Yes All Women

#YesAllWomen : The Problem With Abuse

Trigger Warning: This content deals with accounts of sexual assault and physical violence.

…Is that it pops back up when you least expect it.

This weekend, after the horrific shooting in Santa Barbara, a video was released by the murderer where he bemoans his bad luck with women. I watched about 15 seconds of it before I felt the nausea creep up my throat, but what was more surprising than this man’s issues was the reaction to it by other men. Posts showed up all over social media pondering why women didn’t just give it up for him. “It” presumably being whatever this disturbed young man wanted.

I, along with many many many others, started sharing my stories of abuse on the Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen. The tweets were meant to say no, not all men are bad or commit acts of abuse, but yes, ALL women have to deal with it on almost a daily basis. That fear is indoctrinated from the beginning. That women are taught how not to be raped, but rarely do we teach men not to rape.

The reaction was all over the board. Support, dismissal, shock. Pushback, hatred, shame. Love, community, respect.

I have talked before about how I was sexually abused by my father. He would come at night which lead to my PTSD and night terrors. My stomach hurts to type that. But if this weekend taught my anything, people don’t understand how truly often it happens, and how it happens many times in a woman’s life and in many forms.  

I was roller skating in front of my friend Jenny’s house and a man asked for directions. Jenny was still eating dinner, so I was alone. I still remember the crooked smile on his face. He knew what he was doing, that he was terrifying a child, and loved every minute of it.

I was visiting a friend in DC and got lost, again. Every time I had to drive in Dupont Circle, I would get lost. Every time. I had pulled over and was looking at a map; this was before cell phones. I jumped as a shadow passed over the window, and then watched a man lick the window from bottom to top and down again. I couldn’t move for a long time.

My sole indiscretion was saying something he didn’t like. About him, of course. He had been a poor excuse for a boyfriend, but you know how it goes. Girls with bad fathers date people they think they can fix.

The most traumatic night of my entire life. My sister and I watched our parents fight, then hid. Finally my dad passed out on the living room sofa and my mom called me into the kitchen. She asked me what I wanted to do. “Leave.” All I could think about was getting out of there. Away.

When we got to my grandmother’s house, my mom said we were gone for good. I just stood there. Stunned. *I* had made the decision to break up our family. Which of course wasn’t true, but it took many years for my mother and I to talk through that moment and really understand what went down that night.

My night terrors always involved someone hovering over me. Of course they did. I would punch and lash out into the air and scream. Just scream. Until the meds and therapy and my husband helped me settle into a better place.

I sometimes feel him. I know that sounds crazy but it is what it is. I will see a shadow out of the corner of my eye and think it’s Dad. It used to scare me but now I almost have an punch of reaction – like my night terrors, but emotional.

YOU can’t hurt me.

But realistically, he and all the other men still do.

As I read #YesAllWomen, I cried. For other women with every story imaginable. For men who understood and were so supportive. For the people who didn’t get it and sent ugly words through the internet. For all of us who deal with it every day.

I can’t change what happened to me, but I can change my future. I can change how I react to the ugly (and mostly I just blocked it on Twitter because clearly I have had enough ugly). I look to my family and friends for the beauty. I find strength in other women who know my story all too well and carry on.

Through my son, I have hope for the future.

This article has 71 comments

  1. Bess Scully

    Xxxxxxxxxxxooooooooooooo. I HEAR YOU!!!

  2. Deanna

    I hate that you had to write this, but I love that you did.

    It’s time to teach EVERYONE to be decent humans who have respect for themselves and others, and take full responsibility for their actions.

  3. Sarah Patterson

    Oh Aimee. I had no idea. Thank you for sharing this. It DOES happen every day!

  4. everyfann

    The stories ring all too true.

  5. Suzanne

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have several to share, but only one is similar to yours (best friends grandpa ‘pleasuring himself’ as he called me into his house to watch. I was 4) I am not comfortable sharing most of the rest on Twitter.

    As you well know, the mental scars last for years. Words can damage and still have power, 20 years later. Most of the time, I can forget.

    • Aimee

      The stories have made me so sad, but at the same time reminded me we are in this together. XOXO Suzanne.

  6. Brenda

    Dear Aim’s so grateful to know you and I truly admire your courage to share your story, all my love!

  7. kimberly

    You know I think you’re awesome and everything you do only amplifies that.

    Last Thursday, I was talking to my husband about Adam Savage’s talk on The Moth podcast about his sons, pornography, and the Internet and the lesson about how women are treated. It really resonated with me and left me with the same feeling, which is that my son is one of the good guys. As much as I work to make sure my daughter is strong and courageous, it’s equally important to make sure my son will always be one of the good ones.

    • Aimee

      Love you too babes. And yes. I look at Dex and think. WHEW. 🙂

  8. Magpie

    Love to you, A.

  9. Julie Marsh

    Love you, Aim. This took guts.

  10. kim

    Wow, Amy. I’m so sorry you went through that. Thank you for sharing.

    As you note in that first tweet, it is something all women experience on some level. What does that say about our society. Fortunately, there are good men out there.

    Hugs and healing to you.

    • Aimee

      That’s what been so hard for me to understand with the pushback Kim. We all have it at some point or the other. There are wonderful men out there, but the bad ones sure do a lot of harm.

  11. TheNextMartha

    You are strong and powerful. Thank you for sharing your story. Hugs.

  12. Zipper

    oh no aimee. i am so sorry.

  13. Ben D

    You have had a terrible time. I am so sorry.

  14. Jeannette

    I cried reading your post, Aimee, because I admire you even more for surviving everything you did, for being strong and for all the amazing work you do, your words, your pictures, EVERYTHING. So sad about what you, your mom and your sister went through. I wish I could just go and hug you. Nothing else to say. xoxo

    • Aimee

      Thanks Jeannette. The comments here, Twitter and Facebook have been one internet hug. Love you guys.

  15. Jennymoose

    Aimee I am sad to say it too, but it’s true: I am glad you dad is dead also. I’m glad because my best friend isn’t getting hurt anymore. I’m glad your mom is a strong gutsy woman who knew how to get out safely. I’m glad she didn’t go back. I’m glad I get to see you grow into the powerfully loving talented intelligent woman you are, raising a son we all adore. But I’m really sorry I took so long to eat dinner that night 🙂 You have risen so far above the grief you endured, I pray others will be inspired to share also. There is healing in the sharing, yes?

    • Aimee

      I more wish people in that dude’s life had realized his issues before he wandered down our street. But I thank you for your lifetime of friendship and support. xoxo

  16. Lisa Santos

    You. Are. AMAZING. With these brave revelations, you will help women more than you’ll ever know. I love you my friend. Xoxoxo

    • Aimee

      Thanks you friend – coming from you it’s a very high complement.

  17. Jenni Chiu @ MommyNaniBooboo

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your bravery and sharing your stories. I cried too when I poured over the #YesAllWomen hashtag. I’ve always had mixed feeling about hashtags and “awareness” or activism, but I’ve rallied behind #YesAllWomen like my life depends on it – because it does.
    The more voices that speak out, the more the oppressive silence shatters. Thank you for being one of those voices.
    Through my sons I have hope for the future too.

    • Aimee

      Jenni – I hear you. I think hashtag activism is really important in terms of spreading awareness on certain issues, but sometimes it spins out of control and it’s like a game of telephone. This one was maybe on the most important one I have ever seen.

  18. Jenna

    I couldn’t follow along with the hashtag as much as I wanted to on an intellectual, feminist level. It brought up too much of where I can’t go. But I saw a number of your tweets and they moved me. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being you.

    • Aimee

      Big hugs to you friend. I am here if you ever need to talk.

  19. Merredith

    I’m glad you wrote this, and sorry you lived it. I, too , have my stories: the priest I trusted, the neighbor , the boy in college who raped me and hot me just where the bruises wouldn’t show, then told me not to “bum out about it.”

