There’s been a lot of talk about what sexual assault survivors think and feel about abuse. There’s been a lot of thinking about how we handle the death of someone who perpetrated abuse, and about how we work in communities with people who have changed and remediated themselves (or haven’t).
I think it’s important in conversations like these to remember that not all survivors have the same experiences. Not all survivors have the same thoughts on these matters. We can’t judge a survivor for having an opinion on their own experience. We are only experts at our own minds and our own methods of survival. When we engage with – and recover from violation of the body and the mind, we can only survive for ourselves and those we carry with us into that survival.
Asking survivors of abuse and assault to think the same way about everything is ridiculous. Here’s why: Our brains react to those things in different ways. Hell, our experiences of healing are different. For some, forgiving a rapist works, for others, hating them forever is the only answer. Others find that knowing the person that hurt them is being rehabilitated, that too can be a balm.
When I log onto twitter, or facebook, and see people shouting from the rooftops what they think a survivor should feel about one thing or another in the news, it makes me want to shut down and walk away.
Because having my mind made up for me, the feeling of someone telling me how I’m supposed to feel? That’s retriggering. Because in many ways, that is what breaks you when you survive something awful.
When you go through trauma everyone has to tell you how they got through it, and the only way through is the best way for you.
In a parallel, it’s the same problem as calling on the one disabled person in your classroom for answers on how they feel about being disabled is wrong, the same way in which you cannot ask the one person of color in your classroom to comment on racism – because every individual has a different feeling, and we all are individual.
This is not to be confused with assuming that all people are special snowflakes, because there are certain shared experiences.
I encourage you when these issues come up in the news to not treat this as a one size fits all conversation, but to consider that we all must rise up in our own way from the ashes.
Every phoenix looks different after the fire.