Stop Wasting My Time

Recent events in current news –namely Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s poignant testimony at last week’s senate hearing and Judge Kavanaugh’s unhinged response to the allegations–  have brought me here. During the era of #metoo, I have stayed silent (at least in my public writing) about my own experiences with sexual violence. I have reached the point where I can no longer do it. I am compelled to tell my story once more.

 

From David J. Morris, Marine Corps Veteran and author of The Evil Hours:
“Most men have no idea how truly traumatic sexual assault is. The science on the subject is pretty clear: according the to New England Journal of Medicine, rape is about four times as likely to result in diagnosable PTSD than combat. Think about that for a moment –being raped is four times more psychologically disturbing than going off to war and being shot at and blown up.”

 

I am writing this because I am both desperate and despondent. I need you to see, to feel, to understand what it’s like to be a victim, to be a survivor of sexual violence and then have to face the onslaught of abuse that follows if and when you choose to come forward. But I’m tired of fighting this fight. It should be easy; we should all agree that sexual violence is wrong, that those who abuse their power should face consequences, and that those who have been rendered powerless by another can come forward with their stories without the threat of enduring further abuse. Why is that not the way it is?

There is no (more) room for wilful ignorance. I’m not going to write the statistics or dispel the myths surrounding sexual violence. If you want to know if  “false accusations” are a genuine concern (they are not), if you want to know how often rapes and sexual abuse really happen, or if you want to learn the facts about how we respond to alleged (even proven abusers) versus how we respond to survivors, there is an entire library of information available to you, both in print and online. If you won’t try empathy, if you won’t hold up a mirror to accept how you have contributed (we have all contributed to this problem), then I don’t know what to say. I can’t hold your hand through this. You are responsible for your own growth.

Do I seem angry? It’s because I am. I’m angry that we still blame women for the sins of men. The story goes that Eve offers Adam an apple, and women become what they have written us to be: illogical, “hysterical” temptresses who are held accountable for the actions of men. If you think I’m wrong you should do your research. Stop wasting my time.

Do you know how I started 2018? On January 1st, just a few hours after midnight, a well-connected, powerful man touched my ass in his home, in front of my partner (who didn’t notice) and his own wife (who did). This is not someone I was on equal ground with. I flushed with shame, eyes wide with shock and something else…some intangible feeling. My abuser laughed, knowing I wouldn’t say anything. Knowing I wasn’t going to jeopardize my partner’s career by saying something, and that at this time of night in this small town, we had nowhere else to go. Reality felt unstable, I felt like I was falling down a hole. I turned to my partner, trying to grasp onto something solid, trying to save myself from this moment, but he was engrossed in conversation with someone else. I looked around, desperate for a lifeline, and locked eyes with the only other woman in the room for some sort of help or protection, maybe a chiding comment to her husband perhaps pointing out how inappropriate his behaviour was, even a knowing look or a shrug for fucks sake. Instead she looked at me like I was a venomous spider, a threat that needed immediate eradication. As though I were the culprit here, the one to blame for what just happened. The perpetrator, not the victim.

It’s just innocent fun I’m told. No big deal. Who is it fun for, and at whose expense? I can tell you that I was not having fun.

When will we hold assailants accountable? Never, it seems, so long as they are powerful white men. “Even if it is true,” they say, Brett Kavanaugh should not be held responsible for something that “happened years ago.” But then Brock Turner’s “future” shouldn’t be “destroyed over a mistake.” I’m tired of this shit. Call a spade a spade and tell me the truth: our bodies and our voices don’t matter, not compared to a powerful man’s reputation. Stop wasting my time.

When I was 17, a 19 year old coworker locked me in a room and did things that I don’t want to talk about. I’m angry that when I told my boss this man was harassing and stalking me for months before it happened, he laughed it off as “boys will be boys” and kept scheduling us together. I’m angry that the first time I told this story publicly, I did it with humour so as to soften the appearance of my pain. I’m angry that our culture is so ingrained in my psyche that on many levels, I still blame myself  –for not quitting that job, for trying to be “nice” as a way to minimise the danger I was in, for humouring him every time he wanted to talk until it happened — even though I know, I KNOW it was not my fault. But that’s what our culture does to us. We blame the victims.

I am angry that man –a family member– sexually abused me as a child and I was punished for telling the truth.

Long ago, before #metoo was popularized as a hashtag and we were all given permission to talk about what powerful men had done to us, I came forward with my story. There was no outpouring of support. I was questioned and doubted, belittled for the gaps in my memory. I was criticised for how I’d been handling trauma, and even asked what the point of speaking out was; “If you’re not going to press charges, why talk about it?” Not everyone was vocal. Plenty of people chose to step back or even drop out of my life entirely. And of course, the family is more concerned with their reputation than my well-being. How dare I speak out and bring shame upon them?

What is the “right” way to be a survivor?  If you speak with dignity and poise about what happened, you must be lying –how can you stay composed if what you say is true? If you are obviously distraught, well…clearly you’re a disturbed individual and will say anything for attention. If the details of what happened are a bit fuzzy, then it can’t be true because surely you would remember. But if you can recall in perfect detail the events of 30 years ago, well…too much time has passed, there’s no way you can remember all of that, you must be making it up. Stop wasting my time and tell me the truth. The only right way to be a survivor is to shut the fuck up. But, my friends, if you happen to be a powerful man, well, you’re in luck. You can do no wrong.

“This tension, it’s yours. I am not helping you anymore. You need to learn what this feels like, because this tension is what ‘not normals’ carry inside them all of the time…pull your fucking socks up.”

“I don’t tell you this so you think of me as a victim. I am not a victim. I tell you this because my story has value.  I tell you this because I want you to know what I know, I need you to know what I know: to be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. The only people who lose their humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. They are the weak.”

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.” 

-Hannah Gadsby from her comedy special, Nanette

The future is here now. It’s time for change, our culture must evolve. We have to tell our stories and hold those responsible accountable. We’ve got to stop perpetrating myths about false claims, and we absolutely must come to terms with both the obvious and nuanced ways we have internalized this harmful culture that lays shame and blame on survivors, but makes excuse after excuse for perpetrators. I am done with these excuses. Evolve or step aside.  Stop.wasting.my time.

 

2 Responses

  1. Laura
    Laura October 10, 2018 at 10:40 am | | Reply

    Great piece Ana. I’m sorry you have gone through several incidents with sexual predators. Your words are powerful and absolutely right for our time. Enough is enough.

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