I was with female clients all day yesterday and many of them were very triggered because of the Kavanaugh/Ford testimonies. The Senate hearing was activating PTSD flashbacks of their own sexual assaults. I was facilitating them through their traumas and referring out for expert help. As far as I know, I have never been raped or assaulted, but with the blessing and curse of the empath, I could feel in my own body the collective PTSD of the billions of women and children on the planet who have been assaulted like Dr. Ford. What are we doing? Are we in hell? How have we created a culture where this horrific violence is so ubiquitous? Men are supposed to be the protectors of vulnerable women and children. How have things gotten so sick and twisted? I felt the collective rage boiling up and bowling me over. I felt the power surge of women telling their stories and feeling like their stories matter. Perhaps the days of “he-said-who-cares-what-she-said” are over. The scent of rebalancing power is in the air. If men assault women, the natural consequence of abusive, violent, and unethical choices, even in youth, is that they may have a #MeToo finger pointed their way, and it could destroy their families, their career, and their social status. No more can they get a hall pass of “boys will be boys.” If that’s what boys do, we must stop this. As one of my shameless warrior abuse survivor clients coined the phrase while looking into the innocent eyes of her grandbaby, #MeTooNeverYou.
After I felt the power surge of the women, I felt another wave of collective pain—this time from the men. If it’s true that one in three women and one in six men are sexually assaulted, where are the men who are doing the assaulting? It’s probably safe to assume that most women and children were not molested, assaulted, and raped by serial rapists. Probably someone willing to rape once is willing to rape more than once, but let’s say the incidence of rapists among men is not one in three but one in five or even one in ten. How many billions of men are we talking about? And how are these men handling the pain of having stolen a woman or child’s innocence in this way? How do they metabolize all that shame? Where can they get relief?
I asked my husband, who attends a men’s group and has a twenty-year history of Tantra workshops with his former partner, whether he had ever heard a man confess to perpetrating such a crime and asking for help from the men or the group. Never, he said. What about his guy friends? Do they ever talk amongst themselves about past sexual crimes against women and children? Do they feel regret, fear, remorse, terror that the next #MeToo might be pointed their way? No, he said. He hangs out with a lot of brave men who confess to porn addictions, seeing prostitutes, and other hard to admit behaviors. But nobody admits they have assaulted women or children. In my life, the only man who has committed rape who has admitted it publicly is Tom Stranger, the guy who did a TED talk with the woman he raped as a kind of truth and reconciliation. I thought Tom was brave for saying he was sorry. Many other women skewered him.
My husband says this is something men do not discuss. It’s more like a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
I wonder how these men get help. What if they want to make apologies and make amends? Could they call the women they raped and say “I did it. I fucked up. I’m sorry. How can I make it up to you?” Do they even feel safe telling their therapists? How are they dealing with this?
My empath self was watching the Senate hearing and feeling the unsettled feelings of a lot of these men in positions of power. It’s probably safe to assume that some men process their trauma by shutting down their power. These men are unlikely to assert themselves to get what they want from a woman or child and are less likely to be rapists. But men in positions of power may have processed their trauma by getting aggressive and assertive and going for what they want, feeling entitled to step on anyone in order to attain that power. I would not be surprised if male politicians have a very high incidence of having committed rape or some sort of sexual assault. The very qualities that would make someone capable of rape are perhaps what it takes to survive our political system—the willingness to win at all costs, regardless of the carnage. Think about it. To be capable of dehumanizing another, to be able to laugh while you pin down a vulnerable human and do whatever you please with them demonstrates a level of emotional numbness and absence of empathy that can only result from that man’s own traumatic past. What had to happen to a man to make him capable of laughing while he tries to force a crying woman to have sex with him?
I posted my thoughts on Facebook and Michelle Dwyer wrote exactly what was in my heart. “I had this fantasy . . . What if Kavanaugh had said, “You know what, I don’t remember doing such an awful thing to you but I believe you. And I’m sorry. I did some fucked up things at that age, not just to you but to other people and to myself. It was a confusing time and I messed up, a lot. Please believe me when I say that I am sorry for the pain you experienced that day and every day after. I ask for your forgiveness. I need to also forgive myself so that I do not carry the shame with me.”
