Once, in college, I relayed the horrifying story of a classmate’s rape to a male friend. “But did she really get raped,” he said, “or did she do that thing that girls do where they just call something rape?”
Instead of knocking him out, or telling him to fuck off, nineteen-year-old me dutifully went on to list the girl’s various physical injuries, to assure him that the police had also called it “rape,” to swear that she had been a virgin at the time of the assault.
Only then was he satisfied. Only then did he consider the story — coming to him from someone he considered a friend — worth hearing.
Years later, when I didn’t seek help after my own assault because I couldn’t decide if I had somehow made it happen — or if it was even real — I remembered, in my panic and grief and shame, this conversation.
It’s a certain kind of feeling to know that the worst thing that’s ever happened to you, should you ever choose to share it, is likely to be considered imaginary or attention-seeking by men who claim to care about you.
I’m so proud of everyone sharing their “Me Too”s on social media, because I know what it takes to make one’s secret trauma public. But I can’t help but think of the survivors who have been "Me-Too"-ing for years, for decades, trying to get men to listen and care, to no avail.
Personally, I’m not rushing to add my “Me Too” to the conversation, because I feel that the fact of the matter is, men know. That they reference their daughters and sisters when they talk about rape culture, that they make jokes about being protective with shotguns and baseball bats and about doing bodily harm to those daughters’ and sisters’ boyfriends, tells me that they know exactly how women are treated in this world.
They know how many of us there are. They know what they and their fellow men do, and how often they do it. What they refuse to see is that they are the ones who need to take action.
We shouldn’t have to convince them that the violence being done to us is real, to provide visual aids for them so they can understand the magnitude of it, to beg and plead for their acknowledgment. We shouldn’t have to lay ourselves bare for them.
There shouldn’t have to be an overwhelming avalanche of stories from survivors in their own lives to get them to listen, to stop working so hard to discredit us.
It’s as if we have been insisting for years that human blood is red. It’s a simple and indisputable fact, one we personally know to be true because of how often we’ve seen ourselves, or others, bleeding. But there are men who will refuse to acknowledge the color of blood, who will insist they’ve never seen it so they can’t confirm it, until every single woman cuts into their own skin and says, Look, now do you believe us?
It shouldn’t have to be like this.
While I deeply appreciate #metoo and other online campaigns like #yesallwomen for helping survivors connect with one another, and feel empowered, it’s not enough for me.
I want every predator — and every apologist and enabler — named and exposed. I want justice, legal and otherwise.
I want men to start speaking the fuck up.
I want every survivor to be heard and healed on their own terms.
Everyone sharing or not sharing your “Me Too,” everyone weighing your options in silence, everyone shouting from the rooftops: I see you, I believe you, and I want more than this for you.
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Hannah Matthews is a musician, photographer, artist, and sometimes-writer living in New England. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in musicology and a whole lot of feminist rage. She's been published in publications incluidng SELF magazine and Time Inc. You can usually find her in the woods with her dog, or in her kitchen baking a pie, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.