If you don’t live in a hole in the ground, you will have been confronted with the media coverage on Nassar, Weinstein, and similar monsters on a daily basis over the course of the past months. Maybe you were a part of the Women’s March in London a couple of weeks ago, maybe you’re a passionate social-media-warrior-type-supporter of #metoo and #timesup, or maybe you don’t really spend much time thinking about all of this because you’re lucky or clueless enough to believe that the issue doesn’t affect you or anyone in your life.
I am writing this article because I feel sidelined in these public conversations that – thankfully – are finally being held. I am a survivor of sexual assault, and in the choir of outcries for justice, the warranted hunting of aggressors, and with more and more brave women and men speaking out about their own experiences, I am the silent child in the back row.
I am not ready to share my experience.
I know that I am not the only one. This group of silent survivors seems to be forgotten in the whirlwind of justice and outspokenness: All the women, men, and children, who carry their trauma in secret every day, and who are not able to make their stories heard – just yet, or ever. I am not going to discuss the multitude of reasons behind their silence and behind mine. Nobody has the right to evaluate or judge someone’s ability or determination to speak out.
How does it feel to witness the media uproar for someone who is part of that group? Is it empowering? Yes, of course. But it is also incredibly triggering. Writing this, I have the feeling that I need to constantly defend myself, which is unfortunate. I hope it is clear that I am so grateful for and supportive of everyone who chooses to step up. But I want to draw attention to the fact that not everyone who has been forced through a certain type of experience can share it or confront it head on. The difficulty of handling the trauma has been amplified for months now. Seemingly every day, another case pops up and reminds me of what happened to me, drenches up images that I am desperately trying to bury. Don’t shame us into sharing our stories when we are already fighting so hard to only stay afloat.
In addition to the triggering nature of these debates in the media, not every public case is closed with a genius judge’s statement along the lines of “I just signed your death warrant.” There are also the ones that are brushed aside, forgotten, buried under layers of fame, hush money, and time… There is the backlash, the endless number of nasty comments under Facebook posts, “Why didn’t she speak out earlier?”, “She is only jumping on the train because she wants her five minutes of fame”… I don’t have to tell you how that makes me feel.
As you may be able to tell, I am not comfortable with my status as someone who remains silent. I wish I had the strength to share my experience with the entire world, and I wish I knew I could get closure by calling out the people who did this to me. But for now, and maybe forever, I have to focus on my own overall wellbeing, and on the long road to healing my memory. I want to arrive at a point where uninvited flashbacks won’t keep me awake at night, taking my breath away until I feel like I’m constantly suffocating. Don’t ask me to share my story, catching my breath is hard enough.
I ask you to, please, not tell anyone how to deal with their story, even if you might be absolutely confident in your strategy’s effectiveness. Just be there for them. Listen to what they have to say, offer your time, empathy, warmth, but never push.