On Boundaries & Me Too

Sally Brecher’s Olin Birches

A friend recently mused how she was unable to feel gratitude these past two weeks, especially in the face of the Harvey Weinstein story and the implosion of the “Me Too” response. Her comment gave me pause.

How was it, in spite of all the awfulness, I am able to come up for air, take deep breaths, seek and find moments of gratitude. It’s about belief. I believe in balance. I believe nature provides balance and in as much as human beings are part of the natural order, the striving for balance is dormant within us.

The challenge, as I try to describe through this blog, is in the seeking and recognition of meaning. For each of us, it is different. To my friend, a talented artist whose soft edged images of slices of white bark trunks invoke the impulse to touch, I am grateful. Her talent in seeing and transmitting what she sees invokes my connection to nature.

Is this not how as human beings, we are wired? Has not the Me Too outpouring of the experience of hurtful boundary violations given rise to the opportunity for hidden voices to be seen and heard?

In The Boston Globe, October 21st column, “Me Too? It Was Started By Her,”Christela Guerra interviews Tarana Burke, who “originated the idea a decade ago through her work, particularly with young women of color.” I was grateful to read about Burke’s original intentions.

In many regards Me Too is about survivors talking to survivors. It was never really about amplifying the number of people who are survivors of sexual violence. It was about survivors sharing empathy with each other. But when I talk to young people, I use pop culture to promote the idea of Me Too all the time. We have to have something that reaches the masses.

Empathy is key. As a therapist, I specialized in treating women who had been sexually abused as children. Many came to therapy because of symptoms, the source of which they had dismissed or forgotten. Me Too is a call to women to speak out on serious boundary violations, which require the empathy of others to bear witness for healing.

As a woman of 85, I have experienced sexualized verbal and physical assaults. My first incident, at five years old, I was chased around my dining room in the presence of close family who laughed as my father’s friend grabbed inside my dress and placed his hands far down my back to grab the “bugs” inside. I screamed; everyone laughed. Boundary violation, Yes. “Boys will be boys,” the unempathic and uninformed explanation.

“Me Too,” is about candor, a space where people can say, in their own words, what has caused them fear and hurt, bewilderment, shame and grief. What of the difference between harassment and assault? Burke, to her credit, does not discriminate. She states,

If your Me Too was about sexual harassment versus sexual assault but it’s traumatizing to you, then it’s important for you to be heard and seen.

 The memory of strange and icy hands on my back has never left me. It likely planted seeds of gratitude for empathy and the humanness in a response that says you are not alone.






9 thoughts on “On Boundaries & Me Too

  1. Beverly Bader

    “We are not alone.” I wish that I felt that way at age sixteen, when I was working for an optometrist who sexually took advantage of me. I felt so alone, shamed, with no one to share this trauma. Not until I met my dear husband, Larry, at 24 years of age, did I finally feel relief and understanding from my pain. I finally got heard! The scar remains.
    Today I go into Manhattan to begin the long process of being deposed because of a prominent New York City hospital’s chaotic handling of Larry’s surgery and recovery. He died because of errors on both fronts. I was his advocate, trying with all my heart to make sure he had the best care. And he didn’t, even though I shouted to be heard by the doctors and nurses. Who would think that this kind of horror still happens!!! Once again, I need to fight for JUSTICE, honor my husband, and the human rights of all people to be heard when mistreated!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Dear Bev,
      I am so moved by your comment and am thinking of you often this afternoon knowing that you are in the midst of a deposition and the hard, but necessary task of telling the painful and difficult story of Larry’s last hours
      in the hospital.
      May today and tomorrow’s effort bring you satisfaction in the expression of your dedication to being forthright and true in obtaining justice for Larry.

  2. Carol Steinman

    Your wording and its ability to cover so many aspects of this topic and women’s reactions to it gave me a slight chill. It felt inclusive, comforting and provided me more food for thought on this sad reality. I’m grateful to have read it.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Carol, I so value your feedback and am especially grateful that how I framed this post felt inclusive and comforting. Hugs back.

  3. Andrea Davies

    Thank you for this, Faye. I appreciate your belief in balance. I needed to read this–I recently allowed myself to start listening to the news again (for no more than an hour a day) and the stories of the world make me question humanity (how horrid is our basic human nature?) and the precariousness in which we live: the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico, the earthquakes in Mexico, the fires in California. It seems the world is either being devastated by human beings or by the earth herself. I want to believe in balance in the face of this. I’d love to hear more on faith in balance, if you care to share.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Andrea, in the face of preponderance of devastating natural disasters, the fires in California, and the many difficult stories we daily encounter in this news-shopping media environment, I’m aware of the potential for feeling overwhelmed and tipping, which is why I consciously strive for balance in my day-day-choices— be it food, activity, media, how I approach gratitude and write about it.
      I see your careful attention to the effect of media as a balancing effort. There is scientific evidence that certain behaviors shift our mental and physical states., for the good and the not-so-good. Trump’s presidency, his impulsive, unpredictable nature as the leader of our country has certainly shifted our sense of balance.
      Thus, in this time, we need tools that help maintain balance and steadiness of mind and spirit. For example, when I am in a place of nature that evokes a sense of awe or beauty (such as the marsh in Scarborough you displayed on Facebook), I can feel a shift towards contentment, calm, more balance. The trick is to find activities that with regular practice can support balance and provide grounding. I tend towards activities that give me a sense of mastery such as tai-chi, gardening, writing personal essays, my blog which allows me to share such as I am doing now.
      Let’s get together and continue the conversation!

      1. Andrea Davies

        Yes, brining it back to the individual is a wise approach. I’ll keep your tactic in mind.

        I’d love to see you Faye, let’s definitely continue the conversation!

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