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#MeToo movement should bring about societal change

Last week, the people of Alabama spoke loud and clear when they voted against Roy Moore in his bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Much of that can be credited to the #MeToo movement.

 

In looking at the groundswell of women coming forward on #MeToo and speaking to their experiences with boundary violations at all stages of life, it will be important to see if there is actual change as a result of this awakening and this refusal to stay quiet. The question of truth is profound, and we must differentiate between the childish desire to just know what is going on and the ultimate question of “what is truth?” This question was asked by Maimonides in the beginning of his great book where he says that absolute truth is that which is eternally true; whatever is not eternally true is only relative, temporary truth; therefore, only God is absolute truth because only God is eternal. There are some people for whom this question means nothing, and others for whom the search for truth is irresistible. These issues are further dealt with in the Talmud. 

It is encouraging to note that Time Magazine awarded “The Silence Breakers” as its 2017 Person of the Year because their initiative started a global conversation that represents the beginning of the fastest moving social change we have experienced in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by women and some men. Time indicated that this reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight, but it has actually been simmering for years, decades and centuries.

Now the work really begins. The hashtag is a declaration that it is time to really stand up and do the work. My hope is that men, as well as women, will be emboldened to speak out. 

There is no such thing as a good war. According to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the Nazi evil that stopped Europe had to be defeated, and in this respect, it was a good war. Rather than thinking of what we are experiencing in relationship to boundary violations as a good war, it is a necessary war because war is never good. It would have been good if Hitler had never been born, but once he was born and assumed power, it became necessary to defeat him. Thus, the disappointment that we feel when we see the abuse of the young by our most noted figures, the sad thinking that life is only about excitement and instant gratification, is causing us to rethink what we want to pass onto future generations, what conduct we want to encourage in our young men and women and what we want to teach our children about how to live a meaningful and personally responsible life. Each boundary violator, in varying degrees, said “mea culpa” or expressed some degree of either calling the accusers liars or admitting to the shame that accompanied the curtain being ripped aside. Could it be that guilt is a signal that you are doing something you shouldn’t be doing?

Many if not most of the recipients of these advances were told that no one would ever believe them or that they would lose their family or their occupation if they ever discussed what happened to them. In my professional work, I have seen that victims suffer for their entire life, and at this time, as we wait for society to change, I think that the statute of limitations should be lifted so that the doers are liable for their actions for as long as the victim suffers. This is why we need men to say, “I believe you” when victims of any age speak up. My hope is that eventually there will be societal and economic consequences which will make changes in the legal system necessary.

Dr. Marilyn N. Metzl, PhD., ABPP is a licensed psychologist and board certified psychoanalyst and is a member of the training faculty of the Kansas City Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis.