Speaking as a man, I won’t even try to imagine what women have gone through during the #MeToo movement in having to relive the many horrible and often tragic incidents of sexual assault that they’ve experienced, whether it was recently or many, many years ago. Going through it was more than enough. I can imagine that some may have felt better to finally be able to tell their stories after all these years, while others did not feel better at all and again, simply suffered through those incidents once again.
Sadly, these women sharing their stories were met with many of the same reactions they likely received back when the assault(s) happened: People attempted to silence them. They were questioned on what they wore, if they were drunk, if they flirted, if they were out late, if they left their drinks unattended and Lord knows the list goes on.
The word “victim” is defined as: a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action. Sounds simple enough to understand, right?
However, for some reason, the word “victim” has taken on this connotation that a person is “weak” in some way. Ever heard of people who have said, “STOP PLAYING THE VICTIM!”
I get what that means. The tone behind saying an expression of that nature suggests that a person is in better shape than they convey; i.e., I’m involved in a car accident and pretend to be totally broken, bruised and near death when I barely received a scratch. You’ve seen those shows where a person is involved in a vehicle accident and in the very next scene, they’re wearing a neck brace, whether a neck injury exists or not. It’s sort of like that.
I understand why this phrase is necessary at times. It’s because it isn’t fair for people who aren’t in as bad of shape to pretend they are, because it takes away from those who really are legitimate victims. For example, if every time you turned around, you saw people “crying wolf” when it comes to auto accidents, that makes those who are actually hurt to not be believed as easily. Yes, they are still considered as “victims,” but of course, the attitude is a little different.
However, LADIES…how about that tone when it comes your fellow sisters having been sexually assaulted?
I will say that as a man, I was very encouraged when I learned what this movement meant. As stated earlier, women were telling stories of past incidents of sexual assault. The encouraging part was that women were finally comfortable with what likely took them MANY years to be able to finally speak about and I believe it was largely because of other women being bold enough to tell their own stories. I saw that a lot of other men were encouraged as well.
BUT…eventually, there came those who got tired of this. Yep. Men and women alike, began posting and speaking about their displeasure and impatience with stories being told and the frequency.
This isn’t about the men right now though. Ladies, again…this is about YOU.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen posts on social media or even heard women say some form of, “I am no victim! I am a strong, independent woman! Yes, it happened to me, but I got over it, because no man is going to hold me down! And if any man dare try that with me/my daughter, then there will be hell to pay!” and so on.
For starters, “victim” is NOT a dirty word. So let’s stop using it that way.
By definition, anyone who has been on the receiving end of something like this is a victim. But just because women are telling their stories doesn’t make them “weak,” and you certainly are not “stronger” or better than them because you claim you weren’t affected as much as they may have been.
Being passive aggressive by declaring that you’re a stronger person by not talking about it or believing that you’ve gotten completely over it for whatever reason isn’t fair to other women. They’re already receiving the “Shut up, get over it” from other men. They don’t need it from you too. Especially when using the tone of believing you’re somehow better than them.
It goes without saying that sexual assault is an experience that can scar a person for life. Society seems to think that we’re supposed to get over everything in a manner of minutes, hours and days, or else we are “weak.” That is ridiculous. You don’t get over problems by locking them away, which, thanks to not only society, but these ladies’ families and friends (you know, those close to them) not believing them, many have had no choice but to store the events somewhere DEEP in the basements of their souls. After something like that, how much non-believing would one woman be able to handle before it just isn’t worth talking about anymore?
And let’s not even talk about it happening to men. My goodness, who would even believe that? But guess what? It happens. More often than we realize. And men aren’t quiet about it because we’ve enjoyed it. Not every man wants to be sexually assaulted by any and every woman out there. But again, society and many of you (yes, YOU) reading this seem to think so. Otherwise, the men would be “gay” and everything else, right? But that’s a blog post for another day.
Don’t get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud to be a SURVIVOR of sexual assault. Sadly, not every woman is, so I don’t blame anyone out there for boldly stating this about themselves and even feeling stronger about it. But that is far different than saying “I am no victim.” That’s a slap in the face to the other women out there who again, have already heard countless times by people that they need to just “get over it” or that it was their fault in some kind of way. That is painful to have to hear over and over again. Someone comes along and treats their bodies like they aren’t theirs anymore. I wouldn’t dare even suggest that a woman “get over” that, no matter how long ago it happened.
And men, if that confuses you in ANY way, just imagine yourself in prison and being sexually assaulted by an inmate. Get the picture now?
