I’m Jeremy, and I’m right here, ready to spit some fire.
Thanks for stopping by.
Let’s start with this: Me, too.
Everywhere I look I see one recurring truth, but I don’t hear too much from many of the dudes.
And I don’t know why that is.
We’re involved, too – some of us as victims, some of us as friends, but most of us as proof that what we do is how we live, especially when we do nothing, especially when we choose to be invisible, especially when we don’t speak up because we are not directly affected.
It’s a tough topic to address, and I get it, but the discussion deserves so much more than crickets.
How’s this for the definition of privilege?
Staying on the sidelines and watching people fight.
Deciding not to try to help because we’re doing fine.
Being able to choose your battles.
My Facebook feed is filled with friends admitting their hurt and sharing their hearts. I’ve read tales of daily harassment, of shame and pain and rage. I’ve read that some women don’t know any who haven’t been harassed, assaulted, or raped. I’ve read about drugs in drinks, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, cultures of silence and intimidation. I’ve read about catcalls from strangers, of women crossing streets to avoid being seen and of some abused while they were just teens. I’ve read about the need for pepper spray on dates, and I just want to say, fuck no, enough is enough and SHIT HAS TO CHANGE!
And to the ones who are standing up and speaking out about their experiences: Thank you.
Thank you for being brave. Thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you for sharing your truth.
Your courage invites mine.
Years ago, when I was in college, I lived with a dude who slowly became obsessed with me. He was a good friend that didn’t really like my girlfriend and he tried to break us up by pointing out her flaws. He even made a chart about the time I spent with her instead of him, and it seemed innocent enough but then things changed. Life got gloomy, scary.
I remember leaving for a Halloween party and him standing and sobbing, “Nobody will ever love you as much as I do.” I remember him hugging me one day and his hand lingering a bit too long on my chest, his eye contact a bit too intense, uncomfortable and uninvited. I remember one time, he pulled me over to him and I could feel his erection pressed against me. I remember I used to avoid being home. I remember I’d go to the gym, or sometimes I’d just drive around the neighborhood listening to punk songs and banging my hand on the steering wheel as I shouted anthems of anger and resistance. I remember feeling like I lived inside a dark rain cloud and I remember not standing up for myself. I remember intimidation and manipulation. I remember fear and confusion and overwhelm. I remember being late for work one day when he followed me to my car, opened the door, and refused to leave, crying and yelling, him telling me he loved me, telling me how he’d kill himself if I didn’t come back inside so he could spend time with me.
I remember driving away wondering what the fuck was going on in my life. I remember working in a daze and I remember coming home and seeing all his stuff was gone.
I remember the silence and the peace, a calm after the storm.
I remember, months later, randomly opening a door in a lecture hall and seeing him standing there. I remember cold lightning pouring down my spine. I remember feeling sick, an unwelcome new surprise.
I haven’t shared those details with anyone before now. I told myself it didn’t matter. It was so long ago anyway. I thought I was over it, scenes long since passed and plastered over, but the more I read recently, the more I realized some wounds disguise themselves as scars and sometimes hearts aren’t quite done grieving for older versions of who we used to be, older versions of ourselves buried deep down in who we are now.
I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman, and I don’t know what it feels like to be intimidated every day. I don’t know what it feels like to be terrified to walk down the street alone, or to feel scared by every stare from a stranger. I also don’t know how to change things, to snap my fingers and make it better.
But I know what fear feels like, and I wish the world had less. I know the taste of trauma, and it’s not something that I miss.
I’m a man with a platform and a voice, a man who is trying to get better every day, a man who isn’t scared to say that I’m not where I want to be just yet, but I’m willing to have a chat about it.
So let’s do that.
I’m sorry if my stare or smile ever made you feel uncomfortable. I’m sorry for the things I did when I was younger and didn’t know better. I’m sorry I don’t take this seriously enough sometimes, that I’ll laugh when I should rage, and stay silent when I should shout. I’m sorry I sometimes choose popularity and approval instead of my own values, and that I’m not quite the best version of myself some nights. I’m sorry I hurt people while I was learning who I was. I’m sorry it took so long for me to feel comfortable being myself.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can do, and what we all can do, to actually change things moving forward. How can we stop this from happening in the future? What actions can we take? It’s tempting to feel powerless or overwhelmed by the scale and severity of the problem, but I keep coming back to this tried and true cliché: If we want to change the world, we have to change ourselves.
Here are five things I will do to help fix the problem of sexual abuse and harassment.
1. I will listen with an open mind and heart, not just to hear what’s happening, but to understand. I will take the time to actively explore how and why these problems arise, and what impact they have. I will learn more and be receptive to new ways of thinking. I will be open to changing my mind about the things I believe.
2. I will pay attention. I will keep an eye out for harassment and abuse. I will notice subtle cues and I will not turn a blind eye or ignore them.
3. I will speak up. When I see harassment happening, I will be brave enough to use my voice to speak my mind and make it known what I feel inside and I’ll hold myself and those nearby to higher standards, to more empathetic perspectives. I will do what is necessary to stop pain from happening. I’ll have the hard conversations with friends and family, and I’ll be more vigilant in noticing my surroundings and the opportunities around me I can take to make a change.
4. I will open up more readily, more easily, when I see things that trouble me, and I’ll choose courage instead of complicity. I will make the issue personal when possible, and remind myself I am part of the problem and the solution.
5. I will educate others when the opportunity presents itself. I will share my stories and those of people I care about with others who are unclear of the issue or impacts. I will spread facts when I can. I will enlighten. I will remember that we are all mentors, and I will teach the power of compassion and courage moving forward.
Sexual abuse and harassment is way too widespread to be swept under the rug any longer. And make no mistake, this is cultural pain. This is pervasive, ancient shame come to light in a big way. And enough is enough and SHIT HAS TO CHANGE.
It’s not good enough to not stand up. It’s not good enough to stay silent. It’s not good enough to stay out of it.
IT’S NOT FUCKING GOOD ENOUGH TO PRETEND YOU’RE NOT INVOLVED.
The status quo is killing people. Our accepted way of life is ruining lives.
Did you know that one in three women have been sexually abused? One in three women.
I have three sisters.
Am I meant to accept this and repress this fact and just sit back and watch girls get hurt? Am I meant to laugh and joke when their self-worth is worsened by random comments and unwelcome touches? Am I meant to stay silent when I know better?
Because enough is enough and SHIT HAS TO CHANGE.
The true cruelty to me is the commonality of this pain. Everyone knows someone who has been sexually abused or harassed. Hell, nearly everyone IS someone who has been abused or harassed.
And yet, here we are, together, talking about it over and over and over again and again and again.
We have to do better, together.
We have to be better, together.
We have to listen and learn and grow and become better, together.
This bullshit has to stop.