Recent social media campaign #MeToo brought to light some intimate and troubling stories, as well as those with courage and strength. But could sharing these personal anecdotes affect your relationship?
Actor Alyssa Milano’s online call for #MeToo posts after the Harvey Weinstein revelations became quite the viral phenomenon, and has become a conversation about sexual violence, power imbalance, patriarchy and a whole lot of other issues. This time it is so much more a global phenomenon than when Tarana Burke made the call for such sharing ten years ago. Perhaps that’s the power of the Net now.
If you have been anywhere but under a rock, you probably have heard of the campaign and know what it means. If you have been active on social media or even a passive consumer of TV or online media, you have been exposed to it, and likely have some reactions to it.
For many, the impetus of the campaign has also been to come out and talk about their own experiences of being sexually objectified, molested, abused or worse. Some of them have been doing it with the viral hashtag on their own pages, and yet others have been starting these conversations a lot more privately. For a few people in currently loving and intimate relationships, the campaign has also been a way of bringing up their own #MeToo stories to their partners, stories that they had not shared before.
The campaign being what it is, it still has its sceptics wondering if the revelations can actually be hurting people. What if someone discloses a childhood abuse to their partner, only to have it being thrown back at them? What about situations where the power imbalances continue to exist and the revelation ends up in ostracising or hurting them?
It takes a lot of faith, courage and strength to share, especially in close personal relationships.
Sharing such intimate stories are acts of such intense vulnerability and trust that they are truly acts of love, and as such, the hope is that they will be received in the spirit that it is shared. If you do have a #MeToo, and let’s face it, a big majority of us have some such story, and you feel moved by this campaign and want to heal from your own experience, take your time to do so. If a loved one shares such a story, then receive it with the humbleness it deserves, treat with respect and compassion. Listen without asking too much. Stay with the person’s experience without necessarily condoling or urging action.
What if the sharing is of one of having been the perpetrator of such an act? What if your partner is sharing a story of how they had accosted someone? Said things knowing or without knowing what impact they had? Been playful in a way that was not OK? The campaign is triggering sharing by people affected by such violence, but it is also triggering recognition of their own acts, feelings of personal shame and pain. Where there is the genuine recognition and regret, the need is for compassion and love as well to help forgive themselves.
If on the other hand, it sounds anything like bragging, dump them and run.
(Written for and published in the New Indian Express on 18-November-2017)
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.