As more and more survivors of sexual assault come forward, there are a couple things I want to discuss up front.
There is no silver lining of or good to be found in the proliferation of rape and sexual assault in Hollywood, media and general everyday life in this world, and the bravery of the survivors should never be diminished to a positive byproduct of that. The people coming forward, in growing numbers and strengthened by the stories of others, are powerful and important on their own—they deserve to be recognized as such. Their male attackers took power before—these survivors are using their power to come forward. Their power grows with our belief and support.
The second thing, as you will notice, is I used the word “people” to describe these survivors. Because viral tweets like this…
Strange that no one asked the men who accused Kevin Spacey of sexual harassment what they were wearing at the time.— Jessie Dean (@NicCageMatch) November 3, 2017
… are not helping. We are not dismissing or casting women aside to include all victims of sexual assault. The patriarchal demands along the lines of gender, masculinity, and sexual orientation hurt EVERYONE.
Finally, men seem to be concerned that this is getting out of hand, that they will be accused of assault for flirting or joking around, and asking the ever-present question “well why didn’t they speak up when it happened?” To you I say, shut up and read this story from Kristina Cohen.
I was briefly dating a producer who was friends with the actor Ed Westwick. It was this producer who brought me up to Ed’s house where I met Ed for the first time. I wanted to leave when Ed suggested “we should all fuck”. But the producer didn’t want to make Ed feel awkward by leaving. Ed insisted we stay for dinner. I said I was tired and wanted to leave, trying to get out of what was already an uncomfortable situation. Ed suggested I nap in the guest bedroom. The producer said we would stay for just another 20 more minutes to smooth everything over, and then we could leave.
So I went and laid down in the guest room where I eventually fell asleep, I was woken up abruptly by Ed on top of me, his fingers entering my body. I told him to stop, but he was strong. I fought him off as hard as I could but he grabbed my face in his hands, shaking me, telling me he wanted to fuck me. I was paralyzed, terrified. I couldn’t speak, I could no longer move. He held me down and raped me.
It was a nightmare, and the days following weren’t any better.
After reliving this awful, terrifying story, Kristina goes on to discuss what actually happens when a victim tries to talk about being attacked, something wholly different from whatever fantasy world is being imagined by those who still insist on judging victims.
The producer put the blame on me, telling me I was an active participant. Telling me that I can’t say anything because Ed will have people come after me, destroy me, and that I could forget about an acting career. Saying there’s no way I can go around saying Ed “raped” me and that I don’t want to be “that girl.”
And for the longest time, I believed him. I didn’t want to be “that girl”.
“I didn’t want to be ‘that girl.’” If that’s not a universal experience. And it doesn’t begin and end with the attacker. This is seeped into our society. Westwick was on Gossip Girl, a television show where in the pilot his character attempts to rape a 14-year-old girl. A few seasons later, she gives him her virginity.
Even now, I grapple with feelings of guilt. Unfounded worry that in some way I was to blame. I don’t know where these feelings come from. Social conditioning that everything is always the woman’s fault? That a man’s inability to keep himself off of our bodies is somehow because of us, not him?
When we tell our #MeToo stories, and when we don’t because we can’t relive them or re-face people’s questions and disbelief, we are opening wounds that will never heal. Wounds that have become infected, that ache and ooze every single day, and we have no choice but to carry on with our days ignoring those wounds, or tending to them as best we can, but they still don’t go away.
Believe people when they tell their stories. Every time. Without forcing them to hit a certain standard of believability. We do not tell these stories for attention or some sick version of fun. These stories are us bleeding before you. Don’t tell us we’re not hurt.