BRB Author Spotlight Presents: Jyssica Schwartz Author of You Are Not Alone.
Q: Talk about the process you employed to find the contributors of these stories?
A: First I put out a general call on my social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I told people about the project and tried to generate interest. I posted about it more. Stories started trickling in. Then I went to Twitter and I searched for people who had shared their stories using the hashtag “#metoo” and direct messaged people explaining who I was and what I was trying to do. That got more people interested and they started sharing the project, and I was able to gather more stories faster at that point. I was planning to stop at 50, but had a few more at the last moment and ended up with 56 total contributors, including myself. 55 individual people contributed their stories of assault, abuse, and harassment — and ultimately showed that we are not alone. None of us are alone in this. And they are all survivors, not victims.
Q: How did you handle the emotional aspects of taking on a project such as this?
A: It was definitely tough at times. I am a pretty sensitive person and also was dealing with some personal family stuff during that time, too. But no matter how difficult it could be, it was completely 100% worth it, because I was helping people. Every single one of the contributors thanked me and told me about their journey and many said that this was the first time they had ever written out the whole story. Most importantly, many of the contributors said that they found the writing process cathartic — something I have always found writing to be for me, too.
It was important to me to put together something that meant something. That could help others out there who read it and see that they really are not alone, that they CAN survive and prevail.
I have always been really honest in my writing. I have written about my struggles with anxiety, loneliness, and more. And just as I refuse to be a part of the stigmatization of mental health in this country and in the world, I also feel the same way about the stigma of being labeled a “victim” and the unhealthy prevalence of victim-blaming for sexual assaults and abuse in the US. I just feel like if I have this platform, even my small one, I want to use it for good and help people in some way.
I truly hope this book helps people. The feedback I have gotten so far has been extremely positive and eye-opening, and so many of the contributors have spoken about how they feel lighter and feel relief from this process.
Q: Was there any one story or stories that particularly stood out for you?
A: I don’t want to pick any one specific story. Every single one stood on its own. Each one was horrible and sad and the writers all showed such amazing courage and bravery in being willing to share it in this way.
I was glad to see that a few men were willing to be vulnerable and share their stories, as well. I feel that it is extremely important to show that assault and abuse is not a “woman” problem, but a HUMAN problem. Men are far less likely to report sexual assault or abuse and many male survivors were abused as children, and it is unfair to say that #metoo or any assault or abuse is exclusively a female issue. It should be a fully human issue and we should be working to ensure the safety of all people.
Q: Do you see this movement gaining more traction with time? What do you believe needs to happen to make this a reality?
A: Yes, I believe it is growing over time. More and more people are losing jobs and being in the news and hopefully being duly punished for the crimes of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment. #metoo has grown and the Times Up initiative continues to grow, too.
In order to make sexual assault and abuse not a problem in our reality anymore? Well, the biggest thing would be to recognize that every single man and woman has a right to their own autonomy, and be teaching our children from birth that they are allowed to say “no” to hugs or kisses or being touched — by anyone, even family. Many assaults and abuse to children happen by family members, and unfortunately I think it is still fairly common to force kids to hug or kiss someone just because they are family. Kids are people, too. Consent and autonomy should be taught, recognized, and enforced from as young as possible.
We also need to simply shut up and start believing victims. There have been studies done which show that there is only fraud in the case of 2% of rape accusations — which is the same percentage as in other violent crimes. If someone tells you something terrible has happened to them, believe them. Be compassionate and sympathetic. If the first question that springs to mind when you hear about a rape or assault is “What was she wearing?” or “Was she drinking?” Then you need to take a step back. Just because someone drinks alcohol does not mean they were asking to be violated. This is such backward thinking! Bodily autonomy and consent are in place no matter what someone is wearing, if they were drinking, where they are located, or how old they are.
There’s not just one answer. You look at the politicians still trying to make abortions illegal, and that’s just a single example of a group of people not given autonomy over their own body and choices. Many things need to change.
Q: What do you view as the single most important factor in bringing this type of victimization into the light and to the forefront of consciousness?
A: I honestly am not sure how to answer this. Maybe teaching everyone about bodily autonomy and consent from a very young age. Maybe stopping victim-blaming and slut-shaming. But how do you do this? I don’t know, but I want to help try.
Q: Do you believe it is always in the best interest of the victims to outright expose their abusers?
A: That is a personal decision and I would never presume to know what is the best thing for anyone to do for themselves. Being violated or abused is such a personal, deep violation of your body, your sense of safety and trust, and your soul. I personally encourage victims to go to the police and report the crime so the perpetrator can’t hurt more people, but the truth is that it isn’t easy and it isn’t necessarily the right decision for everyone.
More than anything, I believe it is in the best interest of all survivors to get help. Have someone you can talk to, whether a parent, friend, therapist, support group, or anything else. Get help, have support, survive. So you can then thrive and live your best life and not allow the violence to define you.
Q: Where can a child realistically get help when no one in their inner circle has their back?
A: If it is a minor, they should talk to a trusted teacher, school guidance counselor, or the police. If it is an adult, then talk to a therapist, a support group, or the police.
You are NOT alone and you do NOT have to go through this alone. Please, if you feel you have no one else, know that you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and talk to me. I am happy to listen, respond, and help you in any way possible.
Q: What are some calls to action the wider community can take to ensure that this movement keeps moving forward?
A: First, stop victim-blaming and slut-shaming. That shit has got to stop. Women and men both are allowed to say no and are allowed to have consensual sex. It is absolutely ridiculous to think that in 2018, there are still people who think that having safe, consensual sex with people somehow makes you a bad person. That is ludicrous. Sex is a natural, healthy part of life — and anyone having it isn’t affecting you, so why do you even care? And having safe consensual sex does not, in any possible way, mean anyone is “asking” to be assaulted or abused.
So, stop blaming the victims of assault and stop shaming people for having healthy safe sex.
Other than that, teach your kids about body autonomy and consent. Hammer it home. If they understand it and know it to be true for themselves, they will accept it to be true for others.
Also, if you see something, say something. It may sound trite, but whether you witness someone being assaulted or abused and yell at the person or call the police, it makes a huge difference. Even something as small as asking if someone is okay or staying with someone if they feel unsafe.
Just be aware of the humans around you. We all are in this life together and we only get one. Be kind to each other, love one another, and the world will be a better place.
Jyssica Schwartz is a thirty-something writer, editor, and book coach living in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and a very fluffy cat. She had 10 years of corporate sales and business development experience before quitting her job in early 2017 to pursue being a full-time writer. Building and refining her business has been a challenge and a joy. You can find her at https://jyssicaschwartz.com/ and right here on Medium at Jyssica Schwartz