and humbled by how many women reached out to say it had happened to them, but they were too afraid to have ever said anything.
I believe these women matter. I believe what happened to them matters. I absolutely believe their voices should be heard and that we have to do a better job of administering justice in these cases. So, when the #MeToo movement caught on, I was relieved that someone was paying attention. Finally, now we can bring to the light what has so long lived in the shadows.
But it’s never that simple is it?
I want justice. I want justice for the workers. For the businesses. For the minorities. For the officers. For the victims.
But this…what’s happening now…this is no longer just. It’s not just to level accusations against someone with no proof whatsoever and have it tear apart someone’s life. It’s not just when those at the head of a movement against sexual assault are paying money to their own victims to cover their own indiscretions. We’re no longer looking for justice when we blindly believe any accusation.
I’ll be brutally honest here…yes, it was wrong what my attacker did. It would have been wrong regardless of any proof one way or another. And I probably would have reported it either way. But I wouldn’t have gone forward with the process if it hadn’t been for the fact that he admitted having done it.
Were it not for that, it would have been “he said, she said.” From a legal standpoint, there’s no justice to be had there. It would have been wrong for them to punish him on my word alone. I just happen to think that if he said he did it, and I said he did it, they maybe could have done something about it. But without his confession, it’s wrong for me to expect a third party to hold him accountable.
While I wish I could just tell them that he did it and they would punish him accordingly…I would be appalled if they did that. That’s not justice. What if some woman did that to my son someday? Just got mad at him and decided to level such an accusation. Being married to an investigator I can tell you it is horrifying how many false allegations are brought every year. Absolutely. Horrifying.
Our founding fathers set up the justice system in such a way as to consider the accused innocent until proven guilty. They did that on purpose. They knew what it was like to live under a system in which a simple accusation could destroy or even cost your life. That’s not justice.
When are we going to realize that it’s people’s lives we’re throwing around like they’re nothing? When are we going to realize that lies aren’t harmless? That our actions have consequences? That we have a responsibility to our fellow man?
So, what would I say then to the women who have been harmed by a man and don’t have any evidence to support their claim? You matter. What happened still matters. Lack of proof doesn’t make him any less wrong or what happened any less evil. Justice will take place. Maybe not in this life, but the evil will not go unpunished.
Don’t be afraid to tell your story. But please know that he’s not the main character in your story. You’ll notice I never mention my attacker by name. He’s nothing to me. He doesn’t define me. He doesn’t deserve a mention…even negative attention is attention he doesn’t deserve.
The power in my story is not in a courtroom. It’s not in a verdict. It’s not in a settlement or a prison sentence or a confession. The power of a story is in its ability to help heal the wounds of others. It’s in letting others know they aren’t alone. It’s in showing that we can own our stories and redeem them for good. “You intended to harm me, but the Lord intended it for good.”
The sad reality is, there are innocent men and women having their lives destroyed by false allegations and we have a moral obligation to defend them with the same passion we show for those whose lives have been destroyed by assault or racism or greed. We can’t fight for justice for our daughters and not our sons. Those who can be proven to have committed a crime someone should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Those who can be proven to have lied about being a victim should also be punished for the damage they have done.
So, at the end of the day, I suppose I’m just not about any movement. I guess I just think we all ought to make a move toward real justice; toward being kind to one another; toward personal responsibility; toward respect for others. I think we ought to love one another. And I think the only movement that really matters is whatever moves our hearts closer to God.