Me Too: Strength In Numbers

“I am strong, and I am beautiful, and I am bold, and no one, especially not you, can take that away from me… While standing up here I’m finally realizing that I’m not alone.”

- Natalie Woodland, Larry Nassar trial, 2018

 

In the world as we know it today, hundreds of factors play into the shape of a woman’s character.  Parenting, siblings, living conditions, health conditions, trauma and the presence of media to name a few, can either slice or stitch wounds on the livelihood of an individual. Current events and societal constraints often portray gunshot gashes as menial paper cuts. The wounds that require the most healing remain untreated. However, with strength in numbers, and the boomerang effect of courage, voices will no longer remain unheard.

During my childhood, my mom worked active duty for the United States Navy while my dad worked active duty for the Marine Corps. After hiring many babysitters and nannies, she made the decision to work as a reservist for the sake of my father’s frequent deployments. My father often went overseas for full years at a time. This left my mom to raise four kids on her own, during the most crucial stages of adolescent growth. At a young age, her selflessness and unfaltering strength taught me that no matter where I am in this world, I am not alone.

As I grow older, my relationship with my mother has significantly grown from parent to best friend. The more I learn about myself, the more respect and admiration I have for her presence in my life. She sculpted each aspect of my independence. She inspired me to pursue my own career in the Navy. She taught me how to use my strengths for the benefit of others.  She showed me the power of using my voice when others remain silent.

A few weeks ago, numerous USA gymnasts came forward with molestation allegations against sports physician Larry Nassar. Twenty-two year old McKayla Maroney lit the match and released her story against both Nassar and USA Gymnastics. The media buzzed with rage as young women continued to step forward. Many of these ladies chose to stay silent to avoid fines for speaking out against USA Gymnastics non-disclosure agreements. However, social media took this blistering issue by storm as celebrities, such as Chrissy Teigen, dropped hefty donations towards the pursuit of prosecution.

On January 17, 2018, fifty-four year old Nassar began a seven-day hearing under Judge Rosemarie Aquilina. After 168 victims came forward with statements, Judge Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 175 years in prison for seven counts of first-degree sexual assault.

Much like the rest of the world, I became instantly hooked to this case. My love for gymnastics and USA sports as a whole only fanned the flame to the feminist fire burning in my heart. Over a span of two decades, women experienced gut wrenching abuse under this one man, and not only felt silenced by society, but by the checks and threats thrown at them in his defense. However, the moment McKayla Maroney’s bravery reached the media, victims came forth and formed an army against him. This army broke the silence not only for victims of Larry Nassar himself, but for victims of sexual abuse as a whole.

 

“Larry, I hope you… and all others realize you've pissed off the wrong army of women.”

-Lindsey Lemke

 

One in every six women will experience either attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Those numbers represent nearly 20% of the female population. With that being said, think about the women forced into silence. Think about the women who lost their lives battling the encapsulated burdens of their trauma. I am not writing this post as a case summary for Larry Nassar’s rightful imprisonment. I am writing for the 260+ survivors and the stories that remain unspoken.

“Larry, the thing you didn't realize when you were sexually assaulting me... was that you were building an army of survivors who would ultimately expose you for who you are. From this rubble we will rise as an army of female warriors.”

-Amanda Thomashow

 

The years 2017 and 2018 brought forth many cases much like Nassar’s. Cases brushed under the rug for decades at a time, hidden by the checks of major organizations, and the silence of muzzled victims. While the media tends to highlight only the stories of pop culture moguls, social media lifts the rug on this issue under movements such as #MeToo. With this hashtag, women all around the world find their voices and share their stories.

The Me Too movement began in 2006 under sexual assault survivor Tarana Burke, before social media flooded our daily lives. After hearing stories from women and girls who experienced similar trauma, she founded a non profit organization called Just Be Inc. With this foundation, she helped women of all ages cope with their mental constraints, and find the strength to speak up.

Earlier this year actress Alyssa Milano brought this movement back into action, with the power of one tweet. She asked that anyone who has been sexually assaulted or abused respond to the tweet saying #MeToo. This hashtag instantly became a trending topic, as women from all across the world responded with their stories.

Scrolling through my twitter feed that week I made a point to read every response I could find. Not only were these women speaking up about their own abuse, but responding to testimonies with words of pure love. It is because of that love that more women responded, retweeted, quoted, favorited, and shared these stories for the world to see. No one with a twitter account could avoid the presence of this pulsating movement.

Unlike most sexual misconduct cases in the media, the Larry Nassar testimonies included women and children of all age groups and all social standings. This man abused not only Olympic athletes, but college students, colleagues, patients, and family friends. His status and role in society not only allowed him to continue his abusive tendencies, but strangle the voices of those who fell victim. Judge Aquilina and the 260 warriors defeated him entirely. Reading the testimonies and the horror stories, I feel as if this case will set the tone for combating sexual abuse as we know it today. This case will mark history as the turning point for combating sexual abuse.

Consent cannot be communicated subconsciously. Consent cannot be communicated unconsciously. Consent cannot be communicated if a partner is in a physically or mentally threatening situation. Sexual abuse holds a dark cloud over society that will no longer be ignored. That cloud will no longer suffocate or silence its victims.

Be loving, be kind, be supportive, and be mindful of others. With strength in numbers and the power of words, people will no longer have a reason to say #MeToo.

If you or a loved one has ever experienced sexual abuse, visit the National Sexual Assault Hotline to speak up and be heard.

“We know that a single candle can light a dark room. Imagine what all these flames can do. We will not live in darkness. We will burn brightly. To all the abuses and predators and harassers and enablers, we will burn your pedestals and hiding places to the ground. All your darkest secrets will be brought to light. We are strong and will not let you snuff out our light. We will burn brightly and not with hate but with hope.”

-Christina Barba

Sources:

https://metoomvmt.org/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/maryanngeorgantopoulos/nassar-victim-impact-statements?utm_term=.dyobNm2Va#.nnKlmzeaY

https://www.buzzfeed.com/maryanngeorgantopoulos/nassar-victim-impact-statements?utm_term=.twbrG0lo2&sub=0_120395347#120395347

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/24/us/larry-nassar-sentencing/index.html

https://pixel.nymag.com/imgs/fashion/daily/2018/01/24/24-Judge-Rosemarie-Aquilina.w710.h473.2x.jpg

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/us/me-too-movement-tarana-burke.html

https://img.thedailybeast.com/image/upload/c_crop,d_placeholder_euli9k,h_1440,w_2560,x_0,y_0/dpr_2.0/c_limit,w_740/fl_lossy,q_auto/v1509589458/171101-ryan-metoo-tease_ann11k

https://mediaresources.idiva.com/media//content/2017/Oct/part_of_the_metoo_movement_2_.jpg