To be reminded that you are a victim.
“Yo, Sis. You good?”
The room cleared out and one of my best friends asked if I was okay.
“Yeah. I just try to tune all of it out.”
We just finished talking about the current rage of accusations involving powerful men and sexual inappropriateness, assault and rape. Every day, a new accusation is leveled against a politician, musician, news anchor or actor. And with it comes the destruction of careers, the dismantling of personhood and the overall dismay of the public.
With that conversation came the revelation that one of us had experienced sexual assault and intimidation to, from and at work. As the opinions flew and the rage boiled, I sat there zoned into a Twitter timeline on my phone that barely moved. I didn’t want to be there. I thought this would be that one place where I wouldn’t be reminded. But it became like everywhere else.
Earlier in 2017, I was sexually assaulted. Locked inside of an office, my date brutally assaulted and spit on me. The morning after, I wrote about it. Not because I wanted the world to hear about it but rather that I needed to “hear” myself “talk” about it. I wasn’t able to conceptualize what happened to me. But for my sanity, I needed to. I needed to accept what transpired. And through writing — by reading my words — I finally understood how much and how far the violation went that night. Writing about my assault was the first of the four stages of grief.
I published it on Medium as an act of defiance. People needed to know how I felt. But really I let it out for public consumption because I needed sympathy. I craved for someone to say that they were “sorry” about what happened to me. I ached for an apology — even if it wasn’t from the person who assaulted me. I wanted to be seen in a moment that left me so damn invisible.
On February 14th, 2017, I was sexually assaulted.
Even as I write this, I don’t know if I’m making the right decision to talk about this publicly. I know how shame works…
And that’s what you see. You see men and women crying out for someone to care about what happened to them. Because even though you know that you are not alone, you feel that way. Abuse does that.
But in the midst of what feels like millions of men and women having their “let me be seen” moment, I’ve been triggered along the way.
Facebook is the scene of discussions about morality and sexual depravity. Twitter is the stage for outrage, revenge, victim blaming. NPR is the audio newsreel of who-done it and what-we should-do-about-it. Print media is the billboards to events of the past that men “remember differently” and women “remember very well”.
The bus ride to work becomes a moving Sunday morning debate show. Office banter becomes a “that wouldn’t have been me!”. Bible study becomes a lesson in blocking out the conversation so you don’t hear something that makes you cringe. Not because you don’t have faith in people to be fair but rather that you don’t want the perception of your fellow brother or sister in Christ to change.
So that’s how it felt. That is how it feels. Every second of every day, I remember what happened to me. Even when I’m in the process of working through it, I’m constantly faced with what I didn’t do as a victim. Being told of what I failed to do versus simply being heard.
In that moment, my silence was all that I could bear.