“It’s not like he raped me. He only groped me. It was a joke. It’s not that big of a deal. I need to drop it. He’d make it easier for me to drop it if he stopped sending me the kind of messages I’ve repeatedly asked him not to. Still. He’s a close friend. It’s not that big of a deal. Sure, he keeps saying things close friends don’t say, but he’s just joking. It’s not like he means it. Right? I know I probably am making too big a deal of this, I have a tendency to do that, but I don’t feel safe alone with him. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. “
I said all of those things. I tried minimizing it because it seemed so minimal to what people I know have been through. It wasn’t until I started seeing a therapist for my fine collection of other demons that I realized just how violated this man made me feel. It wasn’t until my very calm, never rattled therapist got red in the face when I told him the whole story, including stuff I haven’t here. His anger shocked me. His words changed me:
Trauma of any size should never be minimized.
Today, Al Franken was accused of assault. Leeann Tweeden came forward to share her story of a time that was traumatic to her. There were many who tried to minimize it, comparing it to the accusations against Moore and Trump. But, do you know who didn’t minimize it? Al Franken. This is his statement:
“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.
“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.
“But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.
“For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.
“Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.
“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.
“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.
“And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”
What I would have given to have received an apology like this! Franken said he was sorry. He didn’t blame the victim. He didn’t excuse his behavior. He didn’t minimize it. He did what men still are too often failing to do: He made it about how she felt. About her trauma. Too often when men are accused, hell, even when they admit they are the perpetrator, they make it about themselves. They take even victimhood itself from their victims. Here, he doesn’t make it about his intentions, he makes it about how she felt about what happened.
I don’t know how to make this any more clear: he made it about her. His apology was an act of healing, HER healing.
Good for Leeann for sharing her story. She adds her voice to those of so many others who are shining a bright light on something too many of us have dealt with in all of its forms. She spoke truth to power because the truth needed to be told.
Because of her I am less afraid to share what happened to me. And, what’s infinitely more important to me: I no longer feel any bit of shame from having kicked that person from our lives. For holding him to account for what he did. He was never the victim, no matter how hard he tried to make me believe it. And I did believe it for too long. For too long I said to myself the same things you hear people say to victims. I thought because it could have been worse that it wasn’t that bad and I should have just let it go. It’s just not true. Women with any story need to feel empowered to share it if it will help them heal. Women should not be afraid to hold men responsible for their actions. No matter who the man is or what the harmful action was. I truly hope Leeann feels any measure better by Franken’s statement. I hope that she knows that someone like me, who could not be more opposed to so much of her views, is so grateful for her voice, even when it involved someone who I do agree with. I’m grateful that ALL bad behavior is being discussed, because it’s ALL not okay.
Trauma of any size should never be minimized.