I first saw it circulating on Facebook as a copy and paste message, figuring that it was related to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I hadn’t been following the news that closely because it seemed overwhelming, but I knew enough to understand what was going on. I typed it out and shared it within my newsfeed, but something in me was screaming that generics weren’t enough. So I went a little bit deeper on Instagram, detailing certain nights that I had experienced in college, and that I’m still dealing with repercussions to this day. Soon after I was asked about why I had posted something so personal, and that I needed to focus on letting it go. Trying to keep my emotions in check, I explained that it was about more than the things that were said to me, detailing how I had been groped and followed on a number of occasions. This was not our first conversation on the subject, but I was still vulnerable to intimidation, rejection, and inadequacy
All of the reading and processing left me emotionally drained. My head was in a fog, and there were times where I had to close my computer and walk away, the details of another horrifying yet courageous story too much to bear. I could feel the anger rising: anger that my mind feels at peace with what I went through, but my body apparently is not. Anger that we have a president in the White House that perpetuates such disgusting behavior. Anger for having received multiple of versions of sex education growing up that ultimately left me confused and frustrated.
Recalling the first incident nearly five years ago, I blamed myself until I broke down and told my closest guy friends what had happened. They were compassionate and protective, assuring me that it was not my fault and that they didn’t look down on me or think less of me. It was almost as if I needed permission to stop beating myself up, which I do when I sense that I’m about to be judged or abandoned. I didn’t know what do think or how to feel back then, and that same kind of wrestling continues now.
I’m tired of bearing all of the responsibility.
“Cover up” so men don’t lust after me and want to touch me.
Don’t go out or walk back alone. Watch the alcohol.
Be careful not to send mixed signals (i.e. dancing, kissing, or even just showing interest).
Make sure keys and pepper spray are visible.
And so on.
To live in such a way where you’re constantly watching and disciplining yourself for the sake of others is to barely live at all. It’s perfectionism, which I’ve taken on in other ways already. Perfectionism is a disease in itself, which lead to other illnesses in both mind, body, and soul. But there’s a difference between doing these things to honor someone’s humanity, and doing such because you have or fear having yours taken.
I can’t do it anymore, yet I’m not sure where we go from here.
However, I do know this:
It is NEVER the victim’s fault, and they’re not responsible for anyone else’s actions. Alcohol, sex drive, location, and clothing are no excuse for taking what is not yours to take. Being powerful does not make you a man. It does not make you a woman. It’s not about gender, but about being a decent human being and treating others the same.
Whether or not one chooses to share their story doesn’t make them any less brave or honorable. Trauma is complicated, and so is sharing it with others. Whenever you’re ready, whether it’s telling one person or telling the world, know that you’re loved and supported.
“If it’s not actually rape, then it doesn’t matter.” That’s a load of crap and we must do better than that. Surviving harassment and assault are not olympic sports, competing to see who’s experience is more painful and more deserving of validation. If anyone disrespects your boundaries, it’s wrong. If it leaves you feeling violated, it’s wrong. Full stop.
Instead of saying “Not all [insert gender, religion, ethnicity, etc] are like that,” sit with the one baring their soul to you and actually listen. Sit with them and share their pain, the multitude of feelings and emotions. Then stand with them. Instead of being angry at others for being “lumped in” as a response to trauma, cast your anger toward sexism, racism, misogyny, and overall dehumanization by calling it out when you see it. “Not all,” is a cop out and a refusal to take responsibility for what we might contribute without knowing it. “No more” is acknowledging that it’s not about you, but it’s about doing whatever you can to help redefine the toxic cultural standards that are killing us as a whole.
Let’s talk about sex. Without shame, judgement, or disgust. Let’s talk about consent, getting to know our bodies, and having difficult but necessary conversations. Instead of preaching and teaching, let’s discuss and be willing to admit that we don’t know everything. Forget the sermons and Cosmo articles. Put away the porn. From extreme scare tactics to extreme silence, none of its working. Sex is real, beautiful, and deserves to be truthful.
Healing is necessary. Healing is agonizing. And it takes as long as it takes.
We can’t go back. But if the decades of walls, empires, and old ways of doing things are going to come tumbling down, we have to be willing to do the work and rebuild.