Recently, I met with the Student Pastor at my church and he shared this video with me. I love it! It is the best explanation of consent I have seen. It is straightforward and makes very clear black and white arguments for what constitutes consent.
Let me begin by saying, if you know me or follow my blog, this is not a revelation, but – #MeToo. Regardless, there has been a lot of social media buzz surrounding the #MeToo phenomenon. I have been curiously watching responses to this movement. I didn’t immediately chime in because I wanted to focus on watching the responses and my social media presence screams – Me too! Sharing my story has allowed me to experience the power of “Me too” in the flesh, face-to-face. There is hope and solidarity in the discovery and admission “Me too.” A revelation that you are not alone. Even though sexual abuse and assault create feelings of isolation, you are not the only one. I have your back and united we are stronger together.
I recently spoke with a female college student following a speaking engagement where I shared my story. With hope in her eyes, she said – “I see you and I have hope that I can be ok too.” That is the power of “Me too” at it’s very best. Drawing victims out of their isolation, uncertainty and despair. Showing them there are not only survivors around them, but survivors who are even thriving. I even shared with her that as I came forward this past year I shocked most everyone who knew me. I repeatedly heard: “Are you kidding me?” “I never would have guessed!” “I had no idea!” I told her my goal was not to shock and I hadn’t kept it a secret because I was ashamed, I just didn’t see it as part of my identity. Honestly, I still don’t. It has made me a stronger woman and deepened my faith in ways I never knew possible, but I am not defined by it. Aside from speaking publicly about being a sexual assault survivor, it is the last thing I would share with someone to describe me.
However, I would like to elaborate upon my #MeToo. I can say #MeToo to rape and sexual assault, as I exhaustively cover on my blog and when I speak. However, I can say #MeToo to much more. I can say #MeToo to sexual harassment. I have experienced cat calls more times than I can count. I can say #MeToo to male educators sexually harassing me. I can say #MeToo to sexual harassment in my profession including uncomfortable conversations, inappropriate comments and questions about how I, a woman, ended up in a profession like architecture (implying it is a profession for men only). I can say #MeToo to feeling sick to my stomach as I was uncomfortably groped by a grown man pretending to help me in the wave pool at a waterpark in Junior High. I haven’t been a fan of the wave pool since.
I can proclaim #MeToo to not one, but two experiences in my twenties of exhibitionism by middle-age men. The first involved a man sitting at a restaurant curbside table in front of my car. As I started my car I looked up to see he was exposing himself to me whilst simultaneously shielding it from the view of others with a newspaper. The second involved a man following me to my car at night and jumping out from behind bushes with his pants down. Luckily, I had noticed him as I walked to my car. I picked up the pace and was driving away in the safety of my car when he emerged from the bushes. All I had to do was turn off my headlights. Not exactly safe, but it ended the encounter abruptly.
Regardless both encounters were troubling and left me shaken. I will admit I avoided both locations for a time. I did not speak up the first time I experienced exhibitionism, but I did the second. I was encouraged when I returned to the store and spoke with the manager. He not only respectfully listened, but called security and asked me to recount the event to them along with a thorough description of the man. I had to smile, when I noticed later, a fence had been installed along that same line of bushes. I don’t readily share these encounters, but they are significant, and they leave scars too. Any form of sexual harassment, abuse or assault are inexcusable.
I have curiously watched the reactions on social media to the #MeToo movement. I love the solidarity and encouragement that has poured forth from survivors and supporters. I love that #MeToo transcends gender as both women and men are having the courage to identify with #MeToo. #MeToo does not just apply to women, men relate as well. I have loved reading people’s responses who can’t post #MeToo, yet are appalled and sympathetic to the outcries of friends and family, voicing their concern and support.
I am amazed at the brave posts taking responsibility and proclaiming – #ItWasMe. No doubt they will incur backlash, but good for them for recognizing they have contributed to the problem. I don’t condone their actions that led to their #ItWasMe posts, but hopefully now they can move forward and put an end to their inappropriate behavior, speech, and actions. I was encouraged by one such post where a man embarrassingly admitted #ItWasMe, I am trying to do better and trying to raise my son to be a better man than me. I love the posts #IWill and #HowIWillChange followed by concrete actions people are taking to combat sexual harassment and assault. I am encouraged reading that people will no longer ignore sexist comments or inappropriate actions. That doing so excuses this behavior and makes these actions “acceptable.” I love hearing how people plan on advocating to spread awareness and prevent future victimizations. I am encouraged that people are committing to intervening on the behalf of others instead of just walking past.
