For the past week, I've seen the #metoo hashtag pop up on social media, on the pages of women I love and admire. And the intent - to make everyone aware of how rampant sexual assault is - was achieved.
There's been backlash, of course. Small people will always try to make others feel small, which has never been more clear since the invention of the internet. But that's what assault is all about, isn't it?
It's about power.
And sexual assault does have power over you, for a lot longer than just in the moment it happens. Years later, you imagine it happening all over again, you feel the fear and the anger, you remember the pain.
A few years ago, I was trying to write the rape scene in Avalanche. And I was struggling with it. I wrote it the first time in a completely emotionless state, which became obvious during editing. I was forced to go back and actually feel the emotion I had been protecting myself from, to put myself in the scene, to feel the pain. Because I wanted the scene to be real. I wanted to honor it with honesty. Because, in addition to writing it for me, I was also writing it for the other girl, the one who doesn't know how to process what she's been through, and turns to literature to get her through.
It's important to talk about it.
Sometimes, it feels like talking about it allows it to have power over you again. It's easier to hide it away than to bring it up, to reveal it to the world. And the internet trolls certainly don't make it easier. But it's important to do it anyway. Revealing your truth makes you vulnerable. And vulnerability makes you strong, too.
I grew up in a sheltered life. My parents were protective, the small town I lived in had it's frightening parts, but I rarely witnessed them. In high school and college, I was surrounded by strong female friends, and we protected each other from potentially damaging situations. The rules were clear: you come with me, you leave with me. You don't put your drink down. You don't accept drinks from strangers. If you can't fend off a drunk on the dance floor, I will do it for you. Safety in numbers.
But still. Even with a net of protection around me, it happened to me. It happens a lot. But we don't talk about it. Until those hashtags start to pop up and women - and some men (9% of assault victims are male) - proclaim it happened to them too. And you see people you know and respect reveal their pain to the world.
It's courageous to do so. It's not about victimization. It's not about a witch hunt. It's about calling out to others struggling with the memory of it and telling them it's okay to talk about it.
It's not your fault.
You did not wear something too revealing. You were not too friendly with that person. You did not ask for it.
Sexual assault, which happens to someone roughly every minute and a half in the US, does not happen because you are wearing a short skirt. It happens because the perpetrator wants to feel power over you and disregards your right to consent.
It's okay to move on after that. It's okay to process the emotion and scream in outrage. Or not. It's okay to refrain from putting the #metoo hashtag on social media. It's okay to keep it to yourself. But when you're ready, it's okay to come out and say it happened. And to forgive yourself.
Because, if there's something this hashtag has taught us, it's that it happens more often then we all know. And that's the beauty of using the internet for good instead of evil.