I’ve never told this story out loud. I’ve been ashamed. The shame kept me silent. Twenty years later though, with an 11-year-old daughter to protect, I realize my silence can only do more damage. And now with the latest news of the pop star Kesha having to court order stay in her contract with Sony, a company that employs a producer who allegedly drugged and raped her, I couldn’t keep my mouth closed anymore. I may not be a fan of her music, but I am a fan of her courage.
Brene Brown, a shame researcher and author of some of my favorite books, writes “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it….Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
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In college I aspired to be a film director. While working as an intern for a big time production company on Sunset Boulevard, I was approached by an older, distinguished gentleman who offered to “advise” me on my career. He suggested we meet at his home in Beverly Hills (SHAME), at night (SHAME), alone (SHAME), still strangers (SHAME). Each SHAME represents a “Well, it was my fault because I made a bad choice.”
I drove through the gates marked “Beverly Hills,” up a long, winding road, and walked into a mansion overlooking LA. This is what “made it” looked to me at the time.
Upon entering, this man immediately tried to ply me with drinks. I didn’t want to offend him (SHAME), and my 20-year-old self said internally “I can handle this.” I took a few sips, but it tasted strange. He tried a glass of wine, then a cocktail, and thank God I had the where-with-all to casually place them down discreetly. At the time I was not known for saying “No” to alcohol when I was nervous (SHAME). Now, knowing what can be slipped into drinks, I’m even more grateful I didn’t imbibe.
After only a few minutes in his home, I deduced that I was not there to be mentored, bur rather to be the fly in his web. I did not want anything from this man other than his knowledge of his film experience, but he insinuated that I already owed him something for taking some of his time (SHAME).
I told him I wanted to leave. He blocked the door. I’m not sure exactly all that happened after that moment, but I know for sure that I threatened to scream and escaped with my clothes intact. I ran as fast I could to my car, my hands shaking as I tried to put the key into my beat up Chevy door.
I sped down the hill, through those Beverly Hills gates, and pulled over when I was a few miles cleared. And then I cried. I cried because I was mad. I cried because I was scared. I cried because I was ashamed.
This is not an uncommon story. It’s just a story that’s not spoken about very often.
I am even hesitant to tell it because it’s not as awful as someone else’s story. I was lucky. And someone might even say “Forget about it; you got away unharmed.” But I was harmed. Forever harmed. No one can describe that feeling of vulnerability and I don’t want another female to experience it.
When one woman is brave enough to stand up and say “That’s not okay what you did to me,” then we need to stand with her in unison and all together say “ENOUGH!”
Enough taking advantage of our being taught to be a “good girl” instead of what we should have done-scratched and bit.
Enough of the coaches, teachers, and mentors who soak in the power of adolescent girls who look up to them and then turn it perverse.
Enough times for when a woman does speak out and a federal court forces her to stay with a company who stands behind an alleged rapist.
Enough with men who see females and think they can take from them.
Enough of a society who looks the other way or even worse, shames the female for what happens to her.
Enough. Speak Up. #freekesha