I walk in and sit down, handing her a stack of forms to be signed. This has become our routine every Friday morning.
“… and what is today’s date?”
“The 19th,” I replied.
As soon as the last syllable had left my lips, I had a sudden chill run down my spine. If today is the 19th, then tomorrow…
It has been another year- another year of panic attacks sparked from the emptiness around me- the question of ‘what if’ lurking in the shadows. Another year of unexplained sadness because it happened. Another year of hatred for men who look at me a certain way, more so when they call out at me.
In recent months, there has been an influx of attention in the regularity of sexual assault and the people it has affected, and yes, I shutter every time I see, hear, or read someone say Me Too. I’m empathetic to these survivors; these victims; these men and women from all over, but I couldn’t let my voice be heard. Not once was I able to say #MeToo. I was afraid that the world would then know my secret. I was afraid that I would be judged. And worse yet, I felt as if my trauma was worse than every one else’s, so why bother identifying myself with them?
People would ascribe to the #MeToo community based on a myriad of experiences. From catcalls on the street, to being unwantedly touched momentarily. From a drunken liaison that turned a bit rough, to an unconscious encounter that was hardly remembered. I understand that abuse is abuse, no matter the form, but I couldn’t associate myself with a girl who had an inappropriate comment hurled at her from a questionable man to my experience of being blackmailed into preforming sexual favors. It’s just not the same. Nor is it fair to compare an unwanted fondling from some stranger to my experience of having a knife held to my throat and being told my time was up if I didn’t cooperate.
I hate myself for thinking this way; that somehow my pain is more relevant than someone else’s- that my memories are more difficult to let go of. Comparing my trauma to another’s is in no way intentional. In fact, it comes from a place of fear; the same place that gives me the urge to take mental notes of my surroundings at all times and to be prepared for the worst. The same place that tells me I’m less of a woman because my virginity was stolen from me. The same place that dreads the day when my abuser is released from prison. They’re instantaneous, uncontrollable thoughts that get put on a loop in my mind spurred by the slightest of occurrences. You’re not good enough… You’re worthless… You got what you deserved…
This time last year, I made a similar post, recounting my haunting memories from my experience. I struggled through that day with a panic attack and crying intermittently. Will tomorrow be any better? Will I have the strength to think about what happened and move on without a single tear? I’m not sure. I am sure that being a survivor does not and will not define me. Nor does it make me more or less than anyone else.
So one hashtag, two little words, a million stories of pain, and now, a million and one- #MeToo. I say it out of solidarity, out of empathy, and out of love for those who have experienced abuse of any magnitude. #IBelieveYou.