(NOTE: This post will be discussing sexual violence, which might be triggering for some readers. If you feel you might be triggered, please skip this post and choose a different post from the archives, instead.)

Tarana Burke is the woman behind the “Me, Too” movement — but not the hashtag social media phenomenon that just started last week. Burke started her movement over a decade ago. I encourage you to read this article as it shines a light on the important work that Burke’s been doing around the issue of sexual violence toward women and girls — particularly women and girls of color — for over ten years.

Burke notes that the #metoo movement has brought a lot of attention to the issue, and for this, she’s glad. But, the news cycle will move on, as it always does. And there might be some fall-out.

Women coming together on social media en masse to tweet and share the hashtag #metoo across the country absolutely helps to raise awareness about how pervasive sexual harassment and violence toward women really is. But it also might lead to those who’ve disclosed finding themselves reliving the trauma they’ve endured. There might also be those who’ve been victimized in the past, but were not ready to disclose. They might be confused by their feelings of relief in that they’re not alone, yet overwhelmed by the sheer number of #metoo women out there.

Burke notes that it’s not enough to create a hashtag around this issue. There’s still work to be done.

When statistics show that millions of women in the United States have been the victim of sexual violence (and this does not even take into account the number of women and girls world-wide), the result is a health issue on an unprecedented scale when these women move into their childbearing years and become pregnant.

Penny Simkin, PT and Phyllis Klaus, MFT & LCSW, respected leaders in the world of birth, collaborated for fifteen years to write their book, When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Early Sexual Abuse on Childbearing Women.

In their book, they use case studies to illustrate what women might experience and how they might react as survivors to the normative procedures that go along with pregnancy and birth. The physical changes that happen to a woman — from her breasts getting larger and more tender, to feeling the baby moving inside — can cause some women to feel not in control of their own bodies, and this can be very disturbing.

Vaginal exams, or the start of an IV, can feel extraordinarily invasive to a survivor of sexual violence as her body is being literally “broken into.” Being told what to do and when and how to do it can be re-traumatizing to a survivor. If women react strongly to these procedures or ask for what they need in order to feel safe, they might be labeled as “difficult” or “high-strung.”

Here’s the thing, though.

If caregivers in the world of birth were better trained to recognize the potential signs of sexual violence in survivors during pregnancy and birth, they could modify their procedures to not only lessen the risk of re-traumatization, but potentially create the space for healing to occur.

On a recent FB live event, I spoke about the feelings of vulnerability that surface for women in the year that they are pregnant, birthing and newly parenting. This is a normal reaction to our changing bodies and relationships. And there will never be a time in a woman’s life where she feels more vulnerable than when her body is literally opening to bring her baby into this world.

It is imperative, therefore, that all women feel safe when they’re pregnant, laboring and giving birth. But it’s even more important for the woman who is a survivor of sexual violence.

Our bodies and our minds work together to bring our babies into this world. And if a woman is not feeling safe — for any reason — our bodies have a much harder time doing the work of birth. If women could expect to be treated with dignity, kindness and respect during these transformative experiences of pregnancy and birth it’s possible for her to emerge on the other side as an empowered warrior — healing and on her way to being whole, once more.

I process a lot in my life through the power of music. I’ve said more than once, that I wouldn’t mind being a RockStar. But since this whole #metoo movement has been happening, a song by one of my favorite bands, The Foo Fighters, has been playing non-stop in my head. I’m going to lay out the lyrics here because I think they connect to this whole issue, somehow.

“The Best of You”

I’ve got another confession to make
I’m your fool
Everyone’s got their chains to break
Holdin’ you
Were you born to resist or be abused?

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

Are you gone and onto someone new?

I needed somewhere to hang my head
Without your noose
You gave me something that I didn’t have
But had no use

I was too weak to give in
Too strong to lose

My heart is under arrest again
But I break loose
My head is giving me life or death
But I can’t choose

I swear I’ll never give in
I refuse

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

Has someone taken your faith?
Its real, the pain you feel
You trust, you must
Confess

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

Has someone taken your faith?
Its real, the pain you feel
The life, the love
You die to heal
The hope that starts
The broken heart
You trust, you must
Confess

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

I’ve got another confession my friend
I’m no fool
I’m getting tired of starting again
Somewhere new
Were you born to resist or be abused?

I swear I’ll never give in
I refuse

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

Has someone taken your faith?
Its real, the pain you feel
You trust, you must
Confess

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

(Written by Christopher A. Shiflett, David Eric Grohl, Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC)

I’m not sure if listening to this song REALLY loud will be cathartic for you in the same way it is for me — but I can’t help but think of all the #metoo women out there and how many times they’ve been caught in the loop of remembering in their minds — and in their bodies — what it was like to be the victim of sexual harassment or violence.

I think it’s time that we stop letting perpetrators get the best of us. We need to do whatever works to make us feel strong, and heard, and safe.

Screaming along with Dave Grohl and the boys in the band helps me feel that way.

I hope it helps you, too.

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