Thoughts From a Survivor
The past two weeks have been hard. The news has been overloaded with sexual violence. I’ve handled the #metoo movement and the sexual allegations every other week, but the past two weeks have been exhausting because on every social media platform it is there: the Kavanaugh trial. Every time I open Facebook I am reminded of why I never told anyone. From Instagram to Twitter to my Journalism classes, I am reminded. It’s basically a big billboard screaming “Hey remember that time when you were raped?” and my mind scrambles and I tell myself to shut up and I squeeze my fists together and focus on anything but my memories.
I am not looking down on the #metoo movement or Dr. Ford’s testimony. I am expressing that we are living in an age of technology where there is no space for survivors to check out so that their own memories are not triggered. To put this into perspective, there was a similar trial about 30 years ago; The Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991. Back then, the main source of news was radio, television, and print. Consumers could avoid the trial if they wanted to. Media platforms have changed dramatically since then and the news is unavoidable.
A note on the #metoo movement:
The #metoo movement has brought power to survivor’s voices. It gives a platform to survivors that has never existed. Survivors can share their experiences through social media and connect with others from all around the world. Still, for me the #metoo movement is exhausting. Yes, I have commented on others posts #metoo. Letting them know they are not alone. In some moments I feel empowered. But as the movement continues, I find myself becoming more numb to my own experience. Every day when a new allegation comes, I think to myself, “when will it end?” It is as if I don’t think about my own experience because I know I will have to use that emotional energy just to process the morning news or scroll through Instagram.
The #metoo movement is amazing. It is providing a platform that has never been there. But it is also exhausting. With each breaking news of a sexual assault committed by a powerful person, I am reminded of the numerous times it has happened to me. When the flashbacks come they bring my body to a halt. I was on line nine coming home from school when I remembered. My hand tightened onto the metal pole and my vision went blurry as I tried to focus on anything else. I was finally brought back when the doors parted and I recognized my stop. Occasions like this have been more frequent lately.
Is the News Traumatizing?
In my Intro to Writing and Reporting class, we touched on this subject. How news is becoming traumatizing. Of course, it was about Kavanaugh and the #metoo movement. My chest instantly tighten, my jaw clenched, and I dug my fingernails into my cuticles. I thought to myself “Yes what did you expect with news like this?” It's a daily reminder that this world fucking sucks sometimes. With each new story, I am reminded why I never spoke up. Because the few times I have they ask me, “why didn’t you stop him?” Or they justify his actions by saying I was flirting with him earlier… By my own ethics, I know this is wrong. I know that it is not the victim's fault. But deep down I still blame myself.
I blame myself for going into that room alone with him. I blame myself for trusting people. I blame myself for not knowing better.
Yes, the news is traumatizing and every discussion on Facebook reminds me that it is not just bad men, it’s all men. And it is other women who participate in rape culture. It is the State Police Officer of my hometown posting Kavanaugh’s confirmation with a clapping hand emoji on the town’s Facebook page that drains me. At the rate #metoo and the discussion of rape culture is going, I have accepted that this is a part of life and that it will most likely happen again.
I was 13 and with my family members in the hospital room of my Great Aunt when it happened the first time. I was standing there next to my Great Uncle when he leaned over and said, “I like pretty young girls like you”. He then groped my bottom and I stood there silent, petrified by what was happening. We were not alone, my whole family was there and so was his wife, laying in the hospital bed on the verge of death. At this moment I chose to be silent because his wife was dying right there in front of us all and what if my family didn't believe me? It was in this moment that my discomfort and silence were made necessary to keep the peace of the world around me.
Am I exhausted?
I am exhausted in the era of #metoo. I want to be healed and I want to be at peace with myself. I want to feel safe again.
I am tired. I cannot say I am a survivor because, although I physically survived, the mental and spiritual damage is still here. It influences my life every day. I am trying to heal. I bought books from Amazon five months ago about healing from sexual assault and rape. I’ve opened them three times. Each time is a new revelation, reminding me of something about my assault, and it absolutely terrifies me. All I want to do is forget, I hate remembering.
I’ve written this piece more for me than for the reader. It’s easier to write about this than to speak with a friend because it’s painful to talk about this. Maybe writing about this will help another survivor. Maybe you’re an ally and wondering how survivors are doing during this time. Recognize that we are in a new age of how information is delivered and that there is no off switch. We are constantly connected to information whether we like it or not. Whoever you are, please take care of yourself and check on your friends. Women will take refuge in each other.