Do you want to know a secret? When I first wrote Call Them Out, many friends shared the post and tagged my personal profile, causing it to appear on my Facebook wall.
I removed the tags.
I felt like such a coward asking all of you to name your abusers while I hid what I’d written from my own friends and family. And yet, every time the article appeared on my personal wall, I felt like I was going to be sick. I removed tag after tag while sweat poured down my back. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I didn’t want my family to know what my cousin had done to me, because knowing might hurt them. I worried they would be mad at me.
I lost track of how many times I untagged myself, but after a while I began to leave any new tags that trickled in. Now the article remains on my wall for my friends and family to see.
I let those last tags go partly because I felt like a hypocritical jerk for not owning my shit, but more so because I had the following epiphany:
It is not my responsibility to protect those who may be hurt by what I need to say.
I was the victim. He hurt me, and I have a right to own that. I have a right to be able to tell this truth, my truth, and to make the telling of that truth part of my healing. I have a right to acknowledge that carrying the secret did affect me, did alter the course of who I became. It’s unfair—absurd, really—to expect me, the victim, who has already been violated, to assume the additional burden of protecting those who might be hurt by the truth. It was my body that was invaded and I have a right to say what he did to me, out loud, to whomever I please.
YOU HAVE THIS SAME RIGHT.
But sexual abuse is not something one discusses in polite company, is it? Or even good friend company. Sometimes not even in soulmate company. For many, we feel we have no one, absolutely no one, to talk to.
What I learned from going public about my sexual abuse is that people are aching to talk. Victims are walking around with this… icky dark thing eddying beneath the busy routines of their ordinary lives. It’s like floating in a sturdy—but not altogether infallible—life raft, and knowing there are hungry sharks circling beneath. You know the shadows are there, but you only see them if you are willing to bend over the balloon edge of your raft and look down into the darkness.
Many of us want to look. We’re tired of huddling against the edge of our life rafts with racing hearts, knowing those terrible shadows are down there and not knowing how long we have until the raft springs a leak.
We want to look, and, more importantly, we want others to look with us. We want a friend to point their eyes into that darkness, then look back at us and say, “You’re right. There are sharks down there. They are real, and I see them, and you’re not crazy for fearing them. Those fuckers are scary.” And then we want to paddle back to shore together.
Except… sexual abuse is simply not a topic one discusses.
What if we could change that?
What if we could blow the lid off this subject, so epically, so unapologetically, that we could make it so that we could talk about sexual abuse without having to think to ourselves, “Oh goodness, is that TMI?” or “Oh no, am I going to hurt grandma’s feelings?”
What if we could remove the stigma so absolutely that we create an environment in which sexual predators would have to stop and think, really stop and think before they act on their desires, because we now live in a world where, so sorry, but fuck you, we are NOT going to keep your secrets anymore?
It wouldn’t be enough to stop every predator, but it would be enough to stop some.
Maybe even a lot.
You guys kicked ass with Call Them Out. Now I have another assignment. We’re going to crush the stigma to dust and let it blow away on the wind. We’re going to create a hostile environment for sexual predators. We’re going to make THEM squirm for a change; send them a message that we will not stay quiet.
I know some of you will not be able to do this. You have your reasons, and I respect that.
But for those who can, here is the assignment:
Tell one person in your life. Or two. Or three. Or… put it on your Facebook wall. Whatever you do, just talk about it. Then come back here and tell us you did it. Let’s make this change.
Step 1: #CallThemOut
Step 2: #TalkAboutIt
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Thank you for reading. Please SHARE this post! We can’t create a hostile environment for sexual predators unless this post reaches millions of people. It takes ALL OF US. To stay connected, be sure to subscribe to the blog and follow me on Facebook. =)
Because of Call Them Out, I told my husband. Not details, not names, but I said the words out loud to another person. I was sexually abused. And I felt a bit better. Because of you. Thank you.
I’m so glad! And you’re welcome. =)
I know that courage & way to go! You’re now allowed to be just who you are without keeping that poison inside. You inspire me! May you continue to grow together & share the burden of your pain.
I shared this on my public facebook wall and my page with this message:
Step One: #CallThemOut
Step Two: #TalkAboutIt
I’ve been sexually assaulted. It impacts my day every day and who I am as a person.
