I intended to post April’s essay from my “Escape
from Mercury” series this afternoon.
I mentioned previously, this piece has been especially challenging. When is
talking about your sexual assault ever easy? It felt too long – and “eloquent”
is probably the last word anyone would use to describe it – but it was at least
therapeutic to the extent that I could be open about it. My first three years
of silence were torturous
and, even now, it has been challenging to talk about
it. However, I figured that I could put on a brave face and reduce human
suffering by letting other survivors of sexual assault (perhaps gaysian,
perhaps not) know that they are not alone.
It turns out that mine was a paper courage.
I woke up this morning to my usual notifications. After
cleaning out my inbox and dismissing headlines from the New York Times, I saw that I had a friend request on Facebook. It
was from him. My stomach sank. It had been a lustrum since we last saw
each other and, much like the lustration
in Roman religion, today’s post was to be my purification. I could finally
accept that those months in my first year had left eternal scars and move on.
However, the request left me crumpled.
How did he find me? Why had he added me? Of all days, why
I would not presume myself to be so interesting as to be
worth stalking, but the coincidence was arresting. I cannot know if he follows
me on Tumblr and I do not know – nor do I want to know – his intentions. Perhaps
a part of me is as just as cowardly as I had been many times as a freshman and
just as wounded as I often fear that I am. Perhaps I am being vain. However,
despite a day’s worth of pondering, I do not know why I am afraid.
Throughout “Escape from Mercury” – and my essays,
generally – I have changed details and names as a courtesy to the people about
whom I write. However, if anyone from those times were ever to read my works,
it would be painfully clear who “Celine”, “Byron”, and “Chris” truly are. What
could they actually do about it, though, and what makes the subject of April’s
essay feel so different? What has the prospect of his reading robbed from me?
Reasons are myriad. I am not as mature, rational, or evolved
as I think. I too easily believed that I could keep people from my past locked
away. I fatally overestimated the thickness of the veneer of anonymity that the
Internet promises. I could point out my failings for days, but I have to make a
decision. I feel it would be fair to describe it as spineless and, ultimately,
pointless. Rarely is it possible to have it both ways.
April’s essay is up, but I have set it to private. However,
I would be happy to share the link with those who might be interested.
As @life-in-grayscale illustrates here, the emotional recovery process after sexual assault brings unexpected bumps and pits which feel like obstacles to rebuilding a sense of control over our lives. These surprises can be painful, and they may even throw us back into crisis mode. But such setbacks also serve to remind us that not everything is okay yet, that we have to sit with and take care of painful feelings and wounds – no matter where we where we want be at an intellectual level.
I could point out my failings for days, but I have to make a decision. I feel it would be fair to describe it as spineless and, ultimately, pointless. Rarely is it possible to have it both ways.
After experiencing sexual violence or other traumas, it can be too easy to focus on every single failing we perceive within ourselves, to criticize ourselves for the choices we make/made, and to pick apart the language we grasp at as we try to release our stories into the world. It’s important to remind ourselves that we have a responsibility to be compassionate and tender to ourselves, to accept our difficult emotions and express or cope with them in healthy ways, and to seek out whatever help and solidarity is needed to keep going. Channeling our energies to help others can be an important part of the process, but that happens on its own timeline. And I have so much admiration for @life-in-grayscale for publicly posting as much as he did and for being so real about how challenging the process feels at times.