For the ones couldn't bring themselves to say #metoo

I met a man. He told me he’s been with more women than he is proud to count. But the consistent theme, outside of him, in the lives of these countless women who are strangers to one another is the experience of being molested and sometimes violently raped. In some cases, it was people they didn’t know that violated them, but in most, it was someone close: an uncle, a stepfather, a brother, a neighbor. Some years later, as I began working on this book project, I met another man who said something similar. Both men, divided by highways and lakes and times zones, men who don’t know one another, men who have loved and been intimate with ladies who are strangers to one another, have quietly come to accept that there is a good chance the next woman they meet, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the ones after that, will have experienced some kind of sexual trauma throughout the course of her lifetime. Both have come to accept that, sooner or later, in the middle of the night, after an intense love making session or in the middle of some sexual act, this woman, who seems to have it altogether just might break down in a hysterical cry or become aloof or cold or press herself closely to the body next to her. And whether or not they choose to talk about the thing or things that have happened, both men have come to understand that the reality of dating for them means reserving a space for these very moments. As the interviewer and curator of twenty women’s stories, I find myself in a very different but also very similar space, an intimate, quiet space, where I am encountering woman after woman whispering or openly telling stories about their experiences with sexual violence. And while it would be inaccurate to say that this was the case with every woman, more women in this project are survivors than not, from childhood to womanhood. And the question is this: In what spaces are we addressing this? Through what policies? And what are we doing to address the violations that we have only come to talk about or quietly understand in the middle of the night?

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