In the wake of the #MeToo Movement and survivors coming forward with their stories, there are a lot of emotions that come to light for me, as an assault survivor. While I support all victims and survivors and their stories, respect their decision to speak up and be part of a movement, and, disclose information in the way they see fit—for me, the movement has shed light on victims in a way that, I feel, uses them.
When I was 16-years-old, I was assaulted by someone who I was casually dating. The grasp of his hand wrapped around my wrists while I struggled to gasp for air outside fo his mouth on mine, his body pinned up against mine in the passenger seat while I tried to escape his hold on me—they all play in my mind like a black and white, silent movie. The screams I let out, weigh in the back of my mind. His hot breath creeps down my neck. I relive memories and moments of that night every single time I read a hashtag, a list, a story about #MeToo.
More often than not, women are speaking up about their own assault stories. To those who feel comfort and peace speaking up and coming forward, becoming part of a hashtag and part of a movement—that’s their own decision.
For me, personally and for my own story—I don’t feel that becoming part of a hashtag campaign will bring me peace. I don’t want sympathy, I don’t want “sorry,” and, I don’t want to hear people telling me how I should cope.
My problem that comes with the #MeToo movement is that so often, people become desensitized to stories of abuse. The more we see them, the more that we normalize them. The same thing happens with violence on the news—the more we see it, the more we hear it, the more we expect it. Speaking up brings awareness, sure, but speaking up also makes it seem that it’s normal for this to happen to young women, who are impressionable and fragile—young and naive.
When people share this hashtag online, they have no idea how it can trigger a reaction—how the words can bring back memories that haunt us, ones we have tried for far too long to hide in the back of our minds—locked away, tucked under a box, with a lock and a key we threw out years ago. Not everyone wants to speak about their abuse, not everyone wants to share their stories. And, forcing individuals to speak up—telling them they should “share their story so we can show that toxic masculinity needs to end,” it’s an unfair pressure to put on assault survivors.
I’m not saying that people who are apart of the #MeToo movement are wrong—in fact, I commend their strength and honesty, their decision to speak out. What I am saying is that just because someone shares their story, does not mean I need to share mine. While many celebrities and advocates hope to have a “chain reaction,” where countless women speak up and share their story—for some of us, we just don’t want to.
Victims do not owe anyone their stories. And, it’s time we respect this.