Together we’ve been watching the ongoing headlines unfold about the #metoo movement, as brave women (and men) have boldly stepped forward to share their stories of sexual abuse, harassment, and assault. One particularly painful story continues to be in the news as over 100 gymnasts came forward in court to speak their truth and confront Dr. Nassar, the U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor, who sexually abused these women over the course of several years. Now, this sick human being will face the rest of his days in prison, thanks to a sentence that fits the crime. But this army of survivors will spend the rest of their days haunted by the trauma they endured.
In all these cases, both the parents and the victims of sexual abuse trusted his authority as a prestigious doctor and were betrayed in the unfolding nightmare that continued for years. How does this happen? It’s all unfathomable, outrageous, and heartbreaking.
And then I think of you…
I think about how your dad and I trust your coaches and doctors and teachers and we also believe you understand that no one should ever touch you in any inappropriate way, but would you think an authority figure in your life has the power to do such a thing?
Oh, my beautiful girl, NO ONE has that authority. NO ONE has that right. EVER.
You must speak up if anyone- adult or friend, family member or doctor, coach or teacher- violates your body, makes any verbal or physical sexual advances, or threatens to harm you in any way. No matter what that person says or does to keep you silent, don’t stay silent. Please come to us. Your dad and I will believe you. We will stand up for you and do everything in our power to keep you safe. And if the moment comes unexpectedly and you don’t know what to do?
You fight like hell to stop it from happening. You have our permission to defend yourself in any way you can to stop anyone from harming you.
You are growing into a beautiful young woman, and there are risks you will face simply because of that. This male-dominated culture has been at odds with women’s rights for generations, but the road is freshly paved with hope and recognition that change has come. The #metoo and #timesup movements have given you and all women a gift. You have been granted the opportunity to have a voice that can be heard and affirmed. This is big.
And this is most important to you.
I hold onto that hope. Your future will be different in this new age of awareness and empowerment with women holding men accountable for their actions, but sadly, the reality is sexual abuse, harrassment, and assault will still prevail. It’s a truth I hate to share with you, but I need you to have the knowledge I never had. I need you to understand more than I ever did. I need you to be armed with awareness and empowered with courage.
Because as hard as it is for me to face this truth-
#metoo can be you.
I want you to believe you are worthy of being treated with respect. Do you know that? There are times when I can sense your insecurities, your vulnerabilities, and your need for assurance, and this is certainly NORMAL. We all feel that way about ourselves at times. But please understand no matter how you feel about yourself, you DESERVE respect. You must have the courage and confidence to stop anyone who is behaving inappropriately with you, no matter how uncomfortable it might be. Please honor who you are and believe you always have the right to defend yourself and protect yourself. It might be scary, you might worry about the consequences, and you may think it would be easier to just let it go…
But you are wrong. It is so much harder to live with the resulting emotional damage that comes from being violated. It could haunt you for the rest of your life. These beautiful and brave gymnasts have proven just that. Their testimonies break every parent’s heart wide open and leave it raw and vulnerable to consider their own child’s safety- at any age.
For you, the risk gets higher. You are at the age where the chances of you becoming a victim rise to an astonishing rate. These years, you are under a great deal of pressure. Pressure from your teachers, your coaches, your boss, your peers. But there is no situation or circumstance that should ever allow anyone to pressure you into being a victim. Be on guard, be mindful of the value you place on the people around you and don’t ever let their position take over your own beliefs about what is wrong and right.
Please don’t ever compromise your principles for the sake of acceptance, attention, or praise. It will harm you. You may feel like one comment, one inappropriate advance, one awkward conversation is no big deal- but it IS. Don’t allow one person to take advantage of you and defile your integrity as a woman. If there has been anything I want you to learn from the #metoo movement, it’s this: Let these women’s voices empower you to stand up, be strong, and defend your right to be treated with respect.
You have been given a gift of knowledge, a gift of strength, and a gift of empowerment through the #metoo and #timesup movements. You hold on tight to the wings of millions of women as they rise while showing you how to rise too.
I will always stand with you, believe in you, fight for you, and rise alongside you.
I love you always and forever,
This article originally appeared at The Mom Cafe.