Trigger warning: This essay discusses rape.
I’m always thinking about it.
If not consciously, then subconsciously. It’s there, buried in my mind. And it’s out there in the world. In newspaper headlines, hashtags, status updates, and think-pieces. Rape, sexual assault, and harassment are always there. But during this era of social media movements, they’re more present, more public. It can be like reliving it all over again.
There are the hashtags, in all their sincerity and positivity. The hashtags of survivors,#MeToo and #WhatConsentMeansToMe, helping women tell their stories. It’s beautiful and important, and so, I join in.
But, before posting my #MeToo story, I realize something: The new guy I’m dating doesn’t know I’m a rape survivor.
He doesn’t know, though I’ve written about it before. I’ve shared and posted and poured my heart out about my rape because I recognize the power that words carry, and I’m privileged enough to be able to share my story with little to no repercussions. But this relationship is new. When you’re seeing somebody, how do you know the “right time” to share such a dark, intimate, and traumatized part of yourself? What if an important movement, like #MeToo, is on the line?
So, I think. I look back at all the times I’ve been with him, when he asked me if I was okay with a kiss, with a touch. I remember all the times when he showed me he understood consent, and he didn’t make those kinds of conversations weird. But still, I faltered. In the past, I’ve been walked out on after finally disclosing what happened to me, and I don’t want that to happen again. But, the movement is happening. My Twitter feed is exploding with brave, courageous, amazing women sharing their #MeToo stories. I want so much to stand with them in solidarity.
So, I post.
I keep it short, but I get it out there. I know he follows me on Twitter, and he checks his feed pretty regularly. Still, I put it out there. Why?
I know I shouldn’t be ashamed, and I know it isn’t my fault, but there’s something about a significant other finding out that makes me feel…almost embarrassed?
The truth is, discussing rape and assault with the person you’re seeing is never easy, at least not for me. I don’t want it to be a big deal, but how could it not be? How could someone raping me not affect my current and future relationships? How could me crying for days after the attack because I’d been saving myself for marriage not have an impact?
It has to. It just has to.
There’s no way around it. My rape will always change the way I date, and the way I talk about sex with future partners. But when it becomes a trending topic on social media, its impact feels even more palpable.
Luckily, the guy I’m seeing has been nothing but supportive. He knows now, and it’s okay.
And if he wasn’t supportive? Well, I wouldn’t be seeing him.
I’m a writer, and whether I’m writing a tweet, an essay, or a text message, I’m getting my thoughts out there, and it helps. Writing about my rape, using the #MeToo hashtag, and understanding #WhatConsentMeansToMe is healing, for me. Because I can’t talk about it, vocally. I’ve tried. When I say the words out loud, I break down. But when I write them out, I feel so much better.
In some ways, dating in the midst of #MeToo has been almost powerful. It has pushed me to speak up about what happened to me, and I need that.
And some other people who have been through the same thing may need that extra push, too. At the end of the day, if the guy I’m seeing can’t handle the fact that I was raped, then he doesn’t deserve me. It changed me, and it will change us, for better or for worse.