For me these two words hold a much deeper meaning than I thought
***TW: Sexual Assault Content***
Yesterday I went on Facebook and saw that my mother had posted the status “Me Too” with a description of why she was posting it and asking women to respond and repost if they had been survivors of sexual assault as well. I went to the comment section and right as I was about to type my hands froze. I sat staring at the screen, fingers hovering right above my keyboard, lost. In that moment everything was too real and I was scared to vocalize with the world, let alone my parents, that I too had once been a victim.
In this moment I had conflicting feelings. My whole life I had been advocating for survivors of sexual assault. I have tried to change the narrative and break stigmas around survivors. I have stood next to survivors as they told their stories. I have educated individuals on what assault looks like and the importance of consent. Yet here I was questioning my own past and ashamed to share it.
My story of assault is complex, includes many instances, and mirrors the stories of many of the woman around me. Some parts are small, some are bigger. Some parts I am comfortable sharing, some I am not. Some stories make me feel shameful, others I have worked through and now serve as a reminder of my strength as a survivor. I would also love to say that in every instance I know I am not to blame (which I know I am not) but convincing myself of that fact is a lot harder said than done.
The reality was when I was going to type “me too” on my mother’s status I couldn’t because if I had then what has happened to me is real. In your mind you can convince yourself that is didn’t happen, or brush it off like victims are socialized to do. You can push it down so far that you can almost forget it happened. You can rationalize it and say that it is just apart of life, of being a woman. If you never say it outloud then it never happened. So a part of me didn’t want to type “me too” because expressing that it happened brings it to the front, it makes it real. It makes it so I have to remember a time when men took my body from me as their own without even a second thought or remorse. It reminds me of a time where I felt weak, and broken. It reminds me that I am not the only one and the pain I have gone through has been felt by almost every woman around me.
Not only that but it tells the people around me that this has happened to me. When you see someone you love post the status “me too” your heart sinks because you know what they feel. I feel their pain in addition to my pain. It tells my parents, my siblings, my friends, that no matter how hard they tried to protect me from this it still happened. It may even shift the way that some people think about me. It opens my experiences up to people’s judgement and opinions. It gives people the opportunity to believe me, or not. Because that’s the thing people love to have an opinion on this topic. If I were to share my whole story people will pick it apart and judge me for it. Some will say that I could have just kept quiet, or that I deserved it. Some will question my validity and truth. Some will even say that I posted “me too” only for attention. On the flip side someone may judge me for feeling ashamed and not saying something earlier. Some may question my advocacy because I didn’t advocate for myself. Letting people into your world comes with a lot of baggage. These two words bring a lot with it and that reality is a lot to bare.
So I wanted to hide from my past and these statuses. To hide was, and is, my natural reaction when it comes to sexual assault. It’s easier. However, in this moment I am going to go against that. I am standing up and saying “me too.” I am making a conscious effort to stand face to face with the demons of my past and tell them they no longer control me. I am making an effort to allow myself to feel the pain and hurt of remembering my past but not letting it define me. These men and these stories do not define me. I am reclaiming my past and my experiences. I am saying I am not ashamed of what has happened to me. Me saying “me too” does not make me a lesser person, it does not make me weak, or a victim. “Me too” is my warrior’s cry to say I have been through hell and I am still here.
So here I am before you saying… me too.
Authors note: This statement is for me. I needed to say “me too” as part of my healing. For those of you out there whether you post “me too,” or not, is a personal choice. Your story is yours and yours alone. You are not defined by a “me too.” Know however you chose to share or not is your choice and is respected. Your stories validity is not changed whether you vocalize it or not. You’re a survivor, and I will stand with you, for you, and support you however you need.