Sometimes it feels like everyone is against me and no one is doing anything about it.
Sometimes it feels like society cares more about protecting others’ reputations than protecting my safety.
Sometimes it feels like ugly and manipulative lies are believed and valued above fearful and vulnerable truths.
Sometimes it feels like people in authority care more about abusers than survivors.
Sometimes it feels like well-wishers are only willing to engage in visible slacktivism and not invisible activism and support.
Sometimes it feels like I am alone. Weak. Helpless. Exposed.
The recent accusations against Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent social media explosion of opinions surrounding that topic, in addition to the overwhelming response to the #MeToo campaign, have weighed heavier on my soul than I expected. These events have left me feeling these sometimes feelings constantly instead of once or twice a week. My triggers have been more prevalent this past week. My responses have been more intense. My coping mechanisms have been less effective.
When I get overwhelmed by these feelings, it is easy for me to resort to anger. I get angry when I read someone online talk about a “witch hunt” mentality developing in the workplace (if you haven’t heard of this, some people are legitimately more concerned about an epidemic of women falsely accusing a man of sexually harassing or abusing her, leading to the man having to hire a lawyer to “defend his honor,” than they are concerned about actual sexual harassment and violence in the workplace). I get angry when I read an article that tries to make a point about vulgarity by using the term “rape-adjacent sex” (which, according to the author, is “…sex with someone you don’t know well enough to tell whether they’re just tipsy, or too drunk to consent…”) when what they’re actually describing is rape. I get angry when I hear that yet another valuable human being has been taken advantage of in the form of sexual violence, has been brave enough to speak up and say “Me Too,” and is shut down by people who either don’t believe them or think that just because someone else has “had it worse,” anyone’s experiences are invalid. I get angry when I see my abusers in public because they were conniving enough to stay just under the threshold of breaking the law while choking the life out of me.
I don’t like being angry. It’s exhausting. I have enough to worry about with grad school, adulthood, and processing my own emotions and trauma to waste time being angry. My parents raised me to believe that if I don’t like something, I should do something to change it. I don’t like the society we live in. I don’t like the victim-blaming rape culture that surrounds me every day. I don’t like losing friends by outing myself as a survivor. Some of these things can’t be changed. Some friends are going to leave regardless, and some friends aren’t really friends, and it’s better to cut them out of your life with the sharpest kitchen shears you have. But some things can change. I can effect change in my environment. You can effect change in your social circle.
Change isn’t often loud and public. Advocacy isn’t often visible to outsiders. For me, change starts here, with this blog. Advocacy starts with telling my story and fighting against the stigma of being a survivor of relationship violence. For my friends, sometimes it looks like talking to me on the phone while I walk across campus because I forgot my headphones and can’t cross campus without them. For you, it might look like donating to Friends of the Family. For everyone, it should look like speaking up when you hear or see someone being taken advantage of. It should look like calling someone out when they tell a sexist joke. It must look like compassionate listening and believing your friend when they confide in you that they’ve experienced sexualized violence.
Together, we can effect change in our society. Together, we can be advocates for a better and safer tomorrow.