I have a weekly segment on Breakfast Television Montreal (Thursdays at 8:10 a.m.) called Mom Talk, where I interview guests about any and everything us parents worry about when it comes to our children and ourselves. Education, sex, drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, eating disorders, divorce, mom shaming, loveless marriages, etc. No subject is ever too much. So, in line with this issue’s recognition of International Women’s Month, I decided to write about something I recently posted on my Facebook page.

The last thing I want is for anyone to feel sorry for me, because what happened to me sure as hell doesn’t define me. I made this public because too many women were being shamed and blamed for their sexual assault.

“She shouldn’t have been alone with him.”
“What was she wearing?”
“Why didn’t she scream?”
“Why is she speaking up now?”

Is that what you would ask your daughter if she came to you with her truth about any type of sexual assault? And that famous question of “Why didn’t she speak up sooner?”

Go back to the day you lost your virginity. Afterwards, did you get on the phone with mom and dad, grandma and grandpa to give them the details? Of course not. Why? Because anything that is sexual is usually private. And when someone takes advantage of you in a sexual way, TRUST ME when I say it CAN be hard to speak up and tell anyone about it.

You’re ashamed, you feel helpless, and sometimes even guilty. Thank goodness for my parents who believed me and supported me through all of this. Not everyone is as lucky as I am. Ok, so I was taken advantage of by a family member when I was in elementary school, and then by my psychologist when I was a teenager. And more recently, I was sexually harassed at a work event. But these men (cowards) have no power over me at this point in my life. If anything, they have made me into the person that I am today.

Last October actress Alyssa Milano encouraged the spreading of the phrase #MeToo, a phrase that social activist and community organizer Tarana Burke created in 2006 as part of a grassroots campaign to promote “empowerment through empathy”. All of a sudden, women started to find their voice and their courage to speak up about their sexual assault. We realized in that moment that SO many women were victims of sexual assault. Our mothers, sisters, friends, neighbours, and colleagues had all been silent victims.

The #MeToo gave us life! It made us realize that we are not alone and that by standing together and sharing our stories, just maybe someone could be spared. It’s empowering to finally be able to speak out against sexual assault without fear, shame, and embarrassment. The #MeToo declarations started a conversation of sexual harassment that we (women) all knew was going on, but were too afraid to discuss. Women are finally finding the courage to name their alleged abusers…do you know what that means for women in the future? Hope! Women are not being harassed by nameless and faceless perpetrators. These abusers now know that their victims will have a supportive movement behind them to call them out, and that’s a start.

We still have so much work to do as a society. Many men are asking, “How can I help?” Some are oblivious and think that there’s no way this is happening to so many women on a regular basis. There is still so much work to be done. I look forward to the day where I can have a Mom Talk episode to discuss the topic of sexual assault and dissect what #MeToo really means to victims.

As a mother of two sons, it is my duty to ensure that they are raised to be respectful to women at all costs. Hopefully you are doing the same in your household. Thankfully, my sons have male figures in their lives – their dad, grandpa, godfathers – modeling what respect for women looks like. And for that I am forever grateful.

Are you having these conversations with your children? You must be proactive in discussing the subject. Don’t think your kids are safe from sexual assault…it can happen to anyone. Parents tend to struggle with the type of information to provide to their children…how much is too much? Truth is, they probably know a lot more than you think they do.

We always say that education begins at home. So, if it does, let’s make a conscious effort to do better. Teach your kids (boys and girls) about consent, respect, and boundaries. It’s never too soon.

Until next time…
Catherine