What if Kavanaugh had said this? What if every brave #MeToo survivor was not only believed and supported but also received an apology from the person who hurt her? But that’s not what Kavanaugh did to Dr. Ford. No. He did what most men accused of sexual crimes do. He protected himself without an ounce of compassion for what she went through.
Our country has become a mockery, and it’s no wonder. With the kind of men we put in positions of power, we’ve gotten exactly what we deserve. And it’s likely to get more painful.
So let’s assume for a minute (not saying this is true or I can prove it) that a high percentage of the men in that Senate hearing—on both sides of the Democrat/Republican divide—tried to force themselves on women at some point in their life. Perhaps they were drunk. Perhaps they don’t even remember consciously, but their body knows. Imagine how they might feel—activating their own terror—as they watched Ford and Kavanaugh on the stand. How many of them are thinking, “Am I next?”
Think of the consequences of this. So if there are billions of scared men out there now wondering if their whole life is about to come crashing down because of some indiscretion from high school that they may not even remember, how are they dealing with this intense feeling? Women have each other—support groups and such. There’s some shame in outing oneself as a victim of sexual abuse. Women and men who have been victims of abuse are afraid of being pitied, labeled, or perceived as damaged goods. But at least their wounding evokes compassion in most. But where are the rapist support groups? How do men rally together to deal with the personal and collective wound? How would a man who carried this trauma in his system, this dehumanizing capacity, handle it—besides numbing or becoming an addict or whatever one does when one doesn’t have help feeling the pain? How can we rehabilitate men who have perpetrated sexual abuse if they can’t even confess without risking personal or professional or even public attack?
Consider it. Women, have you ever asked your partner if he has sexually violated someone? How would you handle it if he said, “Yes, #MeToo. I raped a woman in college?” I actually did ask my husband last night. “Have you ever sexually assaulted anyone?” He says no. I believe him. But how would I have dealt with it if he said yes? How would any of us handle it? It would be so tempting to just write off all men who perpetrate sexual crimes as monsters. But then we do the very thing we judge in them—we dehumanize them. We can’t just write off one in ten men on the planet as monsters.
I don’t have a clue how we could possibly deal with this in a conscious, loving way. It would require the kind of truth and reconciliation South Africa tried after apartheid. There would have to be a legal moratorium, a collective agreement that the statute of limitations has been passed and we’re not capable of taking every #MeToo accusation to court. Court cannot prove such things. They are often so long ago, and it’s one person’s word against anothers.
But imagine if every man (or woman) who has committed a sexual crime could call the person they hurt and say “I did it. I fucked up. I feel remorse. Please forgive me. How can I make it up to you?” Then what would be possible? If we met women’s heart anger with heart compassion, could we possibly heal together?
These are the kinds of intense conversations we have together in the Healing Soul Tribe (join us here). We are creating a safe container where we can dive into even the most triggering territory without polarization or judgment, where even the most intense emotions are welcome.
Let me reiterate what I said at the beginning. The collective rage of women is a wonderful, necessary step. Outrage is an appropriate response to having your boundaries violated and violence perpetrated. Clean anger is how we say “Fuck no. Never again.” Women’s anger is how we turn the tides. Suppressing a woman’s healthy anger is how men have perpetrated violence against women and gotten away with it for millennia. Now is the time to use our heart anger to make change. But women cannot rise if men do not rise with us. And men cannot rise if they’re swirling in a vortex of toxic shame. I’m not trying to defend the men or suggest in any way that women don’t have a right to be pissed right now. Personally, I’m furious. Im not even saying we should leap to premature forgiveness or compassion. I’m only saying that we can’t forget the men here if we want the tide to turn.
What about you? How do you feel about all this? It feels scary and vulnerable to share my thoughts on triggering subjects like this, so please share your comments. It helps me feel less alone when you share your thoughts too.
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