Last week my FB feed exploded with “Me Too” stories from sisters and friends. To those who shared: I’m so sorry. You have been seriously wronged, and I wish it were not so. But you are brave, and for that I thank you.
Missed the movement? “Me Too” was a tagline for persons (particularly women) who have been victim to sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. The social media campaign was effective: it heightened awareness and brought the issue home. But so much more wants to be said. “Me Too” should be the starting place for a meaningful conversation, not the ending statement.
I confess, I felt some fear and discouragement in response to “Me Too.” I didn’t know that so many within my own circle had been wounded by sexual abuse. In the wake of these feelings, I need a hopeful epilogue. Here’s mine.
1. NOT ME
I need my beautiful daughter to know that I can say “Not Me.” In fact, though we did not see them represented last week, thousands of men and women live free from sexual assault or abuse. Whatever your past, this can be your future.
Sexual assault is NOT an inevitability.
2. Divine Worth*
There is status higher than “Me Too” or “Not Me.” This isn’t a contest between clean-slates and marred-pasts. Your personhood extends waaaay beyond that. Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God (D&C 18:10).
Whatever one’s experience with (or without) sexual assault, ultimately we are the same: unique, full of promise, vulnerable, and deserving of respect. Each of us is more than the injustices we have been dealt.
The “Me Too” campaign tempted me to believe that the world is a rotten place. Ill-feelings notwithstanding, I refuse to give up on society. There are laws to prevent and to prosecute. There are protectors. There are listeners. There are victim advocates. There are virtuous individuals. There is good information and there are safe situations. There is so much to be applauded about our imperfect system.
There is healing—real, lasting healing. Find it where you will, but I find it in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened… He has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. There are so many of us who are thrashing around, as it were, with feelings of guilt, not knowing quite how to escape. You escape by accepting the Atonement of Christ, and all that was heartache can turn to beauty and love and eternity…The Atonement can put you free again to move forward, cleanly and worthily, to pursue that path that you have chosen in life.” (Elder Boyd K. Packer, The Plan of Happiness).
“Me Too” may be a telling part of your story, but it isn’t the whole story, and certainly not the best chapter. Hold out, and beauty will be born from the ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
5. People can change.
I know it’s hard to talk about perpetrators, but I have to believe that help and healing are available to them, too. They have made terrible choices. Their souls are sick (Isaiah 1:5-6; 16-18). But heaven help us, what good is grace if it can’t save the worst among us?
6. We can do something.
Above all, I take hope in knowing that we can DO something. Victimization implies being acted upon, but we are also agents to act. When something threatens my world, I can do something about it (Ether 12:4).
With as much power as I am given, I can protect myself and my family. We can learn boundaries and safe touch. We can dress modestly and treat others with respect. We can learn recognize spiritual promptings. We can fight pornography. We can say no to sexually explicit lyrics, literature, and imaging. We can talk about dating principles and the ins-and-outs of safe sex. Better still, we can learn about sex within the context of God’s Plan of Happiness.
All in all, I do believe there is hope for us yet.
Comment below! What’s your addendum to “Not Me”? How are you responding in positive ways to a serious cultural problem?
*Many thanks to my dear friend Crystal for reminding me of divine worth. She said, “For me I think the ‘Not Me’ or ‘Me Too’ needs to be followed by ‘but’ ‘and’. Those two words (whichever fit us) should never define us.” Not Me/Me Too matters less than the hope and healing that are available to us all.