The last several years has brought a slew of news stories regarding violent crimes, many of which concern sexual assault. Sadly, many of these stories later turned out not to be true. The outrage and offense they have caused has been very real, though -- especially online -- creating a charged, hostile environment for everyone.
The other night, I read a celebrity's brief account of her own claim to sexual assault. She referred to it as an "open secret," but it wasn't clear if she was referring to sexual assault in Hollywood (the "casting couch"), or the alleged perpetrator's behavior. Either way, no suspect was named, and the gist of the story was that no one was even questioned. According to this recent rash of outrage, we are all supposed to immediately feel sorry for the assumed victim without ever stopping to question her (or his) motives. In fact, questioning the veracity of such claims has become more than just distasteful -- it's somehow seen as a further victimization! -- even when no report was filed, and no investigation was undertaken.
As the victim of violent crime, I am here to tell you that this is nonsense.
Should you find yourself the victim of a violent crime, regardless of the nature, you don't just talk to a lawyer. You first talk to EMTs, then doctors, then police. You file a police report in which you recount the details of the crime, specifically if you plan on speaking to a lawyer. After that, you often talk to many more medical professionals, including therapists. You have to face your assaulter at trial, and may have to recount the events to a roomful of listeners yet again. The recovery process can take months, even years. Some people don't recall their attack, but most suffer trauma that can last the rest of their lives.
I generally avoid true crime shows now. In fact, a lifelong gorehound, I sometimes find watching my beloved horror movies too much to bear (but my interest in them has more to do with special effects and other movie-making techniques, so it's a bit of a different beast). Having to face these outrageous stories constantly over the last several years is the further victimization, not having my "story" questioned or being asked about my attack.
It has also watered-down concepts such as "trigger points," as well as the crimes themselves. Sure, reading about "being mugged" is one thing -- but if you've ever been held at gunpoint (or knifepoint, whatever), just seeing an article or hearing a news story about a robbery can be stressful. While the crime I suffered was not sexual in nature, I feel many of the same things those victims describe whenever I am forced to relive my experience through hearing someone else's story -- I understand it's the same for people who suffer home break-ins and robberies.
The trauma is real -- the feelings of helplessness and violation that lead to frustration, that turn into anger, and so on. Violent crime is a violation of more than just "personal space;" it's an attack on you, your being, your safety -- your life! It isn't something you easily forget.
To hear these stories in such a large number on a constant basis is bad enough, but to find out that many of them were fabricated -- and many of these shared accounts amount to little more than being ogled or catcalled -- is purely offensive.
I was physically assaulted and robbed. I can laugh when someone makes an offhand joke, such as, "My ATM robbed me!" But it's not funny when someone claims to have faced a similar experience, only to find out that they had a slur yelled at them from a passing car -- specifically when they try to relate it to undergoing reconstructive surgery, being questioned by police, going to trial, and everything else I have endured. The suffering they feel may be justified, but it is nowhere near the same.
I don't feel bad for over-reacting to this person; I don't feel vindicated, nor justified; I don't feel anything at all, other than trivialized. It's what happens when a victim of trauma is "triggered." It isn't pretty, it isn't fun, it isn't rational -- but it's real; not a manufactured or false outrage, but a real one. I was especially upset because this celebrity is involved in a number of cult TV shows and films, and I'd hoped to maybe one day send her a spec script or work with her in some capacity. That may sound selfish, but that connection resonated with me. Who wants to work in the kind of environment she described -- and, if her allegations prove meritless, who would want to work with such a person? I can't say specifically what it was that set me off, but that's how trauma works.
It was my breaking-point after the last several years of continually seeing these stories and outrage everywhere on an all-too regular basis, ad nauseam.
I wanted her to feel minimalized and belittled -- the way she had belittled what I, and others, have been through. If what she encountered is an "open secret," it sounds like she had some idea as to what she was getting herself into. That certainly does not excuse the alleged perpetrator's behavior, but it's a far cry from being stalked, from being attacked on the street or in the privacy of one's own home -- it isn't even close! Most victims aren't looking for sympathy when we share what we've gone through, nor do we want to be thought of as hapless rubes or pitiful creatures. I'm not excusing my behavior -- I can't help it -- I am pointing-out how what she said made me feel, how being traumatized really makes one feel:
Small, humiliated, ashamed, and violated. Not "empowered."
Not all men are sexist. Campus rapes have actually gone down over the last few years. Most women do not blame all men for their problems. And not all white people are racist. While some of this outrage has been intentionally manufactured for political gain, it has resulted in a culture of victimization in which too many feel they have a right to attack others in some twisted form of "social justice."
These allegations do not "empower" others to share
their stories. Instead, they embolden "social justice warriors" (SJW) and
other would-be "vigilantes" to stalk and harass those who disagree with
them, alleged perpetrators, as well as those who merely (and justly) question the accusations made. That then leads to endless coverage of their outrage, and eventually comedy skits mocking the same. Sometimes, you're forced to confront these aggressors and explain your story just to get them to leave you alone. It seems to go on forever! Each and every time, you're reminded of what you went through; it's a continued attack.
Most of us don't want to relive those experiences, we don't want to tell everyone we meet about what we've been through. All
of it -- all of it -- compounds the trauma, forcing real victims
to re-experience the pain and emotions we underwent in real
life when we were legitimately victimized. It also causes rational people to
rightfully wonder, "Is this person telling the truth?" Which makes it
harder for real victims to share our stories and deal with our pain. There's nothing "empowering" about that.
If you want to help victims, make them feel comfortable to talk if they want to -- don't try to draw them out.
Don't try to relate to their stories with one of your own (unless
you're at a meeting or forum where that is the point). Listen, inquire,
question, then move on. I appreciate it when people are upset that I was
attacked, but it's a bit much when they prattle on about their own
experiences, talk about how they would have handled the situation, give advice, or
even get angry at my attacker. I'd really rather put that incident behind me.
We don't need a "safe space," nor more "time to deal with our pain;" we need people to stop circulating these awful stories, wallowing in misery, and feigning outrage at every Goddamn thing, all the time! Not only are you not doing anyone any favors, you're causing harm. Assault is not a social issue or cause to be exploited; it's a violent crime. People are already well aware of the fact that violent crime exists, so you are not doing anything other than reminding its victims of what we have survived.
There are positive things that happen all over the world, everyday. Staying focused on the negative does not help anyone -- least of all victims of violent crime.
© The Weirding, 2016