Written by: LG
Thousands of people are sharing the same post on social media: “If all the people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
This post hurts for many reasons. Firstly, the specific wording:
If. This “if” is a call to action and a warning (implied is the “if I don’t”). This “if” is tempting, but ultimately feels empty, because there is no guarantee that my courage will matter.
All. Read: we all need to speak up or we will all remain silenced. Therefore, to be silent is to betray us all.
Might. Perhaps I am not brave enough, or I am too proud, but exposing my pain for what “we might” achieve feels humiliating, because there is no guarantee that my courage will matter.
Give. How can I give what was stolen from me?
Sense. This is unconvincing. A “sense” is a glance, a twitch of the fingers while lying in bed eating Cheetos, bored. A “sense” is a fleeting moment of disappointment or perhaps sadness or anger. A “sense” is not heartbroken or destroyed. A “sense” is not crying so hard you pop a blood vessel in your eye. A sense is not enough.
#MeToo currently bombards every social media feed and there is nowhere to hide. The posts force sexual assault survivors to relive our trauma, while simultaneously putting the onus on us to exploit ourselves on the farfetched hope we might alert future perpetrators of violence to the magnitude of The Problem, and ultimately, prevent assault and harassment. I cannot bring myself to do this at the expense of my dignity.
If I post #MeToo my parents will see it, my church will see it, and everyone who loves me will know. My pain will be magnified. I have given up so much to the person who raped me. Will I also invite him to hurt my loved ones by invading them with the knowledge of my rape? Will I relive my rape with every “like” and message from well-meaning friends and distant relatives? (I can’t help but feel #MeToo is a way for our rapists to continue raping us over, and over again, in novel and innovative ways.) No thank you.
Sexual assault involves complicated notions of denial. Posting #MeToo means declaring my body was violated and infected. Something, a parasite – a worm, maybe – was inside my body. Posting #MeToo means declaring my body is no longer mine, and I am no longer me. Rather, I am what happened to me. I have become the thing that infected me and continues to make me sick. It is impossible to live life effectively while still acknowledging this truth. So, three years after I was raped, my denial keeps me alive and happy. Denial is a necessary coping strategy; it is how I protect myself from being raped and violated continuously in my own mind. #MeToo leaves no room for affirming the denial that can serve a healing purpose.
#MeToo provides a source of community and empowerment for survivors and has also been successful at raising awareness about sexual assault. For this I am grateful. But on a personal level, #MeToo exacerbates my pain. While #MeToo resonates with some, I cannot find any solidarity or hope in it. In fact, with every #MeToo, I feel ever more alone. #MeToo has become a trigger, and a metric by which survivors measure the severity of what happened to them. Many, like me, will close their Facebook apps feeling only shame and invalidation.
My sentiment toward #MeToo is ultimately derived from love. The love I feel towards other victims affects my entire body. When I see someone share their story on social media, this visceral love stretches like elastic within me. My heart becomes a tight, messy ball of rubber bands held loosely in my chest. An individual band is pulled outward from the core and is released, snapping back, and eliciting acute pain that later lingers. From this love, comes my search for a new kind of solidarity that affirms our silence too.
To those who are down here with me, feeling like cowards in quiet, I hear you too and I love you.