I don't like fighting. It's uncomfortable, usually results in at least one side feeling bad, and often leaves me feeling exhausted and unaccomplished.
But there's something I like even less: the feeling in the pit of your stomach when you don't fight for something you should.
Because I am a vocal survivor of sexual assault, I have heard hundreds of stories from hundreds of women over the years. I know things that would break your heart and your belief in humanity. I have heard the terrible things they can’t tell anyone else—not their boyfriends, not their husbands, and not their parents. I have wept for and with them. I have been with them as they escape and learn to survive again, to breathe. I have held their hands when you can’t, because they don’t think they can tell you.
So, since they can’t tell you, they can’t tell you all the reasons they can’t. They can’t tell you how afraid they are: that you won’t believe them, that you’ll be disappointed in them, that you’ll judge them or spread rumors, that you’ll feel uncomfortable, that you’ll take the perpetrator’s side, that you’ll ask them what they wore or drank or what mistakes they made that caused it.
They’re afraid you’ll tell them they’re making things “too personal” or that they’re “too sensitive.” That you’ll force them to tell someone else, or that you’ll tell someone else for them. They’re afraid they won’t have the right words and you won’t have the right words and they’ll make a mess of everything. They’re terrified, and they’re in it alone until they can breathe out the pain. And you’re making it so hard.
And then what happens is that you don’t know these women. You don’t know they’re the strongest people you went to school with, they’re your sisters, they’re your parents. You don’t know they’re sitting in the next cubicle over or pouring your drinks at the bar. You don’t know they’re your doctor or your lawyer or your very best friend.
And because you don’t know them, you don’t have an accurate picture of what survivors look like. You make us into people we are not—you’ll call us weak or drunk or promiscuous—and you’ll miss out on a tremendous opportunity to learn from some of the strongest, smartest, most wonderful women on the planet.
I am honored to hear the stories of these warriors. I am ready to share their burdens. I am astounded by their strength. I am humbled by their forgiveness. I am empowered by their righteous anger. I am heartened by their solidarity.
I am waiting for you to be, too. I am waiting for you to fight with us.