I don't usually pass on prayers, copy and paste, or post random combos of things to raise awareness. I think I can do more to help the world than forward and repeat statements on social media. But when I saw the Me Too or #metoo posts emerging late last night, I barely hesitated to share. I experience the usual awkward public transport harassment, inappropriate wandering hands (yes, even to the Rabbi), body shaming, etc... but I didn't think of any of those when I posted. Many can't speak up, and it didn't feel difficult for me to do so, so I wanted to add my voice, my truth, my support. There are reasons to do it and reasons not to, but late last night I posted and went to bed.
I didn't feel the need to be explicit about what I was thinking of, but I felt a sense of a rising tide of voices that wanted people to see this is not just about Hollywood and beautiful actresses and powerful men, but about everyones sister, wife, mother, friend, daughter, and yes, Rabbi.
This morning, however, I didn't really hesitate to go into more details, and to explain that this was, for me, about rape, when a silly joke was cracked on the thread. The joke wasn't said in malice, but these are not joking matters. They are hidden and dismissed and accepted day after day. Today was not going to be that day. These things are made light of a lot. Today enough was enough. I suddenly, and almost without thinking, went public with something that happened some 17 years ago, at university, in a house filled with strapping young men who had no idea what was occurring and would have been horrified to know (and despite being absolute gentlemen probably would have resorted to defensive violence to look after their sole female housemate). I didn't tell them at the time, because what was the point? It wouldn't change what had happened, and maybe it was my fault?
But I have never kept it a secret, it's just not one of those things that forms a part of most dinner conversations. I no longer even vaguely blame myself, I was clear in my 'no', spoken three times. The questions I initially submitted myself to can be decisively answered - I am not responsible for his behaviour, and the shame is entirely his. Too many women are left blaming themselves, explaining away their attackers behaviour. Our raised voices are an eye opening out pouring, but so much needs to change, and is deeply embedded. Women are still blamed for their treatment, as the Biblical Dina was by the Rabbis (Genesis Rabbah 8:12 and 18:2; Avot de-Rabbi Nathan, version B, chap. 3; Tanhuma, Vayishlah 19).
Behind every 'MeToo' is a man. A brother, a father, a son, a friend. An attacker. So normalised is this type of thing he may not even realise what he has done. I had the opportunity to tell the perpetrator what he had done. He needed telling. He didn't realise that forcing yourself into a woman who has said no three times is rape. He couldn't really understand why I didn't want to go on another date.
My friends today have been shocked, saddened, have reached out to me. I am so touched. They have called me brave - I don't feel brave - I have tried to appropriately speak my truth in a moment when it feels that doing so might have an impact beyond sympathy. We can't change the cacophony of MeToo's, but the idea was to harness them for change. Change will mean men and women speaking up, challenging the small harassments, and not belittling, ignoring or victim blaming in cases of more serious attacks.
In synagogues around the world this last shabbat we read at the very start of our cycle of Torah readings that God created humans male and female, and that they were made Betzelem Elohim - in the image of God. We are all equally human, and equally in the Divine image. What has happened to us makes us no less human, but how we behave towards one another can take us further and further from understanding the beauty of the humanity in each and every one of us.


  1. You are brave Debbie, whether you think it or not and by sharing this I'm sure you can help a lot of people who have gone through something similar. xx


Post a Comment

Popular Posts