The bravery of the young women who have spoken up about their experiences with rape and sexual assault in the alt-lit community can’t be reiterated enough. Institutions - big or small - nurture environments where it can feel impossible to give voice to traumatic experiences. This especially holds true for those routinely with the least amount of power: young women. Speaking out against communities that support their own ideas of order and “normal” is difficult … sometimes impossible for many women.
The situation reminded me of my own experiences. As a black woman who was assaulted in one of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in the city, I knew things would not go my way. And, as things tend to fall, they haven’t. The man who assaulted me is still on the loose even though I’ve identified him, even though the police told me he’s been active for years.
My assault this summer was not the first time I was assaulted, but it was the first time I felt open enough to talk about it. I spent years in therapy dealing with the mental results of past incidents. In my mind, I believed terrible things were meant to happen to me, that it was fate, that it was always out of my control and that I should ultimately succumb to the violent, damaging, misogynistic culture in which we all live. But CLEARLY that is fucked up and dangerous and it left me beaten down in a way that I never understood.
It manifested in weird ways - in work, in romance, in friendship. I maintained terrible friendships because deep down I didn’t believe I was worthy of good friendships. Deep down I knew friends would disappoint me because I believed relationships of any kind were built on disappointments. My parents were the one exception to the rule. I succumbed to the mental terror of my old work environment and was treated to racist and sexist confrontations as if they were normal.
But this time was different. And even though this year saw personal and physical traumas, I felt stronger mentally. I recognized what could have happened to my mind, mostly, if I stayed quiet, and didn’t. Not everyone is capable of doing so and I don’t bemoan anyone that can’t. How many friends have come to me to discuss their rapes and assaults? And how many friends have only shared those experiences with me, have kept it buried deep inside because it is the only thing that makes sense to them?
Sometimes, your voice is all you have. I did everything I thought I was supposed to do and relied on the police, only to watch nothing happen. Systems of great power are designed to stay systems of great power. Exclusions are the norm. If your truth is all you have, then give voice to it.