April was sexual assault awareness month. With that came a lot of personal boldness. I’m always pretty talky about things, but I decided it was time to be just a little louder. I did something brave, even for me. I tweeted just the first names (that I knew) of those who have assaulted me. It came with little response. I didn’t do it for anyone else. I did it for me. I did it to bravely say aloud. For me.
A couple of weeks later I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard of in a couple of years. The same person who upon hearing of my first rape laughed at the situational irony and said, “He got what he always wanted.” A couple of years ago when we met up, we talked about that night. We talked about that conversation. I extended forgiveness. I extended grace. We had a conversation in which I believed we’d reached an understanding.
Remember last month when I said “if you don’t know what to say, it’s really okay to just shut up?” (I probably said it nicer than that). She should have just shut up.
This same person came across this tweet and decided that she knew people with those first names, and before checking with me, contacted those she knew with those first names and told them “Hayley is telling people you raped her.” I received threats. I received insults. From people it shouldn’t have impacted at all.
I received what felt like an unending email thread from this person. Even though I repeatedly asked that she never contact me again. Someone who stakes her reputation on being a voice for women made sure to shut mine down, because in her mind it affected someone she once knew, regardless of concern for how it affected the woman she knew. She didn’t stop emailing me until she heard from my boyfriend.
Why am I telling you this?
It takes an awful lot for me to get to a point where I cut someone out of my life. In fact, I should be better at it, based on how many toxic people I’ve let run my life.
Throughout all of the emails she cites her god, the Enemy. Let me tell you something. I believe in God. I believe we’re all in this together. I believe that this world is awful. I believe that the only way it’s going to get better is if we take care of each other. I believe that people who think more about even the potential accused over the victim are the Enemy. I believe that Christians who spout their self-righteousness as faith are a greater detriment than anyone else to faith in general.
If you cannot hear a victim and let them tell their story the way they need to, then you need to take your seat.
It shook me. It knocked me out for a while. It made me terrified again. It made me shake with anger. It rekindled nightmares. It rekindled distrust. It elevated her superiority.
What we share that isn’t ours is affecting. How we share it matters. It’s so, so easy to see some information and draw our own conclusions.
All of that to say this. Bad things are going to happen. Bad people are going to show themselves. Everyone you know and care about isn’t going to support your survival. They won’t like that you’re getting better. Maybe they don’t wish you ill, but they don’t understand how you can get out from under something when they can’t. You aren’t doing it for them. You are doing it for you. It’s your survival, and it’s beautiful.
A year ago I met up with someone from tinder. A year ago guns were brought out in my presence, and I instantly felt trapped. A year ago I was beaten. A year ago I was raped. A year ago I felt so isolated. A year ago one of my best friends met me at the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. A year ago she sat in that lobby for hours, while I did all of the things you’re “supposed” to do. A year ago I made phone calls. A year ago I hid at the Let’s office. A year ago I felt like it was all over, again. A year ago I wanted to be dead. A year ago people I love rallied around me and wouldn’t let me go.
A year later I am stronger. A year later I am different. A year later I have healed and grown. A year later I’ve walked away from a lot of things and a lot of people. A year later I am medicated. A year later I am in consistent therapy. A year later I am still here.
Ya know what? I’m glad I’m here. Thank you to everyone who has helped make that possible.