The world witnessed weekly and sometimes daily revelations of assault and rape in the #MeToo-drenched 2018, culminating in the horrific Kavanaugh hearing. During this disturbing time, I too often heard people shrug these stories away. Even if they believed them, they didn’t see the importance.
Yes, sexual assault is horrible, but so is not taking it seriously.
One thing that I have heard many times from people who (happily for them) have not experienced sexual assault or harassment is something like this: “Yeah it’s shitty that happened, it was wrong. But it was just a pat on the ass [or some other anything-other-than-penetration-rape thing], so why is she making such a big deal of it?”
Here’s the thing… These experiences, no matter how small, ARE a big deal. They stay with you forever, often building in shame and causing more and more anguish as time goes by. This seriously unhealthy mental state becomes all-consuming and affects every part of your life, and it is compounded by this bullshit of being told by (sometimes well-meaning) assholes that “it wasn’t so bad, you are overreacting.”
It is life-changing for everyone, and more so for those who were molested as children. These victims have to recover not only from the molestation itself, but also from the years of damage caused by trying to justify it by telling themselves it was really nothing… compounding the issue and making their very selves complicit to the whole thing.
And if the molestation occurred when the child was very young, and worse — if the child is being raised in a religious family — a soul-deep shame is instilled in the child long before she has had a chance to form a normal sense of self. Then the child grows with this shame as a foundational part of her psyche, all but hard-wiring in an emotional fuckedupness that will never go away. Hidden, perhaps, but always there.
While it would be great if all the #MeToo stories would help make some predators realize the evil of their ways and stop; it would be a good start if at least they teach people that there is no such thing as a small act of abuse. This minimization of abuse, this belief that as long as there was no penetration then it wasn’t sexual assault and not so big a deal — this is extremely destructive. It prevents the victims from healing and it tells the perpetrators that maybe what they didn’t isn’t all that bad.
It is a big deal. It is all a big deal. Don’t EVER try to quantify or compare the “levels” of abuse other than to determine the extent of the abuser’s crime for the purpose of sentencing. It is all damaging to the victim.
It matters very much.