I have watched the opinion articles and I am infuriated by those who claim this is just giving women a voice to rally together and cry “victim.” For those who take this stance, need I remind you men are posting #MeToo as well? This is not a movement limited to women. For those who respond in this manner – you are the problem. Even if you have not perpetrated such acts, you are contributing to a cultural climate that immediately attacks and shames victims. You are silencing the truth. You are preventing survivors from coming forward and telling their experiences for fear that no one will believe them, justice is unattainable, they will be blamed or publicly shame.
For those who are shocked by the number of people identifying with #MeToo, it is time to wake up to the facts. The numbers don’t shock me. I know that 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.1 I know that every 98 seconds, an American is sexually Assaulted.2 I know that 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.3 I know about 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.5 I know that according to The Association of American Universities (AAU), 2015 Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct 23.1% of undergraduate females & 5.4% of undergraduate males have “experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”4 It is time you know these facts too!
- David Finkelhor, Anne Shattuck, Heather A. Turner, & Sherry L. Hamby, The Lifetime Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Assessed in Late Adolescence, 55 Journal of Adolescent Health 329, 329-333 (2014)
- Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2010-2014 (2015).
- National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey (1998).
- The Association of American Universities (AAU), 2015 Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct.
- National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey (1998).
This past week I had the honor of sharing with a campus group at the University of Arizona. During the Q & A time I was asked a very important question: “If someone confides in you, when do you reach out for help and break a confidence?” My answer: “If that person indicates they want to hurt themselves or someone else.” A discussion ensued about who to reach out to. Like so many impromptu questions, upon further reflection, I wanted to elaborate.
In that vein – September is National Suicide Prevention Month. If you know or suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, here are some tips on how you can help. According to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline there are five steps you can take to help someone who may be contemplating suicide. These steps include:
Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way.
Keep Them Safe
A number of studies have indicated that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline, and frequently suicide rates overall decline.
Individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to someone who listens without judgement.
Help Them Connect
Studies indicate that helping someone at risk create a network of resources and individuals for support and safety can help them take positive action and reduce feelings of hopelessness (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255).
Studies have also shown that brief, low cost intervention and supportive, ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention, especially for individuals after they have been discharged from hospitals or care services.1
To read more about these steps and for additional resources check out:
Also check out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website:
Here are a couple of quick suggestions of what you can do and where you can turn for help:
- Tell the person you are concerned about them.
- Don’t leave them alone.
- Is this person seeing a physician or mental health professional? Encourage them to contact this professional and get additional help. Offer to drive them or even go to the appointment with them for moral support.
- Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)2
This is a fascinating TED Talk. Thordis confronted her rapist Tom nine years after he raped her with a letter. Much to her surprise – he responded. Not just a response, but ownership for what he did and an apology. This is a powerful story of forgiveness and the freedom it can bring both parties involved – the victim and the rapist.
Thordis arrived at the same conclusion I did with my rape – to forgive. Not for the benefit of her rapist, but for herself. So she could move on. So she could experience healing. Not to condone what Tom did or excuse it. She very clearly places the blame for the rape on Tom, her rapist. She admits that he was the one to blame for what happened and the only way her rape could have been prevented was if Tom had chosen not to rape her. Faith is not an element in Thordis’ story, as it is mine, but I find it powerful that forgiveness can lead to healing regardless.
Just as I did, Thordis confronted her rapist with a letter. I did not write my letter expecting nor wanting a response from my rapist. I did however get a response. It was not the response I would have liked. It was a disgusted and hate-filled stare as he shook his head in disapproval at me through a window. Thordis however made room for a dialog. A dialog that led to healing for not only herself, but with her help, for Tom as well.
I am amazed when survivors speak up, but honestly I am even more amazed that Tom spoke up too. That took a lot of courage! At the end of the day, we are all human. I hope no one ever forgets or marginalizes that fact. The moment we do, we are in trouble…
Tom has become a symbol of breaking down stereotypes. As Jane Gilmore observed in her article “Tom Stranger is articulate, attractive, funny – and a rapist ” for the Sydney Morning Herald:
In the TED Talk, Tom Stranger speaks first and establishes himself as a Nice Guy before we know the details of the rape. He’s articulate, attractive, sensitive, funny and relatable…Tom Stranger doesn’t look like the mythical rapist, but he does look like a real rapist. And he admits to being a real rapist.
