Many of you know who follow my blog, that I posted about my sexual assault at the hands of a female doctor this August.
As I watched Facebook this past week and saw a multitude of comments (both good and bad), I felt several emotions. I felt sad, for myself, and for numerous women around the world. I felt slightly triggered and needed to monitor how much time I spent on Facebook, because some comments got pretty ugly. I felt thankful, that many women felt like they had a platform to speak honestly the harm done to them, and that they got to say #metoo in solidarity with other women.
I saw women try to sort out if they should say #metoo if they had just been harassed, but not actually assaulted. I saw a few posts where women mentioned as a side bar that men and boys are assaulted too. I saw men respond “I am listening. I believe you. We need to do better.” Many emotions were stirred up in general.
Although my assault was committed by a woman, I know what it feels like to be a woman in this world, that often feels unsafe because of men’s actions. I felt this strongest when I lived in Chicago for 4 years, and took public transportation and walked everywhere I went. There wasn’t a day where I walked in Chicago that I didn’t experienced catcalling. I knew certain areas of the city where I had to pay extra attention and walk extra confidently. I knew that if I was walking alone at night, that I would be the one blamed if I was raped.
Slowly I started disconnecting, because that’s what feels safest. I would make phone calls when I walked, because that felt safer than facing the fact of all the emotional energy it took to “armor up” just to transport myself to where I needed to go. Maybe I could tune out catcalling or having unwanted stares by men, if I was focused on whoever I was talking to on the phone.
While that’s a simple example, it matters, because that was my way of numbing reality, of distancing myself from how much energy it took wondering if I would feel safe that day. And not feeling physically safe matters.
I do believe the phenomenon of the “unbalanced masculine” is alive and well in our culture today. Men are raised to be dominant, to be strong and not weak. That emotions are weak. They live in fear, because they are not culturally “allowed” to integrate their masculine and feminine sides. Women, then react to this dominance, by putting up walls. Not often enough letting their intuitive and tender sides come through. To survive this world, you have to “make it with the guys.” Notice all the dualism here.
Instead of being both weak and strong.
Intuitive and logical.
Nurturing and Independent.
The beauty of #metoo is the solidarity amongst women that puts the response in the hands of men to be part of the solution of a safer, and more just world.
And yet, I also to write how the sexual assault landscape is much more nuanced than #metoo. The stats are 1/4 women and 1/6 men. Boys are assaulted by men. Women are assaulted by women. Women assault boys. Boys assault boys. Girls assault girls. Incest is prevalent.
As Brene Brown writes in her newest book, Braving the Wilderness, “Facebook is the catalyst. Face-to-face is the connection.” I wondered as I looked at #metoo’s all week, how all the talk and attention may have triggered many who have been sexually assaulted. I hoped that these people had someone to talk to face-to-face. Because Facebook may be a catalyst for awareness, but it’s not going to heal trauma. And Facebook can be filled with such dehumanization, that some survivors may have felt like they had to defend themselves yet again.
To all survivors of sexual assault-you are so brave.
You are believed and heard and loved.
But I will be honest-not everyone has emotional capacity to hear your story. To listen. To grieve. To take the steps of healing with you. To understand that the affects of sexual assault last a lifetime, although tremendous healing can occur. But you will always walk with a limp.
However, some people can. I sincerely hope you find those people.
Because to me, from here, we raised awareness on Facebook, now we must have the courage to have face-to-face conversations.
Does every survivor need to tell their story? Absolutely not. They get to decide the time, place, details, who will be listening, basically every detail. They must feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe.
But maybe we all should ask this question, “Am I a safe enough person for someone to tell their sexual assault experience to, if he/she/they were ready?”
Maybe another question, “How would I make sure this person felt exceptionally loved and brave and believed after he/she/they told me?”
Sure, part of the solution to the rampant sexual harassment and assault in this country is political. And yet, maybe the first step is being a safe person. Being available and willing to listen without judgment.
And believe me, as a sexual assault survivor, there always could be more and more safe people in the world.