I have been struggling a little this past week with the #metoo hashtag that has (unfortunately) taken over my Facebook newsfeed. It has made me consider something that happened to me, and that I had not thought of for a long time.
When I was a young student, in my first year of college, I was celebrating the end of our first semester with a friend. We both lived in student housing and had cooked a nice meal together. We had also had indulged on wine, it was after all the end of the exams period and we were letting off some steam. A 30-something-year-old guy lived in the block of student flats and functioned as a caretaker. He had seen us celebrate from his living room (we had been smoking out back) and decided to stop in to say hey. He had brought over some more alcohol and was keeping the drink flowing.
As the party continued, he started kissing us and touching us in inappropriate ways. My friend retreated to her bedroom at some point, and I was to sleep on her sofa (even though my own flat was not far away). Eddy, however, was not leaving and I was in no state to either make him stop or leave.
I was very lucky though because just at that time another of my friend’s flatmates came home – sober as anything. She shouted him out of the house and saved me -I am sure- from anything much worse happening to me.
Like I said, I haven’t given this experience much thought. In fact, I have tried to hide it away. This was the first time I was kissed and I hated that THIS was my memory of that moment. Besides, given my mother’s extensive programming I was sure it was what I deserved. I was too fat, too ugly, too worthless to think that anyone could ever truly love and cherish me. I had been drunk and hadn’t stopped this happening. So, it was all on me, right?
This is what an abusive childhood and a victim-blaming society made me think. I firmly thought that I was responsible for creating this experience, and I pushed it away because it filled me with hate and shame.
This week, that memory came back to me. Not because the hashtag triggered me necessarily, but because I was very hesitant to add my #metoo. I felt that my experience wasn’t bad enough to count. After all, hadn’t I been saved?
I think survivors do this far too often. We minimize our own experiences because we feel others had it so much worse. The funny thing is, that often the people we feel had it much worse than us, think the same thing in the opposite direction. They think we had it worse than them.
Trauma isn’t a competition, and we would do well to remind ourselves sometimes. So say it with me:
Trauma isn’t a competition