You are not alone if you’ve been feeling emotional about all of the sexual assault allegation news recently. It’s been seriously awful, which is why you definitely need to stock up on some self-care tips if sexual harassment news has you feeling uncomfortable around men. It’s not like you can fully avoid them. They’re pretty much everywhere. Women get catcalled and harassed in some way all the time, so many of us are feeling a lot of hella uncomfortable (or even traumatic) feelings right now.
You don’t even have to be a victim of sexual assault to feel super on edge around men right now, or always, though having personal experiences that are similar to troubling news stories certainly doesn’t help maintain a positive mental state. Even if you’re not reliving your trauma every time a push notification about another famous man pops up on your home screen, just listening to some men out in the wild talk about the onslaught of sexual assault and harassment allegations can make your skin crawl and your heart sink.
Although, sure, there are some men out there who actually seem to understand these issues, who believe us every time we said their friend tried to grope us at the bar or our co-worker sent an unsolicited d*ck pic, a lot of men can’t seem to deal, opting instead to claim women are lying or, at the very least, exaggerating. They personally distance themselves from a culture in which they are complicit at best and very likely participatory to some degree. It’s downright shocking and wildly upsetting to hear men process all of this sexual misconduct news as if it was the first time they were ever hearing about it (since that’s almost impossible to believe).
Because the only response from dudes to so many famous men being accused of sexual misconduct should be a deep, long look into how they treat the women in their own lives, right down to the waitress they flirted with and barely tipped last night. They should also be having some tough conversations with their male friends and women who still love them about how to be better. But since so many men seem to still be figuring all of this out, you shouldn’t feel guilty if you have a sicker-than-usual feeling in your stomach as you try to discern which men in the world are worth your trust, your friendship, or proximity to your body in a social setting.
A lot of women are feeling more triggered than usual right now. These tips may or may not help mitigate some of the anxiety you’re feeling around men these days.
1Talk about it.
If you’re lucky enough to have a close circle of empowered women around you, this might already be happening. But a lot of us live far away from our besties or spend way too much time away from them, at least, and it can be really isolating in times like these. Reach out. Text, tag them in a meme, call them (yes, with your actual voice).
Connecting with the people you feel safe around and telling them you feel particularly uncomfortable these days around men is really an awesome first step to feeling better — because you’ll realize you aren’t alone in feeling that way. You don’t have to share your traumas or get too into it if you don’t want to, but we’d like to bet that mentioning your discomfort and reaction to all this sexual assault news to another woman will result in a good vent session. Really — even the woman in line behind you at Starbucks will get it.
The more you practice talking about your anxiety or triggers and reaching out for help when you need it, the easier it gets. And it can start to be really fulfilling, even life-saving, when you do, because avoiding the conversation altogether or pretending like it’s not a big deal just perpetuates the cycle of rape culture and sexism.
2Step away from the internet if you can.
This is so hard! If your job allows for it — and a lot of jobs don’t, really — try to tune out for a few hours a day. Literally, there are so many stories about men assaulting and violating women every single hour these days. When you start to scroll through the replies and comments and terribly bad takes about sexual misconduct from men, you could very well end up a misandrist before you finish your first cup of coffee in the morning.
We’re all going back and forth about our feelings about men these days, so we don’t blame you if you’re questioning any and all sense of comfort you ever had around them.
If this news is affecting your life or even your mood, try to not spend more time than you have to online. Maybe delete the apps from your phone or make a rule about devices before bedtime. Take time off from the news. You aren’t missing anything that won’t be there later. If it’s something life-changing, someone will text you. Come on.
This sexual assault reckoning is a never-ending story. It’s not going to end anytime soon, so we have to limit our exposure to the news if it’s negatively impacting our health and happiness. We pinky swear that you’ll be able to catch up on what famous man is cancelled next after a good night’s sleep.
3Get real with the men in your life.
This can be hard to do, depending on your relationship to the men who are making you uncomfortable, angry, or however they’re triggering you. But if you can do so safely, please feel very free to tell the men around you who are wrong that they are wrong. There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty or “weird” about telling a man to back off, to let you finish your sentence, or that their assessment of certain news stories is straight up misguided.
You can’t always do that, we know. That’s why men have felt so free and able to harass, abuse, or otherwise exert their power around us, so this part can get tricky. But if you need to ghost a male friend who’s tweeting bad takes or get very far away from some men in your life, go for it. Calling men out on their bad behavior is not being a “crazy woman/feminist.” You’ll feel so much lighter once you do the hard work when it comes to setting boundaries.
4This is what mental health professionals are for, guys.
If all of the news these days is making you feel more anxious, sad, or generally uneasy, you might be suffering from undiagnosed (or untreated) post traumatic stress disorder. You also might just need to talk to someone who has your best interests at heart. You could seriously benefit from therapy if you aren’t going already.
Of course, therapy can be expensive AF, but there are ways to get around prohibitive costs, like asking for a sliding scale or finding a free mental health counselor in your city via the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline. It’s not just for substance abuse, and it can be a great way to find low-cost therapists you can vent to.
You might think that’s extreme, but the American Psychological Association has co-signed a handful of studies that link any major discrimination, like enduring microaggressions on a daily basis, witnessing discrimination, or even the anticipation of discrimination, to PTSD. That goes for racial and gender discrimination. PTSD manifests itself in so many ways, so feeling more anxious than usual, any anger you can’t really place, or re-running the sexual harassment allegations over and over in your head, could all be symptoms.
PTSD is not just something ex-military or victims of “major” trauma experience. If you’re a woman, and especially a woman of color or identify as LGBTQ, you might be responding to this world in a way that needs to be treated by a pro.
Whatever you’re feeling as a result of the landslide of sexual assault news stories lately, you have to know that it is not just you who is feeling this way. So many women are feeling the very same way these days, so be kind to yourself and the women in your life. We’re all we got right now.