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Over the last few days, I’ve read stories about bosses, about coworkers, about coaches, about friends and family members and teachers, with both women and men using the tweet to share their experiences of being harassed, assaulted, and abused. The overwhelming response has been a testament to the prevalence of rape culture; that it’s in every industry, in every community, in every neighborhood, and in every school, and that it doesn’t discriminate based on gender or on age. But it’s also been a testament to the power of sharing.
I’m not an overly emotional person. I don’t cry in public, I prefer cold, terrifying calmness when I’m confronting somebody, and when I share my own vulnerabilities in my writing or on Twitter, I’ve processed those moments already (and repeatedly) so that I can separate my feelings from whatever it is I’m talking about. So on Thursday, I sent a tweet about an experience I had reconciled with over a decade ago. My parents and teacher believed what I told them, and I was moved from the radio station to another work placement within a weekend. But I was lucky, and my experience was rare: We exist in a world rife with victim-blaming, with stigma, and with lines of questioning about who wore what and why you “let” something happen. Sharing one’s story, while important, can be terrifying and an absolute nightmare. Rape culture has conditioned us to blame victims first or to dismiss them completely, so to disclose an incident requires an inordinate amount of strength and vulnerability.
Super-stressed lately? This yoga pose can help:
Which is why the thread itself—the testimonies of thousands of women and men—is more powerful than my own 140 characters will ever be. Outside of anger, I have no emotional connection to my own experience anymore, so I used it in hopes of making a few people feel a little less alone. And then those people showed me what real power looks like.
Among the stories I read, I saw even more words of support and solidarity. Those who RT’d the thread urged conversations, discussions, and for us as a whole to do better. And while there were still some trolls in the mix (because it’s the internet), they were nothing compared to the space created by thousands of people who chose to reclaim power for themselves and for anybody who needed it with their memories and emotional labor. Because where there’s power in sharing, there’s also power in recognizing one’s limits: If recalling the details of harassment, assault, or abuse doesn’t honor your mental health, those boundaries need to be respected. No one can act when they’re transported into a mental or emotional state where they feel powerless. Forcing someone to share doesn’t help dismantle anything, it defeats the purpose entirely.
Sexual predators thrive on depleting others. They strip their prey of power and of agency before isolating and gaslighting them. So for thousands of you to create and add to a space where that power is reclaimed is a gift not just to those participating, but anybody reading—to anybody who still believes that they deserved it and they asked for it and they’re in this by themselves. And it’s also one big step out of a thousand we need to take to dismantle rape culture entirely. Because it’s taken centuries for us to get here. And to make a change, we need all the discourse and conversations and movements we can get.