Listening to the survivors who did not post "Me, too."

Like many women I know, today I experienced the dilemma of whether I would post "Me, too" on Facebook or Twitter.

As I mentioned in my very first blog post, I harbour a constant feeling of ambiguity regarding my participation in these social media spheres. The "Me, too" movement reaffirmed in a single blast how social media content can send a simultaneous feeling of beautiful solidarity and fearful anxiety surging through my whole body. 

The more details I read in the stories of sexual assault, harassment and abuse shared by the incredibly strong women I know, the more I feared for their safety and well-being. After admiring their courage and sending them some virtual love ❤︎, I found myself nervous that, as a consequence of sharing their stories, they may now face further abuse by perpetrators who still do not believe themselves to be abusers. I was filled with anxiety imagining the forms of possible "counter-strikes" from self-righteous abusers to these posts written through tears of pain, which they would undoubtedly interpret as personal attacks; responses such as public posts which discredit the victims' stories, private messages serving to gas-light and accuse sufferers of lying, and threats of suing for slander.

This left me wondering: Is solidarity and repeating "Believe Survivors" enough to carry us through all of this? 

Reading status after status, the part of me that continually overthinks my own social media presence projected further questions like: "Is she going to crack when her family members inappropriately press her on the details about the abuse she has suffered? Will she have to spend energy subduing an enraged parent or sibling who did not previously know of her abuse and is now on a manhunt?"

And then I realized these incessant questions are not only about my concern for others, but are beginning to disclose reasons why I myself am not ready to post "Me, too." I further queried: "What if people reduce my motives in writing 'Me, too' to a quest for social media attention? to opportunistic yelling on a stage I have been given, because this stage is so rarely present and now is my moment? The abusers and naysayers (who are always closer to us than we think) will not voice their judgments publicly, but I know they will corroborate together in their private circles, and transform my painful experiences into dismissive criticisms and laughter."

"No, no, no." I remind myself of the need to protect myself from paranoid panic attacks whenever possible. "That's it -- I'm not posting 'Me, too.'"

 But I have been the victim of sexual harassment countless times. As has been made clear today, almost all women have been. And hey -- "Me, too" is ambiguous enough that if I write it, maybe my family members, coworkers, ex-partners, and whoever else's judgments and reactions I fear, will think it refers only to "normalized harassment, you know, the kind all women face...catcalling and the like," and not that I was ever sexually assaulted. No. That would be too much for them to bear. If they knew I was assaulted, they might deepen my shame through interrogation, inappropriately express shock or react in some other way for which I am not prepared. So maybe by posting "Me, too," I could find solidarity while simultaneously writing something vague enough that others could conceivably confound a humiliating, scarring experience from my past for "normal harassment" and would thus leave me the fuck alone.

Wait -- did I just affirm the effacing of my own experience through an intentionally ambiguous use of language within a culture of shame? Would that not be actively succumbing to patriarchy even further?

I guess this post is my own way of saying "Me, too" without writing "Me, too" in my status on Facebook or on Twitter. I find lots of expressive possibility and solace in the flexibility and colour of the written word. Some others do not. There are countless alternative ways, both verbal and non-verbal, that people might be saying "Me, too" or crying for help. And I implore us to listen to them. Take the time to reflect on what is being communicated to you by those in your close circles if it setting off alarms. Saying "that's fucked up" or "you need to get out" and moving onto another topic is usually not enough. Be a consistent presence in the life of those you care about and take note of patterns of behaving that seem to move progressively towards withdrawal, absence and fear. Broach the subject of sexual assault and abuse, even if it is awkward.

 And keep writing "Me, too." But please let those of us on the margins add our voices to your song. Whether they be loud or soft, auditory or visual, verbal or non-verbal, and female, male, trans* or other.