I feel like a fair amount of what I’ve been dealing with over all this time is not necessarily just dealing with the trauma of what happened – it’s been trying to justify why it’s a big deal, or why it’s okay for me to be upset, or why rape isn’t just some “asshole” move that we brush away in the same way we would someone blowing off a date or something…
I think I’ve talked before about how when I had open-heart surgery people were overly concerned. For the most part, most people were so nice and so patient, that it felt like they were making it a bigger deal than it was to me.
And I feel the opposite about this sexual assault trauma – that people don’t necessarily think it’s as big of a deal, and they put it under the umbrella of any “bad relationship” issues. And so, I just feel like sometimes I’m fighting for empathy, and that can really be kind of exhausting…
But, I really need to learn that me getting better doesn’t rely on how other people view my trauma.
People think of things differently!
Some people might be more shaken at the loss of a pet than of a human family member. I can already hear people with pets saying “they are my family too!” And some people would just completely not understand that.
For some people, losing their house might be the worst thing in the world, taking away something that means a lot to them for one reason or another (maybe it symbolized independence, or certain goals, strength, or pride, or an investment, etc.). For someone else, losing a house might mean freedom if the house has bad memories for them.
(We could do these examples all day, and I’m sure we could find better ones.)
The point is, I think we all have a general sense of what’s probably (uuuuuuuusually) more upsetting/disrupting to a person’s life than other stuff… (We even have a legal system that sort of takes care of that – sorting crimes at least into felonies, and misdemeanors, etc.) Of course, many tragedies don’t fall under the umbrella of crimes. (It’s not a crime to get cancer. It’s not a crime to lose someone special, or your job, or to go bankrupt, etc. And I also now not all crimes are successfully prosecuted, etc.) But, what I’m trying to say is I think we all generally have a spectrum, but some people’s spectrums are quite different.
Sometimes people expect me to be more hurt by things I don’t feel so hurt by, or less by things that tear me up. And I’m sure, to some extent, that has to be true of a lot of us…
Now that my eyes have sort of been opened more so than before (specifically about the ways women (and all sexual assault survivors) are treated in America), I’ve been screaming from the rooftops, “Oh my gosh! Women’s rights! Look at how we treat women and survivors of sexual assault…” Even if it feels like a giant, current, threatening, awful problem, there are always going to be people who either just don’t really think it’s a problem, don’t care, or literally do not even believe what happened to you.
I sometimes feel the not believing this is a problem specific to rape survivors, but it’s not necessarily. I mean, there are people out there who think that Sandy Hook – a giant national tragedy didn’t even happen. Those people seem overall few and far between, but there’s enough of them that sometimes they still terrorize some of the family members of the victims. No matter how clear your trauma is, or how sad it is, not everyone will believe you/be on your side/care.
I mean, we elected a President who bragged about sexually assaulting women – that’s people saying they obviously don’t care. That is not a deal breaker for the people who voted for him. (Even though it should be.)
Some people don’t have the personal experience to truly be able to relate to what it’s like for you. Men may not fully understand what it’s like to be a woman and feel threatened in the various ways we do. “Just fight back. What’s the problem?” It’s somewhat like how a lot of white people don’t understand how so many innocent black people get killed by cops. People say, “Just follow orders, you’ll be fine” – even though, so often black people do exactly that (after getting pulled over for a bogus, non-offense anyway, and then things aren’t fine). And some white people still say, “Well, obviously the black man did something wrong. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been shot.”
A lot of us (me totally included) have a hard time stepping outside of what our own struggles are. Do I have any clue what it’s reeeeally like for, for instance, a transgender person? Do I intimately understand their struggles? I do not. And if I hear a story of someone who’s not some privileged, small, young cisgender white girl (like me) having a struggle in a place where I’m embraced, of course it’s easy for me to not understand that on the surface.
And I think sometimes a lot gets lost in the translations of our experiences because even though we all think we’re generally the same – living the same lives, in the same places – your life might be a LOT different from the your neighbor, or someone else who works in your office, because of your skin color, or background, or gender, or sexual orientation and on and on and on. (And sometimes, even if we want to put on the goggles of that person to see the world through their eyes – we might not have the tools at our immediate disposal. (Really, we can learn and read as much as we can, and talk to as many other people as we can… We’ll still never truly be able to 100% understand, since we’re not them. But I still think we should at least try, with the best of our ability.))
So, I think between not being able to have a true deep understanding of certain struggles, between having different backgrounds, and different things that are important to people and affect them in certain different ways, and because we only have so much brain space, and for other various reasons – not everyone will understand. Not everyone will care. Not everyone will even believe you.
But that doesn’t make what happened to you any less real or awful. You’re not in court. You don’t have to convince every troll who tweets you. (Heck, I had an issue even on a helpline once (which I guess I’ll talk about soon) – but spoiler alert, you don’t have to convince that person either).) It would feel so great to feel unconditionally supported by the world, but that’s not how the world works.
And for me, it’s been a reeeeeeeeeeally hard thing to grapple with. But until it happened to me, even I didn’t realize/recognize the epidemic we have in America of the way we treat sexual assault survivors, and the way we treat women – and all the issues/hurdles/biases within the epidemic that make it even worse.
And yes, I think work should be done to better things. I think the culture is maybe thankfully changing a little. I think I would like to contribute to that. I would like to find positive ways to make the world better for survivors… But I’d also like to be able to separate from it a little – to do it in a way that doesn’t feel so painful when I find the people who don’t believe or don’t care. For me, I think it maybe needs to become slightly less personal…
I dunno. That’s kind of what’s rolling around in my head right now.
And a final note on this post: Even if you don’t have everyone, you always have someone – always. Even if you don’t have a family, or you’ve been alienating your friends – you might feel alone, but you’re not. There are apps, helplines, support groups. You are never fully alone. Not having everybody, doesn’t mean having nobody.