Because of that, he has something valuable to say to the men who commit rape but are unable to conceive of themselves as rapists, or their attitudes to women’s bodies as violent.
At the end of the day, Tom raped Thordis. He is an everyday man – “the guy next door.” He’s not a monster. He made a mistake that changed the trajectory of not only Thordis’ life, but his own. I think it is courageous that he and Thordis are sharing their stories and debunking rape myths. Rapists aren’t monsters. They don’t lurk in dark alleys. They are everyday people. People most of us probably wouldn’t suspect. People we may know…
As I have been sharing my experiences, I have shocked a lot of people, especially friends and family who had no idea. Why didn’t I say something sooner? What led me to share? Why now? My intent has never been to shock. My reason for staying quiet for so long is really quite simple: I never felt led to share.
Being raped doesn’t define me. It was a defining moment in the sense that I had a choice of how to respond to being raped. My response impacted the trajectory of my life, but it is not part of my identity. I don’t feel obligated to divulge this fact for others to get to know me. Even now, when I am speaking or sharing I don’t immediately introduce myself as a rape survivor. Being raped greatly impacted my faith, my outlook and how I treat others, but it is not who I am.
For other rape survivors, I think you will be especially encouraged to hear that sharing this part of my life shocked people. I have had friends respond with: “Are you kidding me?!” “Seriously?!” “I never would have expected that!” “Of all people, I can’t believe YOU were raped!” On and on, responses of disbelief and shock. Why would that encourage other survivors? Because it means being raped did not ruined my life. It didn’t permanently derail my life or crush my dreams. I still graduated from college, in my intended major. I worked in my intended profession until taking a break for my family. I married my college sweetheart and have three adorable children. At a glance, I seemed to have a life free of any baggage or past trauma. The idea that I am a rape survivor never occurred to them. Even now, knowing me, people find it hard to fathom.
I am living a great life! I enjoy life. My husband and I like to have fun. I have fun with my kids. I have fun with my friends. I don’t struggle with depression. I am happy and healthy. I am super smiley and upbeat – that’s just my personality, pre-rape and post-rape. I tend to be easy-going. I am an eternal optimist. I am the last person to know about anything negative going on in a group of people.
Up until sharing, I hardly ever thought about being raped. It did not consume my thoughts or cast a dark cloud over my life. I have moved on. Sure, I put in a lot of time and hard work to move toward healing, but that is a distant memory now. God has been so gracious to me. I consider it such a gift that I dealt with being raped at that time. I admit, I did repress and deny it happened for a time, but after that I dealt with it. I sought the help of a professional counselor. I spent countless hours reading about rape, searching the Bible for encouragement, journaling, praying about it and asking God to heal me. He did and I am confident and secure in who I am.
So, if I never felt led to previously share the fact I am a rape survivor, why now? This past fall I attended the MOPS National Convention – “Momcon.” Every year, MOPS picks a theme for the year. Last year the theme was “Starry Eyed.” The idea behind this being that regardless of the darkness in the world MOPS moms choose “Wonder, Hope & Kindness.” The keynote speakers all spoke to this theme and how we as women could live it out. Over and over, I felt like they were speaking directly to me. This is my story! Choosing “Wonder, Hope & Kindness” amidst the darkness.
While I felt like all the speakers were speaking directly to me, there were two that stood out and solidified my conviction that I need to speak up. The first was Chrystal Evans Hurst. She spoke about being a “Kingdom Woman,” a woman focused on the things of God and being used by God. She drew upon the example of Ruth from the Bible. In the Old Testament, Ruth was a foreigner who married an Israelite man while he was living in her land. He died along with his brother and father and left Ruth a widower along with her widowed mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Instead of returning to her family as her mother-in-law urged, she vowed to remain with her mother-in-law and return to her mother-in-law’s nation. She declared that her mother-in-law’s God was her God too. She completely forsook the familiar. She did not choose the easy, comfortable path, or even the path that made sense. She was simply ready to follow God and that’s what we are all called to do. To take the next one step. To simply obey. Because of Ruth’s faithfulness, God redeemed not only her circumstances, but her mother-in-law’s as well. Because of Ruth’s faithfulness she is in the lineage of King David and Jesus. Like Ruth, the call of God on your life is rarely just for you.
