There are weeks when just about the whole internet needs a trigger warning

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Trigger warning: this post talks about sexual assault.

 

There are weeks when just about the whole internet needs a trigger warning.

Like when the Trump tape came out. I had a brief moment of thinking, Okay, he’ll lose now. Thank God for that at least.

But there wasn’t much exhilaration, and almost immediately afterwards, a heavy, weary kind of pain.

Because there were all these high-ranking Republicans suddenly removing their endorsement from Trump, acting all shocked and surprised. This is appalling, they said. We never knew he was like this. How could we have possibly known?

Hmmm. Well, there was that woman who accused Trump of raping her at the Epstein party when she was just 13. And Trump’s ex-wife Ivana had already accused him of sexual assault and other forms of domestic violence during their marriage. And that was on top of the ample, public evidence of Trump’s contemptuous lack of respect for women.

Why had no one taken these accusations seriously? Why did people have to hear it from Trump himself before they would believe it?

Why is it no one believes women when they talk about sexual assault?

Over the days that followed I couldn’t shake the feeling growing in me. I felt small, shaky, vulnerable and – most of all – worthless.  I didn’t want to go out, or be with other people. I didn’t want be around my (kind, loving) husband. I just wanted to hide and lick my wounds.

I felt ashamed of this reaction. Why was I being so over-sensitive, so silly, so emotional? Why was I taking all this so personally? It didn’t have anything to do with me.

I mean, I’m one of those women who’s lucky enough to never have been raped.

(And yes, I know what’s wrong with this statement).

Several of my friends weren’t that lucky (and, just as an aside, not one of them has ever seen their attackers brought to justice). My experiences are nothing in comparison. What do I have to complain about?

But this week, these moments in my life keep coming back to me. Experiences I don’t talk about much, and when I do, it’s usually to make light of them.

Like the random bloke who jumped out the bushes to wave his cock at me when I was a first year student. Or the man on the Tube who rubbed himself up against my backside during the rush hour and I was too shocked and embarrassed to know how to stop him.

Or the boss who made me squirm with his icky flirting and the tales of his wife ‘not understanding him’ until I couldn’t bear it anymore and had to leave the job. Or the masseur who grabbed me hard between my legs and I didn’t say anything because I was scared that ‘maybe I imagined it.’

Or those other experiences I’m not quite ready to talk about yet.

Not to mention all the times I’ve been scared of sexual assault, even when nothing actually happened.  Like, you know, when I walk home on my own at night, or go running by myself. Or that time I got mugged outside my flat by a group of men who roughly pulled off my coat (to get at my bag, as it happened) but I didn’t know which way it was going to go and was shaken for days afterwards.

The thing is, I know enough about the world, and about the truly horrible things that happen to women all the time, to know that these things that happened to me are nothing.

Nothing. Just normal life. The stuff women have to put up with.

But if they are nothing, why do I feel so ashamed to write them down and share them with the world? If they are nothing, why can’t shake the idea that they reflect badly – somehow – on me?

And if they are nothing, why does reading the comments feed on an article about Ched Evan’s acquittal make me want to throw up?

Somehow it doesn’t feel like nothing.

Those experiences made me feel like I was nothing.

Then on Friday night I watched Michelle Obama’s speech. And I could see that she was upset, and she’s awesome, right? And somehow that gave me permission to be upset too.

So, thanks Michelle. And thanks to all the other brave women who’ve been talking about their own experiences this week, and all the brave men who’ve been putting their heads above the parapet to support them.

It’s time to change this.

I mean, it’s actually long overdue, but I don’t think I can handle it if we don’t take this opportunity to change this NOW.

Let’s start believing women when they talk about sexual assault. Let’s start standing up for victims, and standing up against the bullies.

Let’s change this now.

 

Writing Bubble

18 thoughts on “There are weeks when just about the whole internet needs a trigger warning

  1. Suz

    I feel what you’re saying . And I totally understand.
    What I don’t understand we are still talking about this.Why Trump is still there? Why people haven’t just gone – well, we can’t have him as President – he can’t even be a candidate – and he’s fallen by the wayside as happens to other people in power when scandals come to light.
    I too watched Michelle’s speech. It was wonderful. But why are people not taking more notice of it?
    It’s like Brexit – why is this even happening? The world has gone mad.
    (Sorry for ranting. I’m upset too)
    #WhatImWriting

    Reply
    1. Becky Post author

      Never apologize for ranting! I was so nervous about posting this – and to hear you feel the same way is a big comfort to me. Thanks for your comments 🙂

      Reply
  2. Sarah

    I really hear you. Our cultural and societal conflict of silence is an enforced burden. Every woman I know has stories similar to your own. From everyday life. And Trump? Inexplicable madness.

    Reply
    1. Becky Post author

      Thanks Sarah. I agree that keeping quiet about this stuff is a burden. Although it’s upsetting I’m glad lots of women are speaking out.

      Reply
  3. Reneé @ Mummy Tries

    We should all feel incensed and angry about Trump, how anyone can think he’d be even a teeny tiny good leader is beyond me. As Michelle said in her amazing speech, world leaders should meet certain standards of human decency, and he falls so ridiculously short of the mark.

    Unfortunately we live in a society where people justify their appalling behaviour by blaming their actions on their victims. ‘They dressed like a slit, so asked for it…’ Until that changes we are unlikely to see much changing.

