Trigger warning for sexual assault.
The #MeToo movement has rocked social media over the last several months. People (primarily women but for the sake of inclusivity, I will be using gender-neutral terms) of all ages, types, races and classes have come forward to share stories and often identify abusers. For many, this is empowering. They’re reclaiming their lives and denouncing those who hurt them. For me, it’s been hell. I see discourse surrounding an issue that’s near and dear to me, and it feels like a shard of glass lodged in my heart.
I was not a “perfect victim.” I wore a deep v-cut bodysuit to show off my cleavage and tiny little shorts to show off my long, toned legs. I accepted a stranger’s invitation up to his apartment, and there, I accepted his offer of alcohol. Some would say that I deserved what happened to me, and for a very long time, I thought I did too.
The first time I saw #MeToo trending on Twitter, I felt a little odd. I brushed it off as me being over sensitive. After all, this is a good thing, right? Isn’t it good to talk about it? But as more and more people utilized the trend to share their experiences, I began to realize it wasn’t my own sensitivity that was bothering me; it was the movement itself.
Why is it that survivors must publicly bare their souls to be seen as credible? Sexual assault is a deeply traumatic experience, and having to recount it to force the overarching issue into conver-sation seems horribly wrong to me. I am just one person and I cannot speak for every silent survivor, but this is how I feel. I do not feel empowered. I do not feel like this is a “witch hunt,” like many claim it to be, not to mention how warped it is to reference a historical event that resulted in the deaths of countless innocent women, especially when discussing women and others identify-ing those who assaulted them. That’s an issue for another article. I do not feel anything but pain, sadness and anger knowing that another person – whether they’re a friend, a celebrity or someone I’ll never know – could look at my trauma and say, “Me too.”
However, I can support one particular aspect of the movement: the identification of abusers. I wish all those who commit sexual assault could follow the paths of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. Those who commit such an act should be shamed, fired and abandoned. Sexual assault should wreck the reputation and career of the offender. Those who take steps toward bringing these criminals to justice are so strong and so brave, and I wish every single survivor could do the same.
The sad fact of the matter though is that they can’t. This is mostly due to backlash, shame or fear of judgement, especially if they think that they will not be believed. Some may not know who attacked them; some may know them all too well. Some fear hearing, “You deserved it,” because they do not fit into the “perfect victim” narrative.
To all the survivors out there: whether you took action following your experience or not, I raise a metaphorical glass to you. You survived. That itself is a big freaking deal. To everyone who’s watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh with a lump in your throat and sweat on your palms, I am with you. I hope that someday victims will be respected enough for potential abusers to genuinely fear the consequences of their actions, and for no one to respond to allegations with “boys will be boys.” While #MeToo will never fail to make me sick to my stomach, I hope that perhaps it can inspire drastic and long-delayed change as to how we view sexual assault.