I haven’t been keeping to my writing schedule lately. I wish I could say with confidence that it was simply because of my seasonal depression and trying to find my groove again. But I know that this isn’t the reason. The past few weeks started out being sprinkled with stories of sexual assault and sexual harassment that grew into a tsunami of triggering stories and comments. Then #MeToo showed up on my Facebook newsfeed and I broke. All of the bad memories that I had worked so hard to suppress came flooding back and I had no safety net. I worried that reaching out to my friends would be triggering and add to the work they needed to do to process these emotions and navigate through these times.
I can remember my first incidences of assault and harassment beginning in middle school. I went from a B cup to a DD overnight and so did the negative attention. Besides my severe depression; constantly being made to feel uncomfortable in my own body kept me from going to school on many days. The comments and groping were the catalysts behind my tomboy style. I wore oversized t-shirts and hoodies because I wanted to hide and hoped I could disappear underneath them.
Growing older and going to parties and clubs was even worse. I like to say that I don’t go out because I’m an introvert, but it’s more than that. I really want to avoid dealing with men that think they are entitled to touch me in any way they want. From the overt grabbing of my breasts and vagina to the covert “let me rub my dick on your ass pretending to try and get by because it’s crowded.” I have a hard time seeing the party scene as anything but a hostile environment.I still can’t stand to write my full experiences with dating; my rape and emotional abuse. I can only say that I am thankful that I opted to pursue a restraining order rather than press charges. I count myself as lucky because I had a great lawyer, a domestic violence advocate, a judge that believed me, and a support system. More often than not, victims don’t have these resources. But going to the police did cause some of my oldest friendships to end. But that is one of the prices we have to pay when calling out an abuser for what they are.
I still can’t stomach writing my full experiences with dating; my rape and emotional abuse. I can only say that I am thankful that I opted to pursue a restraining order rather than press charges. I count myself as lucky because I had a great lawyer, a domestic violence advocate, a judge that believed me, and a support system. More often than not, victims don’t have these resources. However, going to the police did cause some of my oldest friendships to end. But that is one of the prices we have to pay when calling out an abuser for what they are. Because there is empathy for abusers. “Why would you ruin his life?” “How could you do that to them?” “It couldn’t have been that serious.” As if once a police report is filed all the work on my end is done. No one discusses how emotionally and physically taxing it is to go to court. No one discussed the financial burden. No one discusses the years of therapy needed to not feel scared and hollow anymore.
I understand now that #MeToo was created to let survivors know that we aren’t alone. But, I’ve known for years now that I’m not alone. What #MeToo has really brought up for me is that no matter how much survivors speak up we are still blamed for our assaults or flat out disbelieved. As much as I’ve tried to curate my social media feeds to be safe spaces, with empathetic and caring people, I still see that the people I trust are connected to the scum of humanity. You would think that the sheer amount of people (because all genders have been victims) would lead people to stop and reevaluate how they think about sexual assault and rape culture. But no. There is deflection, victim blaming, centering of the feelings of perpetrators and so on.
This leads me to wonder how much of my depression is really about a chemical imbalance and how much of it just being my acceptance of the state of society. Sexual assault is about power and how those that wield power will do anything to maintain it. So how likely are we to really see a major shift that would see the powerful relinquishing their power? How likely are we to see courts, police, colleges, corporations, etc put the safety and justice for the powerless, over the influence and protection of the powerful?
Bringing survivors together is bittersweet. We affirm each other’s experiences and hold each other up. But where does that leave the perpetrators? What price are they paying? What work are they doing to atone for their abuses? What about those who have no skin in the game, per say? Those who say they have never and would never harm someone? What are they doing besides being “shocked” at the amount of “Me too” they are seeing on their timelines and newsfeeds? How do we get from “awareness” to actual change? This is where we get stuck each and every time popular culture examines rape culture. I want us to be able to no longer have to say #MeToo and one day get to #NoMore.