The second speaker that drove home my conviction to start sharing was Rebekah Lyons. In her honesty and vulnerability, she shared about her personal struggle with anxiety. Then she challenged us:
“In all your stories, the enemy knows your gifting and he is going to do everything in his power to shut you up and discourage you…Calling is where your talents and burdens collide…The burden of calling is surrender. It’s the life you live. The family you were born into. What broke your heart? Be the restorer.” – Rebekah Lyons
I knew immediately what broke my heart. I knew where my burdens and talent lay. I knew that in my story was hope. Hope that God cares. Hope that God listens. Hope that God shows up when we need him most and does miracles. I can clearly see him in my story and I knew that if I shared my story, other would see him too. That someone somewhere needed to hear just that. That someone would be encouraged by how God showed up.
Following Rebekah Lyons’ talk, there was a meet and greet. I went with a friend to meet her. I wanted to tell her how her speaking encouraged and challenged me. How I walked away with the conviction I needed to start sharing my story. Rebekah told me she was excited to see what God would do through me. As my friend and I walked away, she turned to me and asked: “So what’s your story?”
Step one – start talking. Wow, that was quick. Ok, time to start talking and follow through on what I feel I am being led to do. I turned to my friend and I told her everything. Guess what? My story resonated with her. She was struggling with some of the same issues I had struggled with. She had faced come of the same circumstances I had faced. She was challenged and encouraged by my hope and deep trust in God’s love. Sharing deepened our friendship and bond. It also encouraged me and confirmed that others needed to hear what I have to say.
I prayed about where to start. I knew I needed to share, but where to begin? As I prayed, a couple people came to mind: my MOPS Coordinator, my MOPS area coach and my Pastor. I told my MOPS Coordinator I would be willing to share my story at our annual “Tea and Testimony.” Then I shared my story with her. Instead of waiting until our Tea and Testimony meeting, she insisted I share at our next meeting. She too saw that my story tied in perfectly with our theme. I met with my MOPS area coach and she challenged me to write my story down. Once I started writing, I realized I had a lot to share. I couldn’t stop writing. When I met with my Pastor, I implied that I had been raped, as I had been doing up until that point. Since I had asked for his feedback, he interjected for clarification and then told me to just say it – “I was raped.” Then he asked me if I would be willing to share my story at church, that it tied in perfectly to an upcoming sermon series. I said “Yes,” and I have continued to say “Yes.”
Every time someone comes to mind or an opportunity arises, I take that step. I committed to saying “Yes” to God when he presents opportunities to share. I have shared with groups that honestly terrified me. I prayed for the strength to make it through events and keep it together. I have discovered that trusting God and following his leading, takes one small step of faith at a time. I realized I can do far more than I ever thought myself capable. I am far less fearful. Much bolder and more confident. I am free to be who God made me to be and to encourage others too. That is how I got from no one in my life really knowing I am a rape survivor to writing and speaking about it.
I am not alone in my struggle to recognize and name what happened to me as rape. I have met others who began sharing with the statement – “I am not sure exactly what happened to me…” That statement at first glance sounds misleading; that it implies they can’t remember what happened to them. So, let me clarify – when I have heard this statement, it has been followed with a detailed account of what happened to that person. It’s not that they don’t know or can’t remember what happened to them. The problem is they don’t know how to classify it. Sexual Assault? Rape? Acquaintance Rape? Date Rape? Sexual Harassment? Molestation? There are so many terms out there. If you don’t know how to classify your experience, how can you share your experience without sharing all the uncomfortable and hard to share details? The best way is to know what each of these terms means.Read More »
I finally decided to take the leap and join Facebook – I know where have I been the last twenty years? Avoiding Facebook…but not anymore. Look me up and connect with me – Hillary Grigel. There is one other “Hillary Grigel” on Facebook (what are the odds?). So, if you haven’t met me, I put my Facebook image on this post.
I just found this article on The Daily Wildcat about Take Back the Night at the University of Arizona:
Here is Part 2 of my story that I shared for the Shattered Sermon series at Pantano Christian Church. Thanks to some help, I figured out how to finally post this to my blog.
Oh, and a fun little tidbit – the journal you see me writing in in both parts of my story – that is “my journal.” The journal in which I copied the letter I wrote to my rapist. The journal I wrote in for the following two years whenever I was struggling or I found something that encouraged me. That journal is the reason I can revisit this season of my life in such depth and detail. Why my journey toward hope and healing is so well documented.
Here is Part 1 of my story that I shared for the Shattered Sermon series at Pantano Christian Church. Thanks to some help, I figured out how to finally post this to my blog. I will post part 2 next week, because in all honestly I don’t want to pay to upgrade so I can post more video content this week – just keeping it real. Plus now you can anticipate it posting!