The Complicated Aftermath of Speaking Up
It’s been more than a year and a half since I came forward about what happened to me. What happened to me. What happened to me?
It feels odd to say that, because what happened to me was actually happening for close to three years.
I thought that talking about it for the first time was going to be the hardest part about surviving an abusive relationship. And yeah, talking about it for the first time was really scary. I sent my parents an email as I departed the country for a month so I wouldn’t have to see their reactions. Then I posted publicly on Facebook when our (now) president was accused of sexually assaulting numerous women. I got through the anxious rush of pressing “send.” I got through the comments and messages that came afterwards. I was even uplifted by most of them.
But saying it for the first time was not the hardest part.
You see, the scariest part of speaking up is actually the fear that no one will believe you.
And while I’ve learned that most people do believe me and other survivors, a lot of people still don’t understand. A lot of people acknowledge that, yeah, it happened, but (even if subconsciously) blame me/us in some way for what happened.
Why didn’t you break up with him sooner?
Why were you dating someone so much older anyway?
How could you let that happen to you again?
And those are the same questions I asked myself for a long time. It’s taken a long, long time to even begin to heal. But in 2018, when #MeToo and #TimesUp are movements in full force, those questions hurt in a different, subtle way.
What makes this abuse less real than a celebrity’s abuse?
In an interview about her past and trauma with sexual violence, Maya Angelou once said, “I won’t say I was severely raped; All rape is severe.” (Moyers, 1988)
You can’t compare one person’s rape to another’s. You can’t minimize one person’s experience because of what happened, when it happened, or who did it.
But we do this all the time.
Well, she was pretty drunk.
Weren’t they dating, though?
I don’t know how much to believe.
I’m wading in the muddy waters of relationships with people who have their own, separate relationships with my abuser. He got married earlier this year, and some of my old friends went to his wedding. My family had a party recently, and a few people there had recently hung out with him.
For them, that was just something I said happened. For them, that was something of the past.
For me, I deal with panic attacks and flashbacks, sometimes on a weekly basis. For me, I live in the fear that he’ll show up somewhere he knows I’ll be. For me, I am carrying the weight of what happened every single day.
But most of the time, the fear that someone doesn’t believe me is much greater than the fear of it happening again.
The sexual violence I endured was all due to fear, trust, or giving someone a second chance.
We’ve gotta stop giving monsters the benefit of the doubt. We’ve gotta stop turning a blind eye. And with some things, nobody deserves a second chance.
We’ve got to start supporting survivors. All survivors.
If you’re reading this, and you have been affected by sexual violence in some way, know that I hear you. I see you. I feel you.
You are not alone.
It’s not your fault.
I believe you.
Boston Area Rape Crisis Center: 24-Hour Hotline: 800-841-8371
National Sexual Assault Hotline:
24-Hour Hotline: 800.656.HOPE (4673)