First of all, thank you for dedicating your platform to making space for a conversation about sexual violence by sparking off the #MeToo hashtag last night (EDITED: which was originally started by Tarana Burke.). I have no doubt your heart is in a good place, and you stand in solidarity with survivors. Much gratitude and respect to you.
But I’m tired. And I’m not the only one. As this avalanche of disclosure began last night, I heard from my friend, a young survivor who will openly share her experience in small groups but hesitates to be more public. She posted, and then re-considered, and then perseverated all night over the questions she anticipated today. What would she say if next week at dinner her in-laws asked what happened? What would she do if my co-worker who just liked her post brought it up at a staff meeting tomorrow?
I’m tired of having to remind survivors that they should never feel pressured of obligated to talk about their experiences. Harassment and assault take away our sense of agency – fighting to end these violations should not. You can be part of the fight to fix the world we’re living in without having to relive and share trauma every time the internet demands it from you.
I’m tired of being flooded with stories from vulnerable survivors, of worrying whether they are disclosing safely in a world that will still punish them socially, financially and sometimes even physically. I’m tired because I stayed up late responding to survivors with the word “Hugs” until I got put in Twitter jail. (My goodness, wouldn’t it be amazing if there really were an actual bot that gave out hugs and support to survivors.) I’m tired of seeing so many voices echoing into the Twitterverse to complete and utter silence. We have a collective responsibility to make sure that those survivors who disclose with a Tweet feel supported and believed – and that requires engagement. It requires work. It requires personally responding to messages until your fingers fall off.
I’m tired of reminding you and the world that one in six men will experience sexual abuse or assault in their lifetimes. Men and boys are trafficked for sex, sold for drugs, and harassed on the street. Trans and non-binary individuals are at higher risk for sexual violence than other populations. Sexual violence is not a women’s issue. The solidarity belongs to all survivors, and I’ll leverage my privilege as a woman to name their experiences again and again.
I’m tired of hashtag conversations. I want real conversations, uncomfortable conversations, deep conversations. I want conversations that engage everyone – survivors and non-survivors alike – to imagine a world free of harassment and violence.
But now that we’ve broken this conversation wide open, let’s turn it into a dialogue. Yes, it feels risky. If we make a misstep, we’ll say sorry and start over. Try again. We don’t need survivors to disclose to talk about the impact of harassment and assault. We need to take care of each other. I hope you’ll join me in making space for those who can say #MeToo and those who can’t. I hope you’ll find our place in this conversation where we trust and believe each other.