This past Saturday, January 20, women’s marches took place in all areas of the world. Sexual assault was likely among the MANY reasons for them marching. I can recall one particular comment on a friend’s post from a lady who was obviously against the marching and it stated, to the effect: “Well I didn’t choose to march because I have a job and I’m a strong, independent woman, so I don’t need to do this,” to which the original poster replied with something close to, “That’s right, because we’re badasses!” and it went on from there.
So…let me get this straight. You’re a “strong, independent woman” because you worked on a Saturday? No, honey…it’s called being a freaking grown-up. JOIN THE CLUB. You don’t get a cookie because you worked on a weekend. I’ve been in the Army for nearly 21 years. I’ve lost count as to how many weekends I’ve had to work. But I would never use that as a way to imply that I am better than someone, especially when it comes to them marching or protesting a cause they believe in. I would be cheering them on. Heck, I have worked during the weekend when something like this has taken place before, so it’s no problem for me. I’m the one who chose this job. Not to mention, for most out there, Saturday is not a day of work. So the passive-aggressive jabs at them possibly being unemployed is laughable. If one needs to “brag” about working on a weekend to the extent that you need to put down people who are exercising their rights, maybe you need to take a look at yourself in the mirror and ask why you chose that job in the first place.
It actually saddens me to see and hear so many women out there who have been forced to keep sexual assault quiet and have been conditioned to feel as though they have to “get over it,” along with being programmed to believe that women who speak about it are “weak” in some fashion. Even as a man, the way I see it is that women are speaking out not only as therapy for themselves, but as a way to reach out to their fellow women to hopefully encourage them to do the same. Like many who marched or participate in protests, here’s a news flash: They aren’t all “victims” by definition. Many are there purely for moral support.
Forgive me if this sounds judgmental in any way, because I do understand that even the feeling that you are “stronger” in keeping sexual assault quiet than those who do not could stem from deeper issues as well. If you are conditioned to believe in these ways, then of course, you will see yourself as right; not necessarily to be stubborn, but because it is all you may know. I get that.
But please understand that sexual assault is a MAJOR problem STILL TODAY. Just because women are coming forward about the times it happened to them many years ago doesn’t mean it has stopped. It doesn’t mean that if we ignore it long enough, it will go away. It doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate to take jabs at women who speak out about it happening to them, even when they experience pain for reliving the events, just because you somehow trained yourself to not feel as much pain, at least externally, from it.
I’ve even heard women be attacked because they’ve reached certain ages. I’m no psychologist, but things don’t just disappear from our lives because we get older. That’s another concept society really needs to throw in the freaking garbage. Just because a women is in her 40s or 50s doesn’t mean that she isn’t allowed to feel pain from past sexual assault(s). She could be mentally and physically the strongest individual in the history of the universe. But when something has been locked away for thirty years or so and she never gave herself time to process it having happened to her as a teenager or in her twenties, why would it be shocking that she would be hurt by it? Why would she not be allowed to feel that pain?
The bottom line is that the negative connotation that comes with the word “victim” needs to go. It is not a woman’s fault that she is a victim of being sexually assaulted. If you were able to move forward from it, great. I absolutely admire that a sexual assault hasn’t broken you. But it isn’t fair to take shots at other women, whether direct or not, because they didn’t just “move on” from it. Again, we are talking about a man in most cases who decided to treat her body as though it no longer belongs to her. You can carry all the mace in the world and learn all the martial arts you can possibly learn. Often, victims of sexual assault aren’t these delicate little flowers that break into pieces after the wind picks up once. Have you ever heard of “paralyzed by fear”? I don’t know about you, but if someone threatens to kill me if I don’t do something, it’s a little more convincing, no matter how strong I might be.
Sexual assault is different for every woman out there, and rather than tearing them down because of how they respond to it, put yourself in her shoes. Yes, you may have been able to leave your job just like that or to have reported the man without fear of retribution, but the woman you’re putting down may have needed that job to feed her family or to prevent from being homeless. That promotion she is illegally and immorally promised may be part of the only job she is able to obtain. When you are NOT in those situations, it’s easy to say what everyone else should do. But it doesn’t work that way. It would be lovely if life really was as easy as you wanted it to be.
At the end of the day, it does no good to try and “force” or bully a woman into being okay with or getting over being sexually assaulted. She’s already dealt with that from those she was assaulted by. She should NOT have to get that same treatment from the ONLY others in the world, meaning YOU as a fellow woman, who could possibly understand what she has been through.
A lot of men out there have already kicked her down, starting with the one who committed the assault in the first place. It shouldn’t come from you also.
YOU’VE been there.