As It Happens

Halifax columnist describes her #MeToo moments and gets an unexpected apology

When Lezlie Lowe wrote in the Chronicle Herald about three men in her life who had harmed her, she never expected one of them to reach out with a genuine apology.

Lezlie Lowe says her former schoolmate's email was a rare example of a 'good apology'

Lezlie Lowe is a journalism professor and freelance writer who pens a regular column for the Halifax Chronicle Herald. (Riley Smith/Submitted by Lezlie Lowe)

When Lezlie Lowe wrote about three men in her life who had harmed her, she never expected any of them to remember it. 

In her Oct. 1 column for the Chronicle Herald, the Halifax journalism instructor wrote: "My #MeToo stories involve no movie stars, no prospective chief justices, no A-list journalists. Off the top of my head? One's a teacher, another an electrician, another a heating contractor."

She didn't name the men or go into details about what they did, but that didn't stop one of them — the teacher — from recognizing himself in her words.

He reached out to Lowe to apologize for groping her when they were both teenagers — and for two other incidents that Lowe had long forgotten. She wrote about that apology in a subsequent column

Lowe spoke to As It Happens guest host Megan Williams about what it was like to get that unexpected email. Here is part of their conversation. 

What was the point that you were making in writing about the assaults that you had experienced?

We're kind of deluged almost daily with these kind of Me Too reckoning stories that deal with famous people.

I feel like that's not a great barometer of the way we should be looking at the success or failure of Me Too because I think that, and I said this in the piece, the vast majority of men who are involved these incidents are not celebrities. They are our friends and neighbours. 

In telling these stories, you were careful not to name names. You didn't give out any identifying information. ... Why did you make that choice?

I gave their professions only, and I wanted to do that because I wanted to underscore the idea that these are not, as I said before, celebrities.

But also, I didn't want to out these people for these long ago things that had happened. It somehow didn't seem fair for me, in a column, to do that. 

And yet one of the men actually recognized himself and got in touch with you. Can you tell us about that moment?

I was just about to lecture in my job and standing in front of 100 students and I opened my email just to check it briefly, and there was an email.

I saw the name and I thought, "Oh dear."

It was a very heartfelt apology. And what it said was: I just read the piece that you wrote. I think I'm one of the people you're mentioning. I don't know for sure, but here's what I remember and want to apologize for.

And he laid out three three specific incidents that he recalled.

It was quite something.

In this Jan. 20, 2018, photo, a marcher carries a sign with the popular Twitter hashtag #MeToo used by people speaking out against sexual harassment as she takes part in a Women's March in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

And were these all incidents that you had clearly remembered as well?

One was the incident that I had written about the column, which was I was groped in the back of a car. 

The other two were not anything I had remembered, which really, really struck me.

One was another groping, which had happened at a dance. And the other was he had said he had kind of closed the door in a bathroom while we were in there together and would not let me out until I kissed him, which he said I did.

So I wrote him back and said, "You know, I don't remember these things. I believe you, but I don't remember them."

I felt it was really important — and kind of ironic, if you think about it — that I felt I needed to say to him: "I believe you."

I was trying to wrap my head around why I didn't remember, and what I came to was I think I didn't remember because these things were so commonplace.

What was it like having this experience of someone apologizing without having been named or shamed or in some way sort of forced into it?

So there are two things about his apology. One was, and this really did hit me, the fact that he did not have to do this.

And also the kind of tone and content of his apology was — it was exceptional. It was complete vulnerability. He did not say, you know, "I did this thing, but I was just a kid," or "I didn't know any better," or "That's just how it was back then."

He said: I did these things.

He listed them very, very clearly.

He said: I have no excuse. I feel terrible. I have thought about this in the intervening years. I've always wanted to reach out to you and apologize. I didn't know how to. I've done a lot of reflection in the past year. 

And he just said, "I'm sorry."

And I really liked also that he focused on the impact on me — not on him.

So it was it was a really good feeling. It was really a real positive out of a negative thing.

And it struck me that I don't think we have a lot of great examples in society —  I don't think men or anybody else, really — have good examples of a good apology.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.