TW: Sexual Abuse, Trauma, Invalidation
The thing about sexual abuse, assault, r/pe is that it isn’t typically cut and dry. What we imagine when we think of a stranger assault down a dark alley isn’t the norm. It’s usually messy, confusing and fraught with a lot of feelings that aren’t easily understood. Often times assault is perpetrated by people we know, maybe even love, and that adds an entirely different level of complexity. There have been a TON of responses to the Aziz Ansari article, which alleges that he was sexually abusive to a woman he went on a date with. I mean, I could call him a garbage human and go on a rant about how awful he is, but luckily my feminist sisters/brothers/siblings have done that for me (thanks, y’all!), so I won’t focus much on that. I will, however, talk more about the imposter syndrome and the sexual abuse spectrum because that’s where my recent experiences with friends and social media followers have taken me.
“I knew what happened was wrong, but it didn’t fit into the narrow category of sexual abuse I had been socialized to believe was the only true type of abuse.”
As women, we don’t always get much in the way of emotional space and validation. We’re often fighting the urge to down play our experiences so that we aren’t “that girl” or because we don’t want to seem like a “hysterical bitch” (for the record, I have owned my hysterical bitchiness, but there was once a time when I was so worried that others would think I was too, what do you call it, “psycho-crazy” that I fell into the “Pick Me” trope), or we’re gaslit (is that a word?) into thinking that what happened to us was just sex-business as usual, rather than abuse. So, when I had my own experience of sexual coercion and abuse, it took some time with a therapist before I realized that what happened was so beyond okay and that the feelings I was bottling up were so less than typical, it was hard to swallow. I mean, like so many other people, I knew what happened was wrong, but it didn’t fit into the narrow category of sexual abuse I had been socialized to believe was the only true type of abuse. It was validating and supportive. I was given permission to own what had happened for what it was: an experience that fell on a wide spectrum of sexual abuses. It helped me heal. It helped me feel empowered. It’s been an ongoing process.
THIS IS HARD TO FUCKING NAVIGATE.
As you can imagine, the response to the most recent article, one of a slew of groundbreaking abuse stories from Hollywood, has many of us feeling attacked, invalidated, confused, and on the defense. It’s hard not to go back to feeling like an imposter. A person who was “never actually abused,” but rather pressured into some bad sex that she should just “get over already.” The thing that some of us don’t realize is that sexual abuse isn’t static. It isn’t one size fits all. It can look different and feel different. It sometimes falls from the fucking sky with no warning and other times the build-up of pressure over time makes the final explosion debilitating. This is HARD TO FUCKING NAVIGATE. And I don’t know about you, but I am sick of being made to feel like an imposter. I’m sick of trying to navigate it all alone.
Why can’t we say that we want a world where sexual abuse that falls on any part of the spectrum isn’t welcome?
We have come to a point in our culture where our voices are being heard in a different way. We are saying we’ve had enough and we fucking mean it. We are reflecting on past relationships and sexual encounters with a nervous eye. We’re remembering things we wished we could just forget. We’re comparing and contemplating. Asking friends questions and questioning ourselves. We’re also creating a hierarchy that validates some and invalidates others. But that’s the thing about spectrums, they’re verticle. Because why leave each other in the dust? Why can’t we have it all? Why can’t we say that we want a world where sexual abuse that falls on any part of the spectrum isn’t welcome? It’s not welcome and we won’t have it anymore. We can do that together. We deserve it all.
Like What You Just Read? Consider checking out this post: The Quick & Dirty: Consent 101