Here’s Why You Did Not See Me Use the “#Metoo” Hashtag on Twitter until Now

The Parc de Bercy, near where I used to live, and where I was assaulted and raped at 17. Wikimedia Commons.

I’m probably going to regret posting this but it is something I’ve been turning around in my head for a while now, and I need to let it out.
You did not see me use the “#metoo” hashtag on Twitter until now, and here’s why:

At the age of seventeen, I was followed, threatened, beaten and raped by a man, late at night, not far from where I lived. Imagine every cliché you have in mind, about being violated by one ugly, sick piece of shit, and that’s pretty much what it was. After it was done, he forced me to spend the rest of the night with him until dawn, pretending we were “together.” This was my first sexual experience ever, and I vividly remember avoiding his mouth when he tried to kiss me, because I had never been kissed, and the idea that he’d be the first was the only thing I could think about. Somehow, this single detail superseded the rest of this horror. It took me eight years to kiss someone else for the first time after that.

I went home at dawn, did not speak to my parents, took a shower, and later went to a family planning center on my own, to get checked. The nurse who saw me that morning was the only person I had ever spoken to about this, until I recently told my husband. Because I was too ashamed, because the idea of sitting in front of friends, family or strangers and telling this again, in its every putrid detail, was just unbearable. I wasn’t strong enough for that.

Now here’s why I didn’t use those #metoo or #balancetonporc hashtags until now: because they’re hashtags. Nothing more. Sorry to play the party pooper here: Twitter is a huge, unchecked, informal, public space, where people toss tweets about cooking, politics, skin problems, travel tips, and, oh, rape too.

It’s too late for me to go to the police. What is done is done. But for many of you, it’s not too late. If you used #metoo to write about your boss sexually harassing, you: go to HR or lawyer up. If you used it to write about the way your brother/cousin/father sexually assaulted, you: go to the police. If that guy you just met at a party commented on your tits before even saying hi: point it out loud, let him know he’s a dick. Don’t just write about it on Twitter. No matter how powerful you’ve been told the #metoo tsunami is, Twitter is ultimately nothing more than a web platform. It has no judicial power, no legitimate authority. It is not, and should not be judge and jury. It is not a fair trial to those who stand accused, and it can never bring justice to their victims.

Whatever relief, sense of solace, of support you might experience from using that hashtag, don’t stop there: take the next step in real life. A billion tweets won’t change the world, if they’re not followed by a billion sexual harassment cases.
I hear many women contend that #metoo created a safe space for them to express their anger and hurt anonymously, in a world where their voice wouldn’t otherwise be heard—or if it was, speaking out would yield dire consequences.
Problem is, nothing will change if #metoo rests on little more than anonymous tweets or old stories like mine, that happened too long ago for anyone to do anything about it.

I didn’t want to use the #metoo hashtag, because, really, I thought there was no point: my rapist walked free a long time ago, and no amount of social media rage is going to fix that.
Ironically, I guess telling you this story now is tantamount to tossing yet another #metoo into the roaring waters of the Internet…
Even so, I sincerely hope that, whoever you are, wherever you are, if you find yourself being harassed, assaulted, raped, or even just disrespected, you will find it in yourself to be braver than I was, and let your voice be heard out there, in the real world, not just on Twitter (or anywhere else on the Internet…).

This was originally shared on my Facebook page, here:

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Everything you have said makes perfect sense to me, your own reticence and your encouragement to others to speak up.

    I said me too at the time, but nothing more, no explanations. I wanted to respond, but I didn’t want to add to what could so possibly have become a hashtag to collect salacious stories. The mostly likely thing to happen was that the hashtag would be a media story for a week or two, and the news cycle would turn, and everything would be the same.

    What I have found amazing and heartening is that the conversation has continued, that people’s experiences have not been steamrolled into the same old narrative and that action is being taken. You are right in encouraging those who are experiencing any type of abuse now to be brave. I think one of the things that will help them be brave is the strong force of women and men shutting down attempts to condemn or dismiss people who were not able to be brave in the past.

    One small but easy to explain example is when Reese Witherspoon told of some of her experiences at a Women in Hollywood event. Some afterward said “Why didn’t she name names?”. But that didn’t become the narrative and her story wasn’t dismissed because she didn’t, the loudest voices weren’t those saying – well she’s fine now so it couldn’t have been that bad or any of the other responses that help us return to the status quo. Instead I kept hearing people respond – ‘She doesn’t have to if she’s not comfortable, the point is it happened and it shouldn’t have and we need to do things to stop these things happening in the future.’ It gave me heart.

    A really strong thread over the last few months has been that these aren’t just tales to be exclaimed over when they come up in our feeds and then put away. It is about making change – believe the person speaking up, acknowledge it happens everywhere, do not respond with “but why didn’t she just say no/go to the police/quit/slapped him…”.

    When the news brings out a story that says it’s destroying the art of seduction, or this time it’s gone to far, it’s a witch hunt, there seems to be a calm response to extend this very difficult conversation and and to make actual changes. When the story about Aziz Ansari came out with all its grey areas, rather than it being shut down because it made us uncomfortable, it became a conversation about enthusiastic consent.

    We need to keeping moving forward, having the conversations and taking action.

    We all respond to things differently, as individuals, at different ages and in different periods of time. I didn’t tell my family or file a compliant against my boyfriend when I was 18. But when I was 25 I did do something about my sexually harassing boss. I remember thinking at the time – if not me, who? If not now, when? It was incredibly hard and had some difficult consequences, but was also so worth it.

    My hope is that with all these conversations happening, and all the women and men not allowing the narrative to be turned in its usual ways, people will be more confident in saying and doing something and that more people within the systems that have stymied us will act as they should.

    So what I’m trying to say with all that is I heartily second you

  • Tiffany Yates Martin
    April 4, 2018 8:40 pm

    You are one of my favorite people. And that’s saying something, considering we haven’t met in person. This is a hell of a thing for you to share. Thanks for the courage–and for speaking out for women to act on sexual harassment and abuse.

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