#MeToo, so #NowWhat?
This morning, my feed is full of people of all genders and sexualities saying “Me too”, urging people to repost and share the message that they have also been victims of sexual harassment so that people will understand how widespread this issue is.
I feel about this the same way I feel when I disclose to people that I’ve survived multiple sexual assaults, most before I reached a double digit age. It’s that look of pity that crosses people’s faces. The inevitable, “I’m so sorry”. The pat on the shoulder if they are in physical distance.
This is a charade I feel like I have to walk through, like many of the charades I perform as an autistic person. It’s something that I do to make the person who feels sorry for me feel better. Just as when someone asks, “How are you?” in English speaking countries do they rarely expect you to go into detail if you’re not okay, likewise when someone says, “I’m sorry” after you’ve said you’ve been raped, you’re supposed to say, “It’s okay”. When really it isn’t.
I’m so tired of the pitied looks. The remonstrations of sadness. The emotional toil of comforting men who use my own experience to try and understand what it is about their brothers, sons and fathers that causes them to do such things when they have a much better idea of that than I do. Over the years, in disclosing my experiences of surviving sexual abuse, I have heard a range of responses.
The pitied, “I’m sorry” is the usual one but I’ve had weirder ones from men who’ve remarked that all of the ‘cool’ women they know seem to have gone through this. One person even told me that I could take comfort in the fact that statistically, it’s now far less likely I will be raped again, though I’m not sure if that has any actual validity.
But what no one has yet to say to me is what they will do about this.
“Me too”, I’ll say, and then what? I refuse to believe that the world is ignorant of the widespread commonality of sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape. I refuse to believe that this is some sort of revelation that requires me to, yet again, tap-dance and disclose what I’ve been through.
In addition to the pitied looks, I have been accused of bringing up my experiences of sexual assault for “points”. I have been told I am not performing adequately as someone who’s experienced this — that I am too much of a “victim”. I am not allowed to own my own experiences without at the same time being told that I am still living in them. Surviving sexual assault is walking the tightrope between victim and survivor, between being strong enough to prove you’re sane to say what you’ve been through with conviction but weak enough for people to care about what happened to you.
The only ‘right’ way to be a victim or a survivor is to be a mirror, reflecting back at those who are forced to look in the face of your experiences with exactly what they want to see. When they say, “I’m sorry” you say “It’s okay”. When they say you’re talking about it too much, you shut up. When they say you’re strong for talking about it, you speak up. Everyone has a monologue for you to memorise.
But what will you do about this?
There are interpersonal situations where abuse and survival is complicated. There are times when calling the police is not an option. There are complications where ousting abusers when you have no recourse left is all you can do — but really it just means they go and find new victims. I’m not expecting any one individual to be perfect, or to have all of the solutions.
But what I am expecting is an end to the charade that no one knows how endemic rape is.
The issue is not that people do not know. The issue is that those who have the power to do something do not care unless it is affecting them or they can use it to further their purposes. I do not need more pitying looks. I don’t need more well wishes. I need for people to speak truth to power. I need for people who are in charge to do something. I need for this not to be just one news cycle, for it not to be just Weinstein. I need for people to stop expecting me to perform victimhood.
I see your #MeToo and I raise you a #NowWhat?
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