With the momentum of the Me Too movement, everyone has been talking about sexual assault on social media. As a survivor myself, I was hoping that it would be a productive, validating discussion. It is not.
There have always been comments blaming the victim, such as “She shouldn’t have led him on” people, but I have never seen as many people flat out deny someone’s traumatizing experience as I have recently, and it is absolutely horrifying.
A woman, “Grace” and her experience with Aziz Ansari hit way too close to home for me. It hit way too close to home for a lot of people I know. I made a thread about how enthusiastic consent, not coerced or pressured consent, is really the only type of “yes” one should want to hear in the bedroom, I’d said that sexual partners have every right to change their minds, regardless of what they are doing. The response I got, generally, was “that’s ridiculous” and “I am going to keep going once our clothes are off.”
I had friends who texted me about how suddenly their experiences felt less valid. I ended up having to have an emergency session with my therapist because I suddenly felt like maybe I did ask for it or that I did allow it to happen—that it was my fault. It was only after hours and hours of talking to other survivors that I realized that we need to be able to have a more nuanced discussion of sexual assault and consent, because the grey areas are where most of us find ourselves. I’ve noticed that people, particularly on social media, feel as though an assault needs to be violent in order for it to be valid. It does not.
Twitter has not been safe for me as a survivor. It has been triggering. It has been invalidating. It has been a source of harassment for days because people do not comprehend the nuances behind sexual assault and they do not want to comprehend it. Realizing that sexual assault happens when a person is pressured means that a lot more people will realize they have been assaulted and a lot more people will realize they are assaulters. The public does not seem to be ready for that. They would rather live in ignorance. But we need to have this uncomfortable discussion.
It is not up to survivors to lead this discussion, though. We should not have to reiterate our stories over and over again for those privileged enough to have not experienced this type of trauma in order for it to be validated. People need to open up their minds and listen to what survivors have been saying of their own experience and perhaps lead the discussion to take the weight off of the survivors’ shoulders. Having your assault invalidated time and time again because people don’t want to listen is disheartening. The people privileged enough to have never been assaulted should open up a dialogue themselves; they should talk to their friends, family, neighbors or whoever will listen.
This conversation will spark a change and change is never comfortable, but it’s necessary.