Discourse / Editorials / October 18, 2017

Thoughts from the Embers: Survivors do not owe you their stories

This week, social media has been flooded with survivors of sexual assault and harassment sharing the words “me too” to stand in solidarity with one another and show the world the sheer amount of people who have survived these experiences. Many of the posts ended with the words “If all the women and girls who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

While these posts and the sheer amount of them definitely gave people a sense of the magnitude of the problem, it is not survivors’ responsibility to prove to people that this is an issue worth caring about.

Moreso, survivors are not responsible for proving that they’ve experienced assault or harassment or explaining their story to anyone who asks. Scrolling through your newsfeed, you should not be doubting people’s credibility but rather wondering about what you can do to help end assault and harassment.

While the movement is effective, it doesn’t directly place any blame or pressure on those who are continually harassing and/or assaulting people or standing by and allowing it to happen. It is not the survivors’ job to fix their oppressors; the burden should not be placed on them.

Men in particular should be self-reflecting on how their actions and words affect people, women especially. Let women speak in work spaces. Don’t let your friends make sexist comments. If you see harassment, stand up for the person being harassed.

At some point, it is no longer the mothers’ job to “teach their sons better;” it’s up to their sons to teach other men how to be respectful. We can all be better at teaching topics such as consent and respect, but it is not the sole responsibility of women to make sure their sons do not assault people.

It is also important to remember that survivors do not have to share their stories publicly if they do not want to; they do not even have to share that it happened. They cannot single-handedly change the issue at large and they do not have the responsibility to do so. Seeing so many stories about sexual assault and harassment can also be incredibly negative for survivors and they are under no obligation to put themselves through that experience if they cannot or do not want to.

Survivors do not owe anyone an explanation. They do not owe anyone the sharing of their experiences. The people who assaulted, abused and harassed them should be the ones ashamed, and it is disappointing to see, time and time again, survivors having to convince people that sexual assault and harassment are important issues.

It should be obvious that this issue is important to talk about and fix. Instead of leaving reactions on Facebook posts and continuing to scroll, we should be analyzing our own behaviors and how rape culture manifests itself in our daily lives. That is not the job of survivors.

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  assault feminism survivors

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