I have a guest post up on Jim C. Hines’s blog today about how sexual assault survivors are portrayed in genre fiction.
This isn’t the first time I’ve disclosed being an assault survivor, but I’m talking about a different assault here, and this one’s probably going to get a lot more traffic. I want to take a moment to talk about how to talk to me about this, because I know Miss Manners doesn’t offer a guide to responding to this sort of news.
First: I’m fine. Really.
John Scalzi has a really beautiful essay about miscarriage in which he talks about the grief he and his wife felt:
Were you to express your condolences to us today, we would of course thank you for them — we know they’re sincere and we know they’re meant from the heart. But we would hope you would also understand when we said “thank you” and then chatted with you about something else entirely, it’s not because we are pained about revisiting the grief. It’s that the grief is like a shirt that is six sizes too small. It fit once, but it doesn’t fit now, and trying to get it back over our heads would be an exercise in futility.
That describes pretty much exactly my relationship to the trauma I ounce felt around being assaulted.
Our society has some weird taboos around talking about assault that are very much tied in with the guilt and blame we place on survivors. There was a time when I internalized those narratives, but that time is long, long behind me.
So while I appreciate folks’ concern, please understand that I’m the same person I was before you knew this about me. This is not a gushing hemorrhage. It’s an old, faint, faded scar, easily hidden. There is no cause for alarm.
I disclose my survivor status because I want society to be a safer and more compassionate place for survivors. This is a political discussion for me, and I talk about it politically.
But the fact that I talk about it on my terms, for this specific purpose, does not mean that I’m interested in discussing it in other contexts.
This is a fraught and difficult subject, and like many other fraught and difficult subjects, it needs to be approached with care.
It’s not, for example, something I particularly want to talk about at work, or when I’m socializing at a professional conference.
A simple “Hey, I read your post” is perfectly fine–I’m not ashamed of having written it. You don’t need to pretend you didn’t see it. But please respect that I’m unlikely to want to have an involved discussion about it.
Third: For Other Survivors
If you are an assault survivor who needs someone to talk to: I’m really sorry things are rough for you right now. You matter, and you deserve the very best care and support. Please seek out organizations local to you that assist survivors. I’m not a crisis counselor, and I cannot provide the quality of support that you deserve.
I’m going to go ahead and turn off comments on this. Feel free to head over to Jim’s blog to comment on the original post.