Dear Everyone Who’s Hurting: Please Stop Shutting Down People Who Are Trying To Help
Cianna P. Stewart

Firstly, I guess, I’m not really an activist.

I am mostly a person who writes about issues I care about. I write poetry and about PTSD and now chronic illness, but I felt like I was a feminist long before that. I wrote about feminism and abortion and rape culture a few years ago. Conservatives hated me but I know that my ignorance of modern feminism annoyed a lot of other feminists when I tried to write about it.

I am not a college educated feminist. I am a survivor, and I’ve really only got my own experience as a woman who survived trauma and struggles with PTSD to guide my feminism and my reaction to things. I’ve read a few books, I believe in equality, I know rape culture is real.

I had been thinking of wearing a safety pin, not because I am lazy but because I’ve seen a lot of volatile situations and confrontations in the DC area long before Trump that had to do with race, gender (so much street harassment!!!) and religion. I’m outgoing when I am feeling OK, and I liked the idea because it’s subtle and easy to recognize, something that somebody who feels vulnerable could look at, notice and feel safe. If I saw one on somebody on a bus, I’d feel safer, myself, knowing there’s somebody there who cares. Harassment is definitely a real thing. As a woman in the big city on the bus, it’s literally almost everywhere you go.

I haven’t bought one because my neurological disorder has been acting up. I don’t even leave the house that much because of chronic pain.

As an ally, I can write letters. I can sign petitions or make phone calls (but not all time time, not if I’m in pain, seriously!)

But you can always just live in the moment, if you see something bad unfolding in front of your eyes.

“Is everything OK?”

I’ve actually had somebody intervene and do that for me, more than once. And they didn’t get clobbered. They didn’t get shot. Although I guess that could happen, too, in an extreme situation, like a domestic dispute. If it seems physically risky to help somebody being harassed, I feel comfortable calling the police or even getting a store manager. Not every situation is like that, but there are plenty of safe things to do if you witness harassment.

I once saw a kid walking down the street and bullying another, younger kid by punching him in the shoulder, then trying to force the other kid drink out of malt liquor bottle. I got a safe distance away and called the police.

Get a safe distance away if you feel it’s risky, and then call the police. Give them details about the perpetrator, like clothing and hair color.

The truth is that I don’t need a safety pin to speak up for somebody who is being harassed.

I hope I don’t see anything like that anytime soon, but the real world is shitty right now, so of course it’s more possible everyday.

I don’t get that many chances to be an ally. I can’t really be an activist, either, at least not until my ongoing medical drama has finally played itself out. I mean, sure, I’d love to have my punk rock or feminist friends or LGBT friends come over. (I used to have some of those but people move, and you quit the music scene and then the scene quits you sometimes.) There are a LOT of things I would love to do right now and I really miss my social life. But my life has been a long medical drama going on two years. I checked FB for the first time in 6 months and only one message waited for me. Telling people you “don’t feel well” and can’t go out isn’t a great way to maintain friendships or make new ones. But your body decides, you don’t.

I can do the right thing when I’m in a situation to do so. I can stand up to bullies when I see them. To me, that’s just a human thing. And really, it’s a big deal for me.

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