CW… TW… Abuse, sexual assault, and very personal content. Feel free to skip this if you need to.
A friend posted this article on her FB page.
It led to a nuanced and deep discussion on this topic. I didn’t share my thoughts on her page or my own. I am sharing them here.
I was raped when I was 13. When I told my mother she called my a liar. My older sister, not only remained friends with him, she even brought him to my workplace (I had my first job at 14).
When I had my first abusive boyfriend, I admitted to some friends that he was stalking me. I didn’t say that he abused me. I didn’t say that he raped me.
Not all them believed me.
Many of them stayed friends with him. Some of them, I no longer count them as friends, are still friends with him.
One went to the courthouse with me to help me file a restraining order. He may be the reason that I’m still able to trust people, and I’m really not very good at trust.
Years later, this specific boyfriend showed up at my university, and I considered dropping out of school.
Even more years later, he commented on a friend’s FB page. I had a panic attack seeing his name and picture.
Even more years later, I told 2 people who had known him and known me at the time. One needed to process it because she “couldn’t I imagine him doing that” – I don’t know if they are still friends because I’m afraid to ask. (I also admit that he could have changed in the 15+ years since I knew him).
Most of the people I’ve known in my life choose to “not take sides” – they keep abusers and rapists in their lives and social circles.
I had some friends who were abusive in my mid/late twenties. They abused the people in lives, including me. When I cut ties with them, I tried telling a few people what they did. Most people, no surprise to me, choose to “not take sides”
I’ve cut off contact with people who continue to be friends with them.
Because of my experiences, people who say “I’m not judge and jury,” or “X has always been cool to me,” or “I don’t want to take sides” are saying to me my abuse doesn’t matter to them.
Literally what I hear is “I am ok with what this person did to you.” Sometimes I hear, “You are a liar.”
I don’t have all the answers.
I don’t know how to make communities safer, but I do know that people don’t change if they never face any consequences.
How do we dismantle patriarchy and rape culture if we, through our inaction, project acceptance and tolerance for their abuses?