I don’t need to explain what the #MeToo movement is all about, but so far, it has largely focused on powerful men in the workplace abusing women they’re in charge of or hold some position of authority over. That dynamic plays out thousands of times every day in our high schools, where male teachers hold positions of authority over female students.
Counselors often are trained to spot signs of abuse: diminishing grades, absenteeism, reductions in social interactions, withdrawal from extracurricular activities, and so on. These are all signs, of course, that something’s wrong, and the root cause of that something may be abuse, either at home or at school.
But what is often missed are the strong women and girls who don’t let the abusers get the best of them. The abuse is just as harrowing, just as wrong (illegal, actually), and just as life-altering. But some girls are able to put up defenses successfully and achieve greatness in their lives, despite the abuse.
That is the case with Diana Nyad, a world-class swimmer who swam 110 miles from Cuba to Florida when she was 64 years old, just four years ago. She writes in an op-ed for the New York Times that her high school swim coach, whom she never names and who is now dead, abused her when she was in high school and he was coaching her.
Although Ms Nyad has clearly got her life in order, she says the rage and shame that come from being silenced by her abuser still boils within her from a day when she was just 14.
“I went over to Coach’s house for a nap. This was normal: Coach’s house, his family, his kids were all part of the swim team’s daily milieu,” she writes. “I was dead asleep in the master bedroom when it happened. Out of nowhere, he was on top of me. He yanked my suit down. He grabbed at and drooled onto my breasts. He hyperventilated and moaned. I didn’t breathe for perhaps two full minutes, my body locked in an impenetrable flex.”
Male sexual aggressiveness can’t be taken lightly, as it is a real force in our lives. But at the same time, it’s very wrong to reward this sexual aggressiveness and let violence go unchecked.
The #MeToo movement has shown these attacks to hit us all around, invading our lives with disgusting actions on the part of men. For some behavior to become so pervasive, I start thinking about evolution. What is the selective advantage in this kind of sexual aggressiveness, and how might we turn it into a selective disadvantage?
Violence, sexual or otherwise, is unacceptable, and it seems we have forgotten that. How can assaulting 14-year-old girls have anything to do with preserving our species? Well, humans do other things to their own detriment as well, but hurting each other has to come to an end.