    I myself was sexually abused as a child, by two different people, over a couple of years. Even so I find myself saying ‘it wasn’t that bad, at least I wasn’t being raped every day.’ Bloody insane…

    Reply
    1. Becky Post author

      You’re so right about victim blaming, and it’s hideous how much of that stuff we internalise. Really sorry to hear about what happened to you – I think it’s amazing the way you speak out about your own history and have taken control of the narrative of your own life so successfully xxx

      Reply
  4. Rona

    So true.I don’t watch the news much and still have seen enough to send me to hibernate. I really really am sick of this world. But voice our feelings is what we can do and pray that something bigger than us will intervene. Maybe many voices can do what one can’t. Sometimes one is enough. Be safe, be strong, and keep feeling

    Reply
  5. Maddy@writingbubble

    I’m totally with you Becky and this is a brave post – not that you have anything at all, even remotely, to be ashamed of with what you’ve experienced but because experiences like that make us feel like ‘nothing’ (as you say) so even writing about them can be scary, let alone posting them on the internet.

    I’ve had so many of these thoughts spinning round in my head for weeks. I’ve been ranting at friends about it. Trump horrifies me. The fact that he has had any sort of platform horrifies me, the fact that even now he is still a presidential candidate… well it just beggars belief doesn’t it? Have you seen Barack Obama’s speech about how it’s not good enough that the republican party are distancing themselves from Trump only now – how they should have seen it coming because we all did? It’s a good one. And Michelle Obama’s speech knocked my socks off. There is so much awfulness out there. I can’t stand the Ched Evans stuff – I steered clear of twitter but have read some tweets in articles about it that make me want to vomit. I think all we can do is speak out where we can and support each other and, as you say, believe victims. Something has to change. xxx

    Reply
    1. Becky Post author

      Thanks Maddy. I think things are changing. It’s two steps forward one step back but I believe we can make a difference. We’re already so much better at talking about this stuff than we were 10 years ago.

      Reply
  6. Cara L McKee

    Oh my yes. Yes yes yes and all the yesses. I was a Women’s Officer at my university, so I probably saw more than was usual, and I was probably targetted more than was usual, but I was under the impression that actually, if we talk about it, and include all the things, then it is women’s universal experience. And yet my dad still calls talking about it feminist whining. We have so far to go, we must start now.

    Reply
  7. Dana

    Yes. Thank you for writing this. It’s so important for all of us to know we’re not alone. It’s horrible that a presidential election is bringing such horror to the surface, but I truly hope some change can come of it.

    Reply
    1. Becky Post author

      Thanks Dana, and thanks so much for the work you’re doing collating and sharing women’s responses to this issue. I must admit I felt exhausted after writing this, so I’m sure what you’re doing is hard. Take care of yourself x

      Reply
  8. Alice @ The Filling Glass

    Yes it’s horrifying isn’t it. I am in no way a feminist – I just believe a person is a person (and don’t believe that simply being a woman means you can’t also behave awfully), and have a wonderful husband (men can be capable of respectable behaviour!), but the behaviour of a lot of males toward females in generally is terrible. There can’t be many women out there who haven’t been made to feel uncomfortable as you describe even if they haven’t been violently attacked. I honestly don’t have the answer. I remember a David Brin (sci-fi) book about a society run by women. That’s not the answer, power always creates distortions. I really hope the worst possibility doesn’t happen in the US.

    Reply
    1. Becky Post author

      Thanks Alice, it is horrifying. It’s interesting that you say you’re not a feminist – for me being a feminist is just about believing men and women should have equal rights and equal chances in life, it’s not about putting men down or thinking women are better. I know lots of great men – including some who’d call themselves feminists – and I’ve been really impressed and encouraged that so many men are speaking out about this issue at the moment. I loved this article from Matt Haig giving a male point of view about sexism: http://www.matthaig.com/10-things-to-tell-a-sexist/ It’s quite old now, but still good. I’ll check out David Brin – I think you’re right that any power imbalance creates problems.

      Reply
  9. Sophie Lovett

    It is incredible, I think, how much misogyny there is still in our world – in fact how it seems to be, if anything, increasing. As you say there have been too many high profile news stories recently which dredge this up, and however much I tell myself not to read the comments I still find myself having to look and feeling sick to my stomach as I realise how far our society has to go before we will be treated equally; before we will be safe. It has made me reflect on all of the occasions in my life when I have been violated – like you I have been ‘lucky’ that these incidents were ‘minor’, but it makes me so sad that until recently I didn’t even think of them in the context of sexual assault. The younger me just accepted them as part of what it was to be a woman. I was discussing all of this with my friend in Barcelona at the weekend, and she was almost in tears as she tried to fathom how she is going to guide her two daughters through it all. I don’t have any answers – but I completely agree that the time for change is now. It’s how to affect it that confounds me xx

    Reply
  10. Marija Smits

    Many thanks for sharing this Becky, although I can imagine it was difficult to write. The amount of misogyny in the world is, indeed, shocking and I worry especially for my daughter. But telling stories and sharing our fears and sharing ideas about how we can act against this is the vital first step. That’s what I’m going to hold on to, anyway. Sending my best wishes your way, M x

    Reply

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