Sexual Abuse attitudes might be infohazardous
Content warning: sexual abuse, rape, arguably trivialising thereof.
When I was 11 an older boy used to pull me behind a door in one of the school corridors, trap me there, shove his hand down my pants, and touch my penis.
This happened about once a week for a couple of months, until I moved to a different school (for non-related reasons).
I knew it was taboo, but I didn’t yet know about sex, and didn’t really understand why. I never thought about it again till a few years later when he sent me a letter apologizing. My parents were extremely curious about what the letter was but I burnt it before they had a chance to read it.
I never told anyone about this until now, and even now I’m writing this pseudonymously.
Not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed. I’m not—I didn’t do anything to be ashamed of. But because I’m fine.
I really am. I don’t think this made any lasting impact to my life. I’m happy, well adjusted, married, successful etc. I just don’t really think about what happened very much, but then again I rarely think about anything that happened to me when I was 11.
And yet I feel like society is telling me that I ought to be broken. That I’ve been sexual abused. That recovering from this will be a difficult painful process, probably requiring therapy. And I fear that if I tell someone that, they’ll treat me like that’s the case, and I might end up believing it about myself.
From a purely objective perspective, non-violent rape doesn’t seem quite as bad as society makes it out to be.
It’s obviously unpleasant and frightening, but we treat rape as one of the worst things that can possibly happen. We expect “rape victim” to become someone’s whole identity. We expect them to need intensive therapy to put themselves back together.
And I’m sure for plenty of people that’s true. But for plenty of others it’s true only because we expect it of them. People fill the social role that’s been made for them, even when that’s not ideal for them.
I don’t know what to do about this. How do we communicate that sexual abuse is really not ok, without making victims of it feel like it’s worse than it actually is?
But at the very least, when you hear somebody’s abuse story don’t jump straight into treating them like a victim. Find out how they feel about it, and if they don’t feel like it was that bad, there’s really no need for you to make them feel like it was worse.