I feel like there are so many people saying things far more articulately than I could say them, so I haven’t said much. I was talking to a friend about this the other day… I hate the term “triggering,” but the last few days have been so massively triggering for me that I’ve had a hard time just existing. What does that mean? For me, it means I’ve canceled my classes because I don’t feel like I can be a good teacher right now. It means panic attacks–lots of them. It means I’ve slept way too much & drank way too much & pushed my body at the gym way too much. It means I’ve avoided other human beings because I generally just want to violently shake (most of) them until they vomit from it.
Even as I start to type this, I’m physically shaking–my teeth are chattering & my arms are trembling.
In the little bitty poetry community, multiple women have recently come forward & accused another poet of abuse–sexual, physical, emotional. They (& those of us who’ve adamantly defended them) have been challenged with doubt, attacks, demands for proof. Then this Woody Allen story… journalists are participating in public victim shaming & blaming–& being lauded for it on my Facebook feed. “This is interesting,” people write about victim-blaming articles. It’s not interesting. It’s dangerous—make no mistake.
Here’s what I’ve been told by the internet this week: Your sexual assault was your fault. I’ve been told that when a grown man preys upon a young girl, we owe him the presumption of innocence–that we don’t owe our girls, our women the respect of hearing their voices. I’ve been told that if there are no bruises, no physical scars, no rape kit, no surveillance footage, then there’s no proof that anything happened, & if there’s no proof, then you–as a victim, as a survivor–have no right to speak.
Let me throw two key statistics at you:  The incidence of false reporting of sexual assault is LESS THAN 3%.  Only 3% of rapists ever spend a day behind bars. Lena Dunham spoke it fabulously in saying this on Twitter: “I’ve noticed a lot of guys obsessed with the idea of being falsely accused, as if you would just be walking down the street one day, get accused of assault or sexual misconduct, and suddenly life would derail.” These are not stories that we make up for fun. This is not for attention or revenge or to make some bitter feminist point. This is about the fact that every 2 minutes in America, someone is sexually assaulted & the fact that 60% of sexual assaults are never reported. I mean, Jesus, I wonder why when this is what women are met with. This is rape culture.
I haven’t been able to exist in the world the past few days because the Facebook comments mirror the things I was told to my face when I finally got up the nerve to tell someone about what had happened to me. “Have you thought about how you’re ruining his life?” “What about his family?” “Are you sure it really happened that way?” “Are you just doing this for attention?” “If you press charges, your entire sexual history will be on display in court.” “Do you have proof he said/did (x) (y) (z) things?” “Why didn’t you say something right after it happened? Why did you wait to come forward?”
I was a child. Legally, mentally, I was a child. I am an adult now. I know that these things were textbook victim blaming & shaming. But when I still see them being thrown around willy-nilly at women who are brave enough to speak up, it takes me right back to that tiny room where I sat at a round table across from uniformed police officers who were essentially pointing their fingers at a child because a predator had decided to screw with her. It takes me back to the office where, the next day, I sat opposite the investigator who broke me down to sobbing tears, challenging every assertion I made until I left the room & threw up in terror, calling my mom to come pick me up because I “couldn’t do it anymore.”
Last night, a friend posted an article that contained the quote “Being disbelieved is a secondary trauma.” This resonated so strongly with me, & here’s why: Physically, I healed from the incident. Even mentally, I exist well-on the road to healing from it. But what I still haven’t come close to healing from is the disbelief, the blame, the externally-imposed shame. Before I spoke up about it, it hadn’t really crossed my mind that I’d somehow brought on what had happened, that I was doing anything wrong by naming him. Now every single time someone vehemently doubts & blames these women who came forward about this poet, doubts & blames Dylan for coming forward about Woody Allen, what they’re doing is doubting & blaming every woman who’s ever come forward–including me.
My Facebook “friends” are essentially sitting at that table beside the uniformed officers who pointed fingers at me. They sit there & ask questions that all lead to their one implicit question: “What makes you think you get to have a voice?”