What will the sexual harassment backlash teach us?

Me, too. I’ve survived shaming and blaming cycles, suicidal depression, fear of telling and PTSD. I’ve engaged in psychological counseling, emotional release bodywork and spiritual healing. And for the past 30 years, I’ve been helping deliver others from their injurious histories toward fulfilling, “response-able” lifestyles and educating people about the roots of sexual predation.

President Trump’s “grab ’em” video exposure was excused as typical “alpha male” behavior. While unbridled testosterone and the drive for sex, power and status may be genetic, we’re also an evolving species, aspiring to humane, loving relations. Fist-shaking, name-calling, shocked outrage, punitive reactivity can only go so far. Can the #MeToo rallying cry against sexual harassment expand and embrace all parties held hostages by abusive events?

Healthy intimacy—like unhealthy predation—is multilayered, involving many crucial elements, such as the roles of gender, child rearing and adolescent sex education. The popular notion that it’s manly to dominate, womanly to please, or the taboo on feeling, admitting vulnerability are good place to start. Many social norms disconnect and rob us of authentic intimate connections and maintain a collectively low emotional IQ. Our familiar form of patriarchal education twists us unwittingly into being compliant and controlling counterparts.

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Anger, fear and grief are understandable starting places. Will courage, heart, introspection, savvy activism find center stage, too? Can we activate sufficient gray matter to see beyond black/white, victims/victimizers, innocent/guilty? Or will we stay stuck in the muck of knee-jerk reactivity?

Realistically, few MeToos are ready to forgive. Many just want to forget. Exploitive sexual legacies are embedded, easy to excuse and taken as givens. But we can acknowledge that when a serial perpetrator says “I’m sorry,” she or he also needs rehab to change that addictive behavior.

Will we choose response over reactivity? Adrenaline rushes are addictive, as is watching celebrities dramatically fall from towers. But I’m hoping for a wellspring of intent for change and that #MeToo will be more than another flash in the pan that leaves us exposed to future onslaughts.

Marcia Singer, MSW, provides massage, grief counseling and mindful meditation training in Santa Rosa.

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