News recently broke about a seminar that Tony Robbins had given in March 2018, at which time a female audience member, Nanine McCool, confronted Mr. Robbins on his interpretation of the #MeToo movement. Following the backlash and negative press, Mr. Robbins issued a statement of formal apology and is quoted as saying that he has profound admiration for the #MeToo movement. This apology, of course, in direct opposition to the now-viral YouTube video wherein he stated that he refused to be inauthentic and apologize for something he isn't sorry for.

Tony Robbins' approach to #MeToo

As someone who lives with PTSD, largely due to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, I take real issue with a couple of things that Mr. Robbins said during his exchange with Ms. McCool. Aside from Tony Robbins towering over Nanine McCool, invading her personal space and having her participate in an exercise involving physical force, aside even from his poorly framed anecdote about his famous and powerful male acquaintance who believed it was too dangerous to hire an intelligent and qualified woman for a job rather than one of her less-qualified male counterparts.

I take issue with something Mr. Robbins said about how none of us want to be judged by one mistake.

Very early on in the video Mr. Robbins invokes Jesus, asking who should throw the first stone, then turns to the audience and asks for a show of hands for anyone who has never said or done anything they weren't proud of, that they were embarrassed by, or that hurt someone else even if they didn't mean to.

My issue with this position is that that's not what we're talking about here, that's not what #MeToo is about. Yes, we have all done things that we are embarrassed by or have caused hurt feelings when it was unintended. None of us want to be judged for that single mistake or skeleton in our closet. This is a fair enough point. However, to be frank, I am absolutely okay with someone who is a repeat misogynist, abuser, or sex offender being judged as such.

My #MeToo story

I was fourteen years old when my mother married my second stepfather and our families were blended into one dreadfully dysfunctional household consisting of myself, my parents, my older sister, and my two stepbrothers. My stepbrothers, twins, were almost exactly one year older than I was. They were the closest thing to pure evil I have ever come into contact with. Our parents hadn't even married yet when one of them strangled me nearly unconscious, a friend intervening and pulling him off from on top of me just in time.

I was fifteen when that same twin held a butcher knife to my throat and, again, a friend intervened this time threatening him with a gun, which I still believe is the only reason why he didn't slit my throat.

In the approximately three years that we all lived in the same household, I was, along with my mother, subjected to regular verbal threats, physical violence, and drug-addled rages perpetrated by the twins.

They regularly described to my mother how they were going to kill her and there were times when I stepped between her and them trying to spare her whatever they were hurling at her and taking it onto myself. One summer the police were at our house dozens of times in one month and our home became so well known that when I later got a job at a gas station in a neighboring city and got to know some of the officers and fireman who came in as regulars, they knew where I lived as soon as they heard my name.

When I worked up the courage to tell my mom that one of the twins was regularly grabbing my breasts and calling me "sweet tits" she confronted their father and he basically responded with "boys will be boys." I did not work up the courage to tell her about the time they coerced me into performing oral sex on one of their friends in front of them in our garage until I was in my early twenties. The twins did heroin, smoked crack, and drank heavily in and around our home and committed many crimes while under the influence.

Every time they were arrested I would hope that that would be the time they stayed in jail and we would be safe for a while, but their father had a pretty decent income and bailed them out repeatedly. I will never forget the night when he said, with pure hatred and vitriol hurled at my mother, that his sons were innocent pawns in a sick and twisted game that she and her daughter were playing.

PTSD and the aftermath of abuse

I became chronically ill at the age of eighteen with unexplained gastrointestinal distress and pain, loss of appetite, and an inability to keep food down.

My anxiety and depression were becoming debilitating and I was self-medicating with copious amounts of alcohol. I was also the poster child for trauma-induced sexual promiscuity. I was diagnosed at age nineteen with PTSD. For several years, I fought to overcome my traumatic history and suffered from nightmares and night terrors, social anxiety and even a bout of agoraphobia. I spent years in therapy, ruined a lot of relationships, pursued a lot of unhealthy relationships, and finally found myself whole and healed in my mid-to-late twenties.

In short, I survived and beyond that, I thrived. Most of the people I know now can't imagine what I lived through in the past and are blissfully unaware. This is due, in large part, to the fact that my PTSD symptoms have been neutralized for several years.

However, in the past twelve months, I experienced a significant health crisis that put my entire life on hold. I was a mystery to doctors and rather than admitting that they didn't know what was wrong with me, I had specialist after specialist tell me that there was no justification for the pain and symptoms I was describing.

About nine months into this long and complicated journey, I noticed that I was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD again. These symptoms include night terrors and nightmares, heightened anxiety, increased resting heart rate, and heart palpitations, etc. I am now thirty-five years old and experiencing symptoms of PTSD related to abuse that occurred when I was in my teens. Just yesterday I saw a new psychiatrist who asked if I had made the connection between what I'd been through in my teens and what I experienced during my health crisis, which may have triggered the reactivation of PTSD symptoms.

I was honest when I said that I hadn't. He said, "You were going through intense physical and emotional pain and no one was listening to you... that's old **** for you, isn't it?" Eureka, indeed.

The problem with Tony Robbins' remarks

This is where Tony Robbins really fails to truly respect what #MeToo is about, fails to value the men and women who have come forward with stories of abuse and coercion that has all-too-often been swept under the rug. Tony Robbins is either underestimating or misunderstanding the long-term implications of the experience(s).

Sure, all of us have done things that we are embarrassed by, we have all made mistakes that we would prefer not to define our entire existence. However, those who have (especially repeatedly) perpetrated abuse against others, especially others who are less powerful physically, financially, socially, etc. than themselves, deserve to be judged for exactly who and what they are.

Further, while I believe we survivors of such experiences should not let anger define our lives or take over our daily interpretation of the world around us, I also believe that anger is a healthy emotion and a necessary one.

Sometimes, anger is the only thing that gets 'it' done, brings attention to a far-reaching social issue such as this. As for my stepbrothers, one is dead and the other is rotting in prison, so they aren't a formidable threat anymore, whether my subconscious recognizes it or not. I will rise and thrive again and in the meantime perhaps my story will help empower others to stand up and say, #Metoo, as well.

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