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Why is #Me Too everyone’s story?

By November 17, 2017May 18th, 2019No Comments

How and why are the many accusations of sexual assault going viral at this time?

There is much in the news these days that is, in fact, no news at all to women and to most men. The cauldron of sexual assault of women (and sometimes men), mostly by powerful men (and, once in a while by a powerful woman), is boiling over and, thus impossible not to see.

Everyone can see the mess it is making as more and more (mostly) women come forward to say “Me too.” I do not want to ignore the experiences of young boys, also molested by adult men, but I also don’t want the experiences of women to disappear from view one more time. There is not a single woman that I know who has not been sexually harassed multiple times and I doubt that one exists, although I would be happy to meet her and learn her secret. I fear that her secret would be simply that she does not remember and shortly thereafter she would.

I can not tell you how many times I have heard these stories or sudden recollections in my therapy office. All therapists have. Nor can I tell you how many self-damaging techniques, such as cutting, anorexia, bulimia and sexual disorders, I have seen used to hide the memories.

In fact, the beginning of feminist therapy involved a tidal wave of these recollections, but where have they been hiding all these years since? In the psychotherapy office, where privacy and confidentiality rule the day. One other woman—the therapist—knows your secret and she will never tell. This is one of the disadvantages of practicing so privately, although it does serve to create a sort of safety.

In my long career, I have seen harassment more times than I can remember. It was an entitlement of academic men when I first became a professor. Some retained their wives and others divorced and married a much younger student. The same was so for therapists and more than one male therapist claimed sexual intercourse as his own innovative cure.

This was only the beginning of there even being female professors and, if you wanted to have a career and receive tenure, you did not want to anger your male colleagues. I will ask why it has taken 50 years for there to be enough of a groundswell from enough celebrities to break a taboo that feminists could not. Or maybe there are now enough feminists. Thanks to feminists, these behaviours are now a violation of an ethical code that did not exist before we did.

In fact, in my years in graduate school, I was violently assaulted by an advisor at a prestigious and well-known Midwestern university, whom I managed to wrestle off of me. This occurred in my apartment, where he was staying while assessing my internship. It had not been my idea to have him stay with me, but again he insisted. After the assault, I fled and stayed away from the apartment until he left. He continued to comfortably stay there for three more days.

However, he never spoke to me again and I was left to find another advisor and to be rejected for many tenure track positions after he had written a letter defiling my character as “resistant, unfriendly and even hostile.” He came very close to ruining my career and even then I told only intimates and not the department chair, for fear of further reprisal or being disbelieved.

In my first years as an academic, I said “no” to several men. I was in a committed relationship and also was not interested in any of them. Of course, I tried to do it indirectly and subtly, but that is not so easy and I was left to fend for myself in many difficult cases where I might have had support. I guess I was unfriendly. Of course, many students had been trained in this method of getting As and also had to be refused. However, my career trajectory and personal life are certainly not what they might have been without this sense of entitlement and without later on, finding several kind and generous feminist mentors.

I’m saying that the time is long overdue for this power arrangement to be replaced in 21st century society. I am also saying that boys and men have to be taught that they are not entitled to another person’s body or even to make unsolicited comments about it. Women need safety and self-respect.

Finally, I am saying, ME TOO for myself and for all of you who have and have not written to me to say the same, for all of you who have told no one but me. Many of us have accomplished incredible things, but what would have been possible had we been free?

This article was originally published in Psychology Today.

Ellyn Kaschak

Ellyn Kaschak

Ellyn Kaschak, Ph.D. is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning psychologist, author and teacher. She is well-known as a speaker, workshop leader, human rights advocate and a public intellectual.