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Johnathon Schaech: What I’ve learned after coming out with my MeToo story

When I read all the stories in connection to the #MeToo movement last year, I felt a calling. I knew I had to share my experience no matter the cost.

People magazine published my story that Italian director Franco Zeffirelli had molested me when I was 22. My story hit on the very day I started working on a TV show, where I played a police officer who makes a sexual advance on his female partner. It was the show’s #MeToo storyline, and the show eventually found the subject matter too toxic. They didn’t air it, and right then, I knew, I had chosen a very challenging path.

Anyone who shares their shame story can relate. There’s this fear that the world is against you, almost like you must have deserved this, and that your truth is too raw and disquieting for others to handle. But let me share one piece of wisdom: It’s about something bigger than just you.

The response from people to my story was mostly supportive, but there was plenty of negative feedback. Reading their comments, it was as if I had done something to them personally. I was amazed to find people were blaming me, shaming me, and talking about me as if I didn’t matter. As if I were lying.

Shared experience among men

I didn’t realize that more than 30 years before my story was made public

, a very talented actor-turned-director had written a movie that included the unwanted sexual advances by my abuser. When I recounted the incident from so long ago, other men started to flood my social media sites about how the same abuser had allegedly also molested them.

I can’t help but think that if #MeToo were around three decades ago, maybe my voice wouldn’t have been stolen. This predator wouldn’t have been in such a powerful position to continue the cycle of abuse.

I’m confident that if anyone had reported such a taboo incident back then, they would have been blacklisted regardless of being male or female.

But what my #MeToo experience has also shown me is that we have to encourage survivors to speak out against abuse and harassment. And talk more about the amount of sexual harassment and physical and sexual violence against women and men in this country and around the world, regardless of the consequences.

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