I have an eating disorder because I’m more comfortable being overweight and not conventionally “attractive”. When you stop and think about the horrid things people say to and about overweight people, it really puts into perspective how sexual assault changes your life. I’d rather be verbally abused by people who “care” about my weight while, quite frankly, slowly killing myself than feel like I’m earning the attention of someone who could sexually assault me by meeting societal standards of “attractiveness” and being healthy.
It’s backwards as fuck because sexual assault happens to people regardless of their sex, weight, age, race, or religion.
Clearly, the issue isn’t with the people being assaulted.
I’m uncomfortable saying this. I’m more uncomfortable with the fact that I know people who think rape jokes are funny. I’m more uncomfortable knowing there are people in my community who hurt others. I’m more uncomfortable holding this crap in.
It’s not my job to feel this way.
It’s not ANY of our jobs to feel this way!
Thank you. I added your second hash tag. Great idea!
Your epiphany is resonating with me in a big bad way..
Me too, sista. Me too. 😉
#CallThemOut was and is very close to my heart. I have written about my abuse on my personal blog but I clearly do not have the reach you do. I so also share my blog on my personal page but have gotten flack from family and friends for doing so. Your post gave me the kloat to stand up and say I will not feel shame for writing about my abuse! For that I am grateful and thank you tremendously!
You are not alone. There’s a reason families want to keep these secrets, but protecting the abuser alone is never ok. May your blog be your voice & perspective in our society…kudos to you!
You are so welcome!
Yes! Hell freakin’ yes! I’ve been thinking about this for a while and your first #CallThemOut post really got me thinking about it again. The first time I wrote about my abuse I was scared but it was so freeing and healing. “Talking” about it really helped me. That was a year ago and since then I’ve felt infinitely better, I’m not ashamed of it any longer.
And I’ve been thinking along the same lines as you, this conversation needs to be out in the open and no longer whispered or kept inside. Shame festers in the silence. Abuse is enabled by silence. I’m so with you on this. (And when I wrote about it I did it on another site, not my personal blog. That was my way of being anonymous. I’m mulling over my options right now…) Thank you for your courage and everything you’ve started with this. I feel like this is huge.
I will share the shit out of this post.
Thank you! <3
“It is not my responsibility to protect those who may be hurt by what I need to say.” So powerful! So true!
I don’t know why it took me so long to realize it!
You are incredibly brave!
I barely know you, but I am incredibly proud of you. Not just for your honesty but for your willingness to be brave enough to empower others to make a decision that could change their lives forever.
This is one of my absolute favorite quotes:
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Read more quotes from Anne Lamott
Thank you for giving me a platform to finally #Callhimout. Still contemplating step 2 #talkaboutit. Not hiding still = death in my mind.
It was my moms boyfriend. It started at 9 and lasted till I was 12. He told me not to tell my mom cus it would make her mad at me. I believed him.
He also beat me. Bad. The bruses were easily hidden on my ribs and bottom. He told me my mom made him do it. That he didn’t want to. He worked so hard to keep me quiet and to ruin my relationship with her.
One day he was on base (he was in the Air Force) and we watched a movie called “The Bastard out of Carolina”. It was about a mother who let a man rape and molest her daughter. My mom pulled me into her arms and told me that if anyone ever did that to me, she would protect me. She would believe me. That movie, saved my life. The next morning, I told her. And she believed me, like she promised. She called the cops and they arrested him. When searching the house, they found a gun, duct tape, rope and cash in a duffel bag. I don’t even want to think about what his plans for us were. He got 9 months in jail.
I grew up and became addicted to meth. I would throw up after sex with men. I wanted to kill myself.
But I survived. I got clean, I stopped hating myself, I stopped having g sex with meaningless men who made me sick. I got married, I had babies, I took back my life. I won. I still look Martin up on the Megans law site tho. Just so I know, he isn’t too close to me.
You’re awesome. Thank you for sharing, and I am glad you have found peace with your life <3
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I really admire what you have done and know that it isn’t easy. Thank you for creating this space and opening, and for the encouragement and care. Thank you too to everyone who strode or stumbled through this space with their own truths.
David Holthouse just published a story in which he names the man who raped him when he was seven years old. You might remember his original story, Stalking the Bogeyman. The new one is called Outing the Bogeyman.