    But far, far worse than any of what happened to me was it happening to my daughter: that I couldn’t protect her from a sociopath, and that she would have to draw on whatever love and strength we had given her , and untold reserves in herself, to be free again, to not be a victim. She is loved. She is strong. And incredible. Her brothers are on their way to becoming remarkable men, but we all know: #YesAllWomen.

    Xoxo

    • Aimee

      That is my biggest fear – is what could happen to our children, now that we have some closure as adults. I am so sorry your family has gone through this. xoxoxo

      • Merredith

        TLDR: Thank you. You would think it would be the worst thing, and you’d be right. But that’s about my helplessness. There is a much deeper truth: If I am honest, I know that I am a stronger woman for having had no choice but to deal with what happened to me, even if it was messy, even if I wasn’t sure I’d make it through. It was so painful, and yet I feel burnished, powerful in a deep way that no one — not any goddamned rapist — can ever take from me. I am who I am for having faced it. I like me better, and that is worth something, although I would never have willingly paid it. And for her — as brutal, frightening, horrible as it has been, she, too, is beginning to understand that she has lived beyond it, even if she can’t undo it; that perhaps he did not take away what he tried to and in fact there will come a time that what happened is not a reference point. It’s not over but I begin to see the light for her and within her. She reshapes her life, like I imagine rivers do after a boulder disrupts their path. Like we all have done, one way or another. She begins to come out the other side, and she, too, is formidable. But g*ddammit I wish there had been an easier way.

        ***

        Truly, thanks for writing this. I don’t talk about this much, because, why? I think. But you are right. It is a good thing.

  20. Amanda

    The unpredictability of recall is bitterly unfair. Times when I think I ought to choke up, nothing happens. Other times the sensation of gagging comes unbidden, the scent of a person I did not know comes back.

    Time and again I am grateful for you strength, your candor, and your unapologetic way of calling things out.

    I wish I could do more, but I sit here celebrating your professional triumphs, your personal and family joys, and your presence here, online in advocacy and truth.

    • Aimee

      That’s the part that is so weird. I had a woman that emotionally abused me over a period of time (see men, we know it goes both ways) and whenever I see people who look like her from a long distance away, I freeze. Smells, songs, anything can bring me back to my dad in a second out of no where.

      Much love to you, sister.

  21. Ann

    And with every single horrific tale, you beat it back with resilience. HOORAY for strength, support, that spark–everything that’s kept you going. Thank you for sharing. This post will help someone–maybe many someones.

  22. Cecilia

    Thank you for sharing. As someone who let out a sigh of relief when my father died, I get it. Now having a daughter, I can only hope that she gains strength to deal with what the world will hand her. And I work to make sure that I raise 2 respectful men. Thank you!

  23. Lisbeth

    Thanks for sharing. You are right to point out mental scars as a consequence of sexual and child abuse. Unfortunately, too many of us share your story of suffering well into our adult life for the damage caused during our younger years. Like you, I am lucky to have chosen a husband who has helped me heal and overcome the trauma of my childhood. Like your family, we make every effort to teach our children (both men) to respect women and all human beings. Thanks again for your bravery.

    • Aimee

      It’s hard work isn’t it? Exhausting. But worth it!

  24. Amy

    Lots of love and hugs for you. xoxo

  25. Autumn

    I love you Aimee, seriously love you. Every time I read about your abuse I am so inspired by your strength. A long time ago, a post that you wrote affected me so much, as as survivor of abuse. Because of that post I moved another step forward in my healing process, something that therapy hadn’t done. Keep telling your story, you’re making a difference in people’s lives.
    I’ll be teaching my son and step-son how to respect all people.

    • Aimee

      Autumn, this is possibly the single most meaningful comment I have ever received. Thank you for your kind words and please know that all the people who have commented or interacted elsewhere on social do exactly what you talk about for me too – we’re a circle that just finds each other when we need each other most. Big hugs to you.

  26. Sue

    Oh, Aimee! So hard to find words. Maybe just this: Thanks for sharing your story, and yes, we all have stories similar to this — different but all the same!

