Why I Am Not Posting #MeToo, but Fully Appreciate the People Who Did.
I don’t want to out myself as a victim of sexual abuse because I do not define myself by my traumatic experiences. Despite however outspoken I am about feminist causes, I keep this part of my life consciously private. This is partly because I do not want to be subject to questioning and the subsequent process of having to prove the veracity of an experience which I suffered through alone; something I watch every single victim go through now when they come out. And partly because I do not want to subject my loved ones to the realisation that this happened right under their noses (nor do I think I could handle them trying to disprove my experiences).
A year ago, a friend was caught up in an incident where our entire friend circle forcibly took sides, mostly against her because no one wanted to believe the perpetrator in question as he was quite popular in college. The entire ordeal led me to have my first major breakdown in many months, largely because of the vitriolic public response of denial and abuse directed towards the friend in question. Even the smallest incidents of harassment leaves the victim traumatized because of the inherently dehumanizing nature of the crime involved, and to withstand further social stigma, constant interrogation and abuse requires more willpower than the average human being has. Yet, as we see, every single victim, man or woman, who comes out, without fail, is subjected to this process of humiliation and shame. Justice in these situations is merely a dream, and often, the main aim is to first survive through the societal abuse.
It is not a surprise that people are now speaking up by simply posting “me too” online. It is comforting and the process is made much easier. It is easier to speak up when there is utmost solidarity, in the privacy of your room without having to face another person and it is not required to describe your experience. One can expect that any backlash in this situation will expose regressive people for what they are.
However, the backlash that is now following is the discrediting of the movement as a whole with every other person playing the convenient role of the Devil’s advocate. Of course, people cleverly say “now what?” after someone has submitted to the ‘trend’. I cannot even imagine how this conversation would play out in the offline world. The fact that living human beings are admitting to have being sexually assaulted and harassed is not enough for people. Yes, it is done in your own private circle, and it is done online, and it will be lost in the stream of “Me too” to follow. However, how do people forget that the entire exercise is in lieu of every future interaction to follow after this confession? You still have to talk to the person in question or maybe sit with them in office or see them pass by in some setting or another. Following a confession of being a victim to sexual assault, would you still look this person in the eye and play the “Devil’s advocate”? Would you, as a decent human being, quip in the face of this person that their confession is in vain because society will never believe them or that their intentions are misguided somehow because you do not believe in the methodology adopted?
Social activism mandatorily requires that the personal become political, but the nature of this mass confession still hinges on a willingness to reveal something so intensely personal and bear further abuse for the same despite no fault of your own. In our eagerness to “debate” social justice issues today (I honestly do not believe that people here actually want to contribute to the discussion in any way but that is a discussion for another time), we forget that at the heart of these political matters are real life personal stories of trauma and pain and when we dissect the victim’s intentions, methodology and even their confession, we consciously attempt to disprove their past. You may state that you have no intention of this but merely want to add to the discussion, but you are missing the entire point of the discussion. What follows after the confession is not necessarily a nuanced discussion about how the victim will live their life or how they plan to use their trauma as political leverage but a newer understanding about another person’s struggle and the necessity to have empathy for one another. Similarly, what follows next is not victims of sexual assault banding together and burning a government building (oh, how I wish though) but that new understanding that if your family, classmate or neighbor has gone through this, more empathy is required out of you and maybe a conscious effort to start an actual discussion on how you can treat your fellow human beings better.
Our society is so fucked up that as I type this, I count myself as fortunate for not having gone through major physical abuse as an adult. If I had to break down the implications of this assertion clinically, I would be considered crazy for having internalized my trauma to such a level. And it is true- I have internalized my experiences to a degree that I consider myself fortunate for “merely” suffering from one form of abuse than the other. But the fact remains that I am not prepared to open that part of my life up to public scrutiny, yet. And I understand that that is true for hundreds and thousands of people everywhere, who then are not stepping up and confessing #MeToo. It is entirely their choice, as is mine, and one that is completely understandable.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the people, who are confessing, are extremely brave. Despite the fact that #YesAllWomen have suffered assault and harassment, it does not excuse the crime and coming out against this and subjecting yourself to public scrutiny is still an act of bravery. It might not necessarily change the political landscape any time soon but it definitely will change the person’s life, their interactions with their loved ones and the way they view themselves now. If it doesn’t and that is because you, as a viewer of a newsfeed full of your own friends confessing to having been subjugated to sexual crimes, choose not to change your perspective and treatment of the friends in question and subsequently the entire society, then it is obvious that you here are the problem.
And lastly, to all people, who like me, are choosing to remain silent about their experiences (even though I implicitly confessed through this article), I respect your choice but please consider talking to at least a few trusted friends. Maybe the public at large does not need to know but talking it out with another person really helps. If not a friend or a family member, please consider professional help. Even if it cannot be changed now, keeping quiet only makes you feel more complicit in a crime where you were the victim and it only empowers the perpetrators. It is completely possible to live life despite these traumatic experiences. You are not alone. Countless men and women both are coming out as we speak, and when the time is right, you can too. Until then, please consider confessing privately and rest assured that people out there do understand and empathise, because they are all in this too.