Over the last week, I’ve been silently processing the sexual assault dialog that has filled my social media feed. (In case you somehow missed said dialog, you can catch up on it here.)
My silence around this case until now has been filtered through an internalized struggle that for days has been triggered when I think about the sexual assaults my body incurred from childhood through my teen years. With the exception of a few solidarity likes on memes or statements that sum up the outrage over this case, I have not been able to bring myself to join in on the conversation. Every time you think you’ve overcome the pain, shame, guilt, and anger that plagues most survivors, something happens to bring those emotions to the surface. This will be an ongoing battle for people who have had their bodies violated. And while I am grateful for the dialog and hopeful that as we begin to dismantle the rape culture that has silenced and victimized us over and over, I do have one plea. For everyone who has a partner, friend or family member (so literally everyone) that has experienced trauma, please understand that as we move forward, your presence and support will be needed. People who have never shared their stories might open up to you, and while this is going to be uncomfortable and upsetting, we have to take this step together. Sometimes we might not completely open up, but it doesn’t mean these conversations aren’t triggering as fuck. So please be kind. And just be aware that there are women and men in your life who desperately need you to meet them where they’re at. I don’t have a fail proof guide to help you with this process, everyone experiences and reacts to trauma in different ways. You can’t change what happened, but you can hold our hands, wipe our tears, and walk with us as we seek and demand a cultural shift that our global community desperately needs.
That said, my personal trauma caused me to shy away from reading her court statement. For me, as well as a lot of women and men who have been through sexual assault, it’s impossible to read these accounts and not relive your own experiences through her words. And for that, I suggest caution for survivors when deciding if you should read her statement. Trust your instinct, you know yourself better than anyone else. But I made the decision to read the statement in full and take in the hour’s worth of tears that followed. As someone who still struggles with feelings of guilt and shame that stem from my experiences, the last paragraph of her statement was beyond powerful:
“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, ‘Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.’ Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”
Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for reminding us how strong and powerful we are. Thank you for standing up in a system that was built to shame and silence us. We, too, are with you.