I don’t want to brag, but I just changed the world. Not kidding. I know, I know…one person can’t change the world, right? Well, that’s sort of right. I mean, what can one girl do? The world is so big! But you know what? I might not be able to change a whole lot, but I can change some. A little. Even one single thing. Change one person’s perspective. Yep, I can do that. I know this, because I just did. And that’s how you change the world, right? One person at a time.
In a recent post of mine (Post Election Triggers), I talked about how, as a sexual abuse survivor, I was triggered by the audio tapes of our president elect, describing how he can sexually assault women because he’s famous. Most people don’t understand this. I can see that. If you haven’t been sexually assaulted, you can’t understand. Even for many women who actually have been sexually assaulted, they don’t understand, either. These women I’m referring to have fascinating, intricate brains that changed thought processes after the abuse as a coping mechanism…essentially numbing them through denial or self blame. I know this because that used to be me, until I was lucky enough to find myself on a path of healing. I performed exhausting work on rewiring my brain, and people like me are fully aware of the effects of trauma. Just because I’ve rewired some of my thought processes, doesn’t mean I’m immune to triggers.
I have to say, listening to the actual tape was not the worst part for me. Sure, hearing him talk stirred up emotions of fear, shame and anxiety. Worse, though…it was the response of much of the country that hurt. It was listening to people minimize, dismiss, laugh at, demean and criticize my feelings. It was listening to people say they didn’t care about what he said or did. It was listening to people call the accusing women “liars”. It was listening to people compare his words to “50 Shades of Gray”. It was listening to people say they were fine with what he did, because the husband of his opponent did the same thing. And it wasn’t just people…it was my friends. It was painful to listen to people that are supposed to care about me, not care about me. I listened to them say that his abuse is okay because other people have done the same thing. Crazy.
I did my best to explain that I was not criticizing people for their political choice…we all get to choose who we want. My problem was with people choosing him and not calling him out on the hurtful things he said. Whether it was about sexual assault, racism, mocking disabilities….I have a real problem with people not condemning these things…not so much politically, but on a human level. Yes, you can stick to your political party AND call these people out on their hate. You can do both.
I lost a few friends over this. They couldn’t get past the political part, and were not going to bend for anyone. They didn’t care who got hurt, as long as Clinton did not win. One girl, who had been my friend for 30 years, stuck to her political guns and stood by her comment “Adult women have a responsibility to report sexual assault at the time of the event, or they are just as guilty as the one who assaults them” (referring to women who wait years to come forward). Well, I waited 30 years to tell my story…
I let my emotions get the best of me one day, when I posted a quote on Facebook about many women watching the equivalent of their abuser being elected to the presidency, and to be kind to them…as chances are you know multiple. Obviously, the post was referring to me. The first comment was from a male friend who said “…and 4 brave men in Benghazi were unavailable for comment”. This was a perfect example of how crazy this election was. Here I am, putting it out to the world that I am hurting because of sexual abuse, and a man minimized it, because of what happened in Benghazi. Don’t get me wrong, I feel horrible about what happened in Benghazi. I hate that those men died. It was truly awful. But what the hell does that have to do with sexual assault?! It’s OK for sexual abuse to occur rampantly in this country because people have died elsewhere? I should shut up about my pain and not care about Trump assaulting women because of what happened in Benghazi? I don’t matter because of what happened in Benghazi?
I told this friend to “eff off” and deleted him…along with a few others who chimed in. One of them said “Whoa! So you think rape is worse than murder?” …like it’s even appropriate to compare the two things. Rape is OK because murder is worse?? It made no sense, and was so cold and hurtful. I really struggled the week of the election.
OK, I’m sure you’re wondering where the hell the part is about me changing the world. Fast forward to last week: the friend who made the original comment, the guy who I de-friended on Facebook…he sends me a private message, wishing me a happy birthday, sending his love…like I didn’t just tell him to “eff off” 2 weeks ago. I was perplexed. I contemplated ignoring it, but I didn’t. I told him I was surprised to see his message, that it was as if he didn’t recall our interaction. He said he wasn’t going to stop loving me because we had a fight, and he apologized for hurting me and wanted to know what it was he needed to do to make things right with me. Damn. I’ve never had that happen before. That really happened!! I cried. Finally, someone validated me. Finally, I felt worthy to one of “those people” who were making me feel like I didn’t matter. And I didn’t just think of me…I felt like it was validating all women who were feeling this way. I ended up sharing my story of sexual assault and he was so apologetic, saying he wished he had known. I told him it’s too bad that people have to either be directly affected by this or have someone they know be directly affected by this in order to be mindful of feelings. It’s too bad we have to share our story in order to get people to understand, yet at the same time, we share our stories and people still don’t care. We shouldn’t have to work so hard to get people to care.
So, this guy now has a new viewpoint on sexual assault, and more so on people’s feelings. This may sound like a post on sexual assault victims (well, OK…it sort of is), but it’s more about a solution to much of the anger in our country. We need to care about each other’s feelings, even if we don’t understand them. When someone else is hurting, I am not the one who gets to decide if they should feel hurt…they are. If I ever hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally, I will always be sorry and ask what I can do to make it better. I will not make them feel small or stupid or childish for having feelings, whether I understand them or agree with them or not. I will not tell them that I didn’t intend to hurt them, therefore they shouldn’t feel hurt. This is not what’s been happening lately, in this country of ours. People are calling other people losers, whiners, “too sensitive”, drama queens….for having feelings. They tell people to “toughen up” when they are hurt. This makes the hurt person angry, too….which leads them to want to hurt the other person, and next thing you know, we have a country full of people hurting each other. We are all different. We all react differently to situations and trauma. Instead of being a divided country that hurts each other, we need to unite and heal each other.
So, that sounds like a great plan, but is that going to happen? Probably not. The anger runs pretty deep in America. But you know what? It happened between two people. It happened to me and my friend. I can bet the next time he sees a woman talking about feeling scared regarding our president and sexual abuse, he’s going to respond differently. And I’m pretty sure he’s going to come across this scenario, as there’s so many of us out there. So many of us that are speaking up and sharing our stories. Speaking up makes a difference. Calling people out makes a difference. Not to everyone, but to some. And if I can get one person to change their views and want to help heal a person, maybe you can, too. You don’t have to be a superhero and change the whole world. Just be superhero-ish … change one person’s world.
This post is a part of Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt was “SH”. I had to use a word that had those letters in it, and let it flow…totally organic writing with no edits.