I don’t usually participate in copy/paste campaigns on social media like #metoo, preferring to speak on topics in my own time and in my own words. For #metoo, I made an exception, and participate, I did. Understanding the magnitude of this problem personally, I feel deeply saddened by the backlash I am seeing all around me. This is a campaign meant to bring awareness, validation and support in opening up and releasing shame. How quickly the focus has moved from acknowledging sexual violence to picking apart those brave enough to share only serves to highlight the issue at hand.
I have witnessed arguments about whether or not this is a women’s issue (personally, I have no problem with men who have been victimized sharing a #metoo. Sexual violence is a problem, period, and I stand in solidarity with all survivors. That said, I do understand why this was presented as a women’s issue. In general, most men don’t have to deal with the deescalating and normalization of sexually threatening behaviors that women do on a daily basis, but does this really need to be an argument? Abuse is abuse, and it’s a problem), people accusing those participating of jumping on a bandwagon…simply following a trend, accusations of attention seeking and jokes at the participants expense, and accusations of people being victimized in too small a way to participate (is any behavior that causes fear for your own safety too small?). People everywhere, sharing #metoo, are being disregarded offhand. This is precisely the problem. The system of automatic denial that immediately shifts focus, and yes blame, to the victim that is so ingrained that even we, as survivors, do it to ourselves.
I am likely a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I say likely because I haven’t gotten to a place where I fully believe it myself. Everyone in my life who knows my story believes and it’s likely if I were to tell you the full story, you would as well. No one outright denies it. My family, who lives in a constant state of denial, simply waves a dismissing hand in the air, basically stating, “yes, it happened but get over it, the perpetrator has changed”, and god forbid you challenge that statement. The perpetrator himself doesn’t deny it, not actually. He can’t recall. But I, I am left with doubts. This is the power of shame and guilt and societal and systemic denial.
I am also the victim of multiple rapes by multiple men. It took me years to be able to say that. To be able to call it exactly what it is, rape. This is a committed relationship, it can’t be rape. My fault. I did something hurtful, I deserve it. My fault. I put myself in this situation. My fault. Eventually I did say yes, nevermind this no and that no and the many others. Nevermind my waking up with hands around my throat. 3am. No where to go. My fault. “I know it was wrong but I never could have forgiven you if it hadn’t happened”. My fault. “You should never have dared to say you were feeling used to me”. My fault. “Sorry, I guess I took rough sex a little too far but you…”, nevermind my sobs and pleads to stop. My fault. If I speak about it, anger. Feel about it, rage. My fault.
My fault. My fault. My fault.
On top of this there is the time in high school, when while standing in line for graduation rehearsal, a fellow student told me I had a nice ass and stuck his hand down my pants. He did this knowing in all the chaos no one would hear me protest, his friends laughing at his apparent cleverness. Or the time a man followed me home as I was walking my dog and proceded to pound on my apartment door while I hid in the bedroom. When I thought he’d left, he hadn’t. He sat in his car in my driveway for about an hour. There’s the neighbor that would follow me around everytime I went outside until I finally stopped going outside all together. All of the times I’ve had obscene or threatening things yelled at me. “I’ll be your dog,you can walk me, woof, woof”, ignore, keep walking, “yeah, you better be glad you got that dog with you”. And all of the countless small things that I can’t even remember because they’ve occurred with such frequency. This is reality. This is the world in which we live. A world where we are conditioned to downplay abuse and then to also take the blame for that abuse. This is why I participated. This is why it is so important that we are able to speak up without retaliation of cristicsm, minimization or blame. This is why every #metoo deserves support and validation. This is my #metoo.