Twitter is a hard place for women. When we’re not being abused for having opinions, we’re expected to share our memories of abuse in order to educate men.
When the news broke about with the suspected murder of Sarah Everard, Twitter became filled with two things: devastated women, and men in shock that this had happened. Why was she out late at night on her own? Why didn’t she call someone? Why wasn’t she covered up?
In response, many incredible women came forward to share their own experience of being harassed in public. They talked of being followed, feeling unsafe on public transport or in taxis, being approached at bus stops, being groped in broad daylight, being followed on busy streets, and never ever being able to escape it no matter what we do or how we act.
Of course the typical reaction from these men soon came, you know the one: “well whoa whoa whoa! I think you’ll find that’s only a small handful of men, not all men”. It’s such a well-known retort I bet you even read it in a condescending male tone.
So once again, we had to defend ourselves. We know it’s not all men – many of us have partners who love us, amazing sons, brothers, fathers and so on. But the point is it’s enough men that nearly all women have experiences some form of harassment. Enough that one in five women have been sexually assaulted. Enough that we know all of these ways to “not get raped”, and know they won’t save us anyway.
While I shared some of my story, it got to a point where I had to stop, because I literally couldn’t stop scrolling and crying.
Sometimes though, it gets too much, and you’re physically spent. Having to constantly relive something you’ve worked so hard to get past just so men on social media will believe that this really happened and nobody ever is as fault and you just have to call it a day. You can’t read about another of your amazing, kind, beautiful, smart friends being followed down the street or groped or made to feel defenceless because all a man saw was an object.
As much as you want to share your story, you just can’t. This happened to me.
While I shared some of my story, it got to a point where I had to stop, because I literally couldn’t stop scrolling and crying. This was out of frustration more than anything else.
So instead, I tweeted: “Solidarity with all the women sharing their stories today and all of those who aren’t. You don’t owe twitter your trauma. Look after yourselves everyone”
I’ve been sharing my story since I had a social media account, through #EverydaySexism when I went to a feminist event then was followed down to the train station by a group of men. Safe home, I tweeted my anger only to be told it hadn’t happened. During #MeToo I told stories of the older men who took advantage, only to have to delete them when their friends found them and piled on.
Maybe you don’t want to share your story, because you’re the only one who knows or you don’t want to upset your family. That’s okay too. You know and you’re who matters most, you’re not doing anyone a disservice.
Perhaps you can’t share because the abuse is still happening – trust me I know where you’re coming from and I sincerely hope you don’t have to hear people discussing this with your abuser while he gives a “not all men”. I hope you get out. I am rooting for you.
Whenever things like this happen, the onus is always on women to share their stories in order to show just how much it happens.
It could be that you just don’t want to share your trauma, you know that it won’t be a good experience for you, so you’re choosing not to. You think it’s nobody’s business but yours. You’d be 100% right there too and I fully support you in that. Points for sticking to those healthy boundaries (also, help?).
Whenever things like this happen (and they always happen, don’t they?) the onus is always on women to share their stories in order to show just how much it happens. But it’s never on the men to have conversations with their friends, to call out their sexism and harmful behaviour or to tell them to leave a girl alone if they can see he’s making her uncomfortable. As they say, women are taught how to not get raped, but men are never taught how not to rape.
The reason sharing traumas on days like these can be triggering especially is that nothing ever changes. Men don’t suddenly stop harassing and assaulting us. Of course sharing brings us together, but can also be massively taxing on us all. Every woman I know is mentally exhausted right now.
Amazing as everyone sharing their stories is, please know it’s also a great act of resilience to take a step back and look after yourself if you don’t want to share. It doesn’t make what happened to you any less real. I believe you.
Rachel Charlton-Daily is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter at @RachelCDailey