Why do we need a hashtag to communicate the reality of our culture? If you’re so tuned out to that conversation that a hashtag is going to make a difference, let me recommend something:

Go ask a woman you’re close to if she’s ever had an experience with sexual violence.

I doubt it’ll take you long to find someone willing to admit it. It’s right in front of our eyes, and easier than you’d think to sweep under a rug.

Here’s the thing: we never talked about it because no one wanted to listen.

No one wanted us to talk, especially not perpetrators. Even our president has paid countless women off, bragged of sexual assault, and threatened would-be plaintiffs with lawsuits. How do we speak about about this when everyone is telling us not to? That it is too difficult or uncomfortable a topic? That it is too incendiary?

Our power is in our voice, in the power of story-telling, in our admissions to our closest friends and loved ones.

We can pull them close and remind ourselves that self-love and self-worth exist for us, too. You don’t have to be the person who pursues justice loudly or calls perpetrators out, you can stay on the sidelines because you earned it. You deserve rest and compassion, not to be thrown out into the vicious debates that might undermine the life you’ve managed to build for yourself even when society didn’t give a rat’s ass about your safety. If you’ve got the strength to get out there and fight the good fight, do it, but if you can’t, that’s OK, too.

Just don’t be quiet anymore, at least not to your loved ones. Share your story, let them know that it’s their parents, siblings, friends, and partners that are experiencing this, not just a hash-tagged demographic.

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