TRIGGER WARNING: violence against women, assault, etc.
The last time I was assaulted was the same week as the Isla Vista killings which also coincided with my 27th birthday. It happened again yesterday afternoon, with unwanted sexual advances on the bus. I was alone, my phone was dead, and no one offered help. All I can think to do is write about it.
But usually, whenever I write I start to feel embarrassed and ashamed about the experience. First I think about my parents reading these words, then my brother and sister-in-law, all my other relatives, ex-boyfriends, friends, enemies, acquaintances, clients, and how helpless and sad it is that I’m not immune to this horrible thing that happens all the time. After I’ve exhausted the shame-spiral, I worry that I’ll be undesirable (to potential partners) for sharing my experience. I dread that it makes me damaged, weak, and lesser-than.
Then I think about survivors of incidents exponentially more horrific than mine and I start feeling like a coward for choosing not to write about it. It’s a very unique form of self-loathing.
Generally, I embody a successful, empowered person. I have this platform, Broadist, my feminist slice of the internet, and I haven’t used it to discuss sexual assault on a personal level because I am absolutely terrified. When launching this topic into the public eye, everything inside me screams “take up less space” / “don’t be more vulnerable than you already are.”
I remember a time not so long ago when I was terrified to write about feminism, social justice, and body positivity, but once I grew past that I discovered so much strength and community afterward. I don’t have a solution for sexual assault, but, I can at least try to write about it.
The week of the Isla Vista killings, I found it really empowering to participate in #YesAllWomen on twitter. I started by retweeting friends and strangers, then added to the conversation a bit.
Shit got really real.
Amidst the Isla Vista tragedy and my assault at a concert earlier that week, #YesAllWomen was exactly what I needed. It reminded me of iHollaback and how that organization makes me feel less alone in this fucked up city where harassment is pervasive, not just on the street. So I consolidated my story and put it on twitter.
I worry that I’m going to snap. I worry the next guy who does this to me or one of my friends is going to get punched and I won’t hesitate or be able to stop. I worry about this every time I set foot outside my apartment.
I hate that guys get in my face to shout vulgar things while I’m on the phone with my mom, walking to the grocery store or a concert. I hate that yesterday a man sat directly behind me on the bus whispering in my ear so close I could feel his disgusting breath (in hindsight, I think he was masturbating). I hate that I was catcalled on my way to a funeral earlier this year. A FUCKING FUNERAL.
While marinating in contempt for these harassers, I’ve begun to move past the shame and embarrassment. I think about my younger cousins, and the thousands of teenagers who don’t know me personally but follow Broadist on tumblr. I think about how helpless they might feel in the face of this bullshit if they’re already experiencing it, and how they might feel when they inevitably face it in the future.
Then I think about how lucky I am that I’m able to write in this blog without fear of jeopardizing my employment status. Most people do not have that privilege.
Because when my freelancer friends write articles about rape and assault, they post anonymously. Because they have to.
I don’t have to. I can own it.
So, true to form, just like covering my dear friend Roxy’s death, I’m over two months late with this one. It’s been a long time coming, with so much navel-gazing, and many injustices years in the making, but here it is. My ongoing attempt to validate and empower women, even if I’m terrified.