Perhaps you’ve been there, too. Quietly watched one more survivor come forward, seen one more perpetrator publicly held accountable. Perhaps you breathed a sigh of relief that this type of crime is receiving the attention it deserves. Perhaps you felt vindicated, even if only a tiny bit.
Or maybe you were furious. At first you weren’t sure why, at least this was the case for me. Then I thought about it, and came up with this:
1. The Glorification of a Trend
Confessing MeToo is currently in style. It’s the brave, self-revealing, glamorous thing to do. That’s the way it comes across at times. It feels as if in a few months, a year, it will be old news. No one will be interested, you are TooLate. The celebrities coming forward seem to be implying you have their permission to do so now. But does this also apply if you’re the promiscuous, overweight teen or the tough, grown up man?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure this movement is helping many be heard for the first time, and giving others a moment of pause before offending. Because it really is acceptable, and brave, to come forward. It always was, it always will be, and perhaps now there is greater receptiveness.
Still, there’s nothing glib or exciting about it. It’s a serious, painful, and in some ways private event. In my opinion it shouldn’t be reduced, simplified, or sensationalized.
2. The Triggering Aspect
It can be hard to escape. It’s on Facebook, the news, and people are talking about it. But maybe you’d rather not. It’s a trigger, a sometimes unavoidable stimulus that is personally upsetting. Part of you is interested, intrigued, invested. Another part of you wants to scream that it’s too much, that you didn’t ask for this broadcast.
The emotions are conflicting. It’s great if it helps but has anyone one considered that it might hurt? And is it your responsibility to add something to the conversation? If you don’t are you being a coward, unworthy because you’d rather not draw attention to yourself? But is attention also what you want?
It brings back guilt and shame and anger and helplessness. You don’t need to experience that all over again. However, there is some comfort in knowing you’re part of a group, even if it’s not a group you chose.
3. The Reality of It All
The media would like you to believe it’s simple, completely black or white. Sometimes it is. There’s a perpetrator and a victim, and it is indeed indisputable that abuse is categorically wrong. Even someone who loves you, whom you love, never has that right.
But what if the destruction you might cause by coming forward with minor incident far outweighs the benefits of disclosure? What if those who would be hurt the most are innocent bystanders? Might it be better to process a small injustice than to live with the guilt of the mess you left behind? I believe there’s a time for selfish self-preservation and a time to consider the larger picture.
What if disclosing ruins everything you’ve worked for and value, destroys you in the process? There is a cost-benefit analysis. It isn’t fair, but imagine the humor in and futility of LifeIsNotFair. Justice isn’t always straightforward. Practice is usually messier than theory.
Where does this leave us? For me, education, awareness, honesty, and accountability still wins. Perfection is a merely concept. This movement is going to save someone from a lifetime of pain, reduce victim-blaming, and acknowledge the seriousness of all forms of sexual assault. However you currently feel, you’re probably not alone. And often, the first person you need the listen to, to believe and validate, is yourself.