  27. Lindsay

    Damn straight, Aimee. Mine wasn’t my Dad, it was neighbors. That set the stage for me consistently choosing the company of boys/men who treated me as I had early on become accustomed to. I honestly am not sure how I ever broke that pattern, except that after my son was born, I realized I wanted only the best for him. I guess, when I married my great hubs, I was giving my son what I couldn’t authorize for myself. And I’m so glad, because now, my daughter is 10, and I know I’ve gotten her this far without being sexually abused. I know this, because on many levels I have been INSANE about preventing it. And I feel hopeful that if we can get her to adolescence without incident, than maybe she will not have the cycle of devaluing choices and increased risk. Thank you for sharing your experience, mama. xoxo

    • Aimee

      I am not sure when I had my breaking point but it was right before I met Bryan and BAMMM, he walked into my life. Like as soon as I decided I was changing my pattern, the right person showed up. People often say how lucky we are. I absolutely feel INCREDIBLY lucky to have found him but we both WORK every day to make our relationship strong despite our past demons. Every damn day.

      P.S. Clutch at Riot Fest

      • Lindsay

        Yeaahhhhh Clutch at Riotfest! All 3- I’ma make it to at least one for sure.:) LMK if you wanna go. You are so right about the timing of the right person following an internal shift- that’s pretty much what happened here too. And I was so amazed and happy, because he was literally the first guy I ever told about what had happened, and it made ll the difference to be able to say it and still be loved and accepted. It had been my worst secret my whole life, and then its power was lost. Don’t get me wrong, it still messes with me on occasion, but not on the same level it did.

        • Aimee

          Well, make sure it is Denver. I will be photographing!

  28. Naomi

    Weeping. So sorry you had to go through all of this and that so many women, and girls, are still living through it. I am so lucky to have relatively innocuous experiences. No one should have to feel unsafe just because of their gender.

  29. Vicki

    I am crying right now for you and all women (and myself). You are incredible to share your stories. Thank you.

  30. Julie

    <>.

  31. Suebob

    By telling your truth, you change the world for the better.

  32. michelle

    Thank you for sharing that and you are so right

  33. Jen Lee Reeves

    You are awesome. I haven’t shared my #YesAllWomen on Twitter yet. I was so very public when I needed to… but for now, I am sharing my truth with my son so he can grow up more aware. ((hugs))

  34. Wendy N.

    It’s so easy for all of us to forget every time we have a scary-shit-your-pants encounter. We pick up and move on like nothing happened. But it did and it does, and the residual ick stays around.

    Thanks for speaking up. Not all of us feel like we can. We just pick up and move on.

  35. Marsha

    Sending love to you, Aimee. xo

  36. J

    I love the fact that you shared this but hate the fact that there’s a lot of us that have gone through this. But trough people like you and others that speak out about it I find strength.

  37. Kelly

    Oh Amy. My heart breaks for that little girl. I felt that way about so many of the stories that were shared. You are a strong and AMAZING woman. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I caught myself saying I was one of the few, but then I remember all the times things happened that I blew off because that’s what we’ve been taught. It’s amazing how engrained it is even within us to think that these actions are ok on some level. We draw weird lines in the sand about what crosses a line when NONE of it is okay.

  38. Ingrid

    Even now, after so many years, I understand the courage it takes to publicly revisit this part of your past and it’s impact then and now. Thank you for your courage, your commitment to the health and well being of others, and your integrity.

  39. Carrie

    Wow is all I can say. I’m so sorry you went through that Aimee. You are a survivor in every sense of the word. I agree with your tweet and that of all the other #yesallwomen, sadly we’ve all been there. Thanks for being brave and sharing.

  40. janie

    I know just the person who needs this. thanks for sharing ^j^

  41. Greg

    Hey Aimee. I can’t tell you how sorry I am to hear about your personal connection with abuse. Your strength & willingness to share will undoubtedly help many others.

    The previous generation often ridicules this information age but there was plenty of evil that went on in their day..and we all know that crap swept under the rug only gets worse.

    I applaud not only your courage to speak up but your smarts to refrain from demonizing most of the men out there..which I’m sure was no easy task. Your two fellas are quite lucky to have you around!

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