I’ve spent the past few days trying to explain to people why no one’s pain is invalid, why trauma is trauma. I never thought I would ever need to have that conversation with someone who has also experienced the type of pain (to any extent) that the “me too” posts are voicing, but here we are.
This post is primarily a response to a Neshama who I feel tried to silence other Neshamas,
though I recognize her pain and I feel it, I’d like her to consider another perspective.
And this post is about pain.
Mine, yours, theirs, ours.
I did make a “me too” post.
I left out the details of my abuse because I realized quickly that there were comparisons of people’s abuse being made and I didn’t want anyone to feel like their pain was less than mine.
That doesn’t help them feel heard and validated, and it certainly doesn’t help me heal.
I also realized that, more than awareness, these posts are about creating togetherness, so I said “me too” in an acknowledgement that yes, me too,
but I didn’t say how much of me.
It sickens me that I feel the need to describe the “caliber” of my pain, but it seems that it’s necessary in order for my opinion on this matter to be received and respected… so here goes.
When I was 5, I was molested by my mother’s AA sponsor. He was like our family member, I slept over his house constantly, it went on for many many years. I’m not sure if he raped me because I’ve blocked most of it out, something that 2 years of therapy still has not been able to uncover (maybe a blessing in disguise). I do know that he was in his 60’s, had a wife and kids, and had dirty nails and I consistently had bladder infections which my mom assumed was because I wasn’t being a good girl and wiping properly. When I finally told my parents a few years ago, my father called me a liar and refused to apologize when I was able to prove it to him, my mother made it about being upset that I never told her, and my sister (who was there most of the time and knew and told me not to tell) called me selfish for hurting my parents with this information and told me to just grow up already.
When I was 7, a neighborhood boy stole my first kiss by pushing me down onto a dirty mattress outside and forcing his tongue and his spit into my mouth. That same boy had his cousin hold me down and do the same a year later while he laughed and held onto my arms so I couldn’t fight.
Was that as bad as the molestation? I don’t know, because trauma builds, and I had built up quite a bit by then. You cannot simply look at a person’s room and judge its construction, there is an entire building for you to consider.
When I was around 8, two neighborhood boys held me down, tore my underwear off and poked at, and in, my vagina with a branch, they said they were just curious.
When I was around 10, two neighborhood boys locked me into a bathroom, forced me onto my knees and then stuck their penises in my mouth. When they let me go, one of them bragged to my sister that I “gave them head” and my sister believed it, she called me a disgusting slut and told my dad. I lied to him, he believed me, I was sick for days.
When I was 19, my boyfriend, who I loved, got drunk and slapped me on the face with his penis and then forced it into my mouth. But he loved me he said, and I couldn’t consider it abusive.
When I was 22, I was having consensual sex with a man and halfway through he attempted to take off the condom and continue and I said no. He tried over and over and finally pushed me into the couch and tried to force me, I fought back for the first time. But yes, I initiated the sex, doesn’t compare to full blown rape, does it? Did it hurt any less? I’m not sure, I don’t know how to work the scale.
When I was 25 (and frum) I had food poisoning and fell asleep on a bus in Jerusalem. I woke up to a man sitting next to me with his hands on the inside of my thigh. Happens all the time. But this time my clothes stayed on, so I suppose I should be grateful that it doesn’t compare to the others. But did it hurt less?
Many of these instances overlap in time. I grew up in a bad neighborhood and catcalling was a norm, so was rape. I don’t mention the times I was catcalled here, not because they are insignificant, but because they are too numerous. But let me assure you, some hurt just as much as any one of the instances I mentioned above. When that guy in that truck yelled “hey baby can I get a kiss?” it took me back to the boy holding me down asking me for a kiss and not waiting for an answer.
There is always more to every story, there are layers that take time to unfold. When you see a “me too” post, you have absolutely no idea how many times this woman has experienced this, you have no clue if she chose only to reveal her least painful trauma as a form of protection from people who would seek to diminish her pain, you have no concept of how much trauma she was already carrying around when that guy yelled “nice ass” at her. And yes, it’s possible that maybe that’s the worse thing that’s ever happened to her, if so, she should feel blessed,
You do not understand how much courage it took for her to speak out.
You do not get to judge her pain, or anyone’s. There is no scale, and if there was, you and I are not at the top my friend. The thing about pain is, there is a never ending supply of it in this world. So why should we be contributing to each other’s?
Using my own pain to silence others only causes them more pain,
and I’m not interested in bringing them up (or down?) to my “caliber”.
It is because of my pain that I am able to recognize and validate the pain of others. There is nothing demeaning or diminishing to my pain when someone else shares theirs, in fact the two are not connected in any way.
Except when we connect them in solidarity.
Except when we connect to each other, one pained Neshama to another,
not in competition or comparison, but in hope and understanding.
I am listening. To all of you.
All of your pains are valid and validated and heard,
just as hers are,
Just as I know mine are too.
Yes, me too.
But yes, Neshama, you too.
All of you.