In the least provocative way possible (I hope), I very publicly disclosed I was raped when I was 18. I texted a friend to let her know the post had moved from contemplation to completion. And I held my breath. You’d think I’d exhale in relief that I had unburdened in such grand fashion (you know me, I’m nothing if not flashy!). But I sat there holding my breath as I watched the number of page views slowly tick up with each hour. I waited for feedback. If a writer posts about an uncomfortable topic that no one wants to hear, can anyone hear that tree fall in the forest?
I had worked through most of the pain and shame and embarrassment and anger through the years with the support of skilled therapists and amazing loved ones. For that journey I am so grateful. For these Sherpas who have supported me along my trek, I am so grateful. Some moments they held all my baggage, some moments they helped me shift the weight of it, some moments they reminded me to put it down. Other times they just guided me along the way as I learned how to travel holding my own baggage. Through it all, they’ve taught me to pack lighter.
My Sherpas gathered around me once again as my blog post was sent out to the universe through emails, social media, and the blogosphere. The kindness, the support, the love–it warms me and buoys me–thank you. Comments, emails, texts came in. A dialogue began so I started thinking, and you know how dangerous that gets. I knew why I wrote that piece and why I felt compelled to publish it–public solidarity and shining the spotlight under the bed to see what this monster really looks like. It was not only therapeutic for me, but necessary for our sons and daughters.
I felt compelled to write and share. I HAD to put a face to it, to them, to us, because it is easier to hurt or disrespect someone if you have objectified a person. I will not be objectified. My daughter will not be objectified. Your daughter will not be objectified.
When we depersonalize someone, we make him or her an “other,” and this person is then different and less than me/us. As humans, we group people easily into In Groups and Out Groups. People not like us in some fashion fall into the Out Group. They are an Other. We do this every day. We easily separate sports teams with team colors and Mascots. I know who to scream at and hurl “Yo Mommas” at across the stadium. In college, Greek letters are worn and you know where you stood in the social pecking order and who to fight and who to make fun of. We separate and judge mothers by what they wear–are those Stay At Home Mom Jeans or Work Outside of the Home Mom Pants? We do this multiple times every day, but it’s a slippery slope of judging someone, to being unkind, to not respecting boundaries. It is easy to do when we don’t view the person as a human being, but instead as an object or statistic, or an Other.
On this theoretical continuum, when you see a Me Too, someone similar, someone just like you, someone you can relate to, it becomes more difficult to hurt that person. When I feel familiar to you, it’s not as easy to hurt me or make fun of me or disrespect me. I am then a human being like you, not an Other, not less than. You can understand and possibly empathize with me. If I am an equal, it makes it harder to dismiss me or wield power over me.
So in all this thinking of disconnecting and separating from people, and of WHY I felt so compelled to share at this point in my life, I kept coming back to feeling the need to show the world the faces and stories of the victims. To bridge the disconnect of a name in a news story. To humanize the issue. To show who is violated daily, what kinds of people are assaulted every hour. To demonstrate to the world that they are people like you and me. Me. It was me. And I realized making this connection for people was so important to me because I wanted outrage.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and need the support in my life. But I see now that I am greedy and want more than support. I want outrage. I am someone’s mother, someone’s daughter, someone’s aunt, someone’s friend, someone’s room parent, someone’s therapist, someone’s neighbor, someone’s running partner. I want you to feel so uncomfortable you have no choice but to look at these people in your lives, to look at yourself and your children, your parents, your friends, and realize there but for the grace of God go I. And realize also, in fact, many of these people in your lives have been victimized (one in six–go ahead and let that sink in as you think of all the women in your lives). We need to feel outraged enough to change this rape culture we live in.
It is only in this rude awakening that change occurs. So I suppose my disclosure wasn’t entirely about me, and what happened to me. But it’s about what happens to us. Because we are all connected to those we hurt, and those who feel hurt. So we need to take good care of each other, because that “other” is really us. And we all matter. Me Too. And You Too.