#MeToo and the stigma of experiencing sexual assault

By city_jumping

In the wake of the Weinstein revelations, it feels like the tide is (finally) turning, right?  I hugely admire the courage of those who have come forward, whether in relation to Weinstein or as part of the #MeToo movement.  Because – despite, hopefully, the increasing awareness and sensitivity as a result of these terrible stories – it does still take incredible amount of bravery for someone to talk about what happened to them.

As I hovered over pressing “Post” on my own – I found myself confronted with mixed feelings.  Fear, mostly.  And having spoken to others about it, I realised I was far from alone in my hesitation.

There’s that sense of shame, conditioned from generations of victim-blaming culture.  A conviction that somehow people would think differently, less, worse of you, that is more deeply ingrained than this scandal and one hashtag campaign could sweep away.  It’s not exactly something that you can take back, once it’s out there.

Or even worse, maybe people will – in some perverse way – think you’re just attention-seeking.  As if a few words of sympathy and shock, or some crying emojis on Facebook, would be some kind of ego boost.

Or maybe people will think, somehow, that your experience isn’t “bad enough” to be talking about.  That, compared to some of the other horrendous stories, yours isn’t really “legitimate”.  After all, you’re a functioning human, you seem to be doing fine – it can’t have been such a big deal.

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But, for crying out loud, we’d try and reason with ourselves, this is exactly why talking about it is so important.  These doubts we’re having – the irrational shame, the idea that accusers may be throwing out allegations for attention, the fear of yet another dismissal of the idea that sexual assault might be a widespread, systemic issue – that’s not going to change unless people come forward.

It’s not like we didn’t wrestle with the idea that, by not saying anything, we were failing to support those who had.  Where was our sense of solidarity?

Obviously, for some – many, even – this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and they felt compelled to share their story, to add their voice to the outcry.

I couldn’t do it.  This post is as far as I could go – to highlight that, for all those brave enough to come forward, there are still so many who don’t feel able to.  Not because we don’t feel the outrage as deeply, or because we feel any less solidarity.  But because, despite it all, some of us still don’t feel safe enough to do it.

Maybe, finally, things are changing.  I truly hope they are.  But before we pat ourselves on the back that we’re all finally talking about this like grown-ups, there’s still a long way to go.  #MeToo is just the tip of the iceberg.

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