This piece is about sexual assault and references it throughout. If you feel it would be detrimental to your mental health to read it, please visit this link. Take care of yourself, you’re your number one priority – not just now, but forever.
My chest hurts. It’s not an uncommon occurrence – perks of chronic illness, but it doesn’t hurt for some unknown medical reason this time. It’s the type of pain that’s crushing, which makes it hard to breathe, which makes me want to curl up in a ball. It’s emotional pain manifesting in a place they tell me I’ve got a heart.
I am no stranger to sexual assault. Sexual assault/harassment has followed me around for as long as I can remember – in many forms. Street harassment by strangers started when I barely entered my teens – the ‘perks’ of family genetics ‘gifting’ me an ample chest. For reasons of my own mental health I won’t go into details or list some of the occasions I have experienced sexual assault, there are simply too many – a sad fact in itself. I am also still processing those that have left me with mental wounds, hopefully, one day they’ll turn into scars I can look back on without falling down the rabbit hole of unease and hurt.
Since the Weinstein story broke, my timeline has been filled with stories, personal accounts, retweets, victim-blaming, and more. Sites I usually frequent post headlines to catch attention and clickbait has become all too common. Very few journalists know or even think about sensitivity these days.
I struggle with the words usually used in these stories. ‘Survivor’ is a term many claims, yet it feels placed upon me by therapists and other people when I tell them bits of my tale. I wear these terms uncomfortably, like a thong that’s five sizes too small. It squeezes me in all the wrong places and makes me second guess myself. How am I surviving? The dictionary tells me ‘[continuing] to function or prosper’ is what I should mark my survival by, but it’s hard to claim a term that’s been ridiculed by so many people you know and in countless news articles. Nowadays the media makes a mockery of these terms, and fling them about like common currency.
I tried to avoid the news, and I was doing pretty well … until I wasn’t. My timeline is filled with #MeToo posts and tweets I don’t want to read, but can’t escape. I’m forced to remember a dark time, and as I work in social media it’s extremely hard to escape it. Because the news is so dense with these stories they become pub talk, most of the time brought up without a thought for anyone at the table. Removing myself from the situation, or using Twitter’s the mute button only works for a little bit before someone adds a cleverly placed asterisk, or alludes to it in not so many words. How do I avoid something so insidious to our culture that every single day acts of assault are carried out in such a way people have almost come to expect it. Nearly every person I talk to has a story about sexual assault. We’re taught from a young age to be aware of ‘stranger danger’. Why is it that our bodies become sexualised by others before we consciously know they can be sexual beings.
I didn’t know if I was going to add my voice to #MeToo. On one hand, staying quiet is easier, but on the other staying quiet is what the people who abuse our trust want. Silence. Silence is valuable and protects those that shouldn’t be protected, but silence is also a comfort, it allows time to process – to heal.
Because this is a heavy topic, here are so pretty cool clips of very satisfying things.