I’ve been writing about rape, depression, abuse, and anorexia on Fetlife for a year so my inbox has seen more than its share of messages from survivors. Some were men, some women. Some were partners of survivors, others were survivors. Some were recovered, others desperate. Some were young, others, beyond 60. There was only one thing they had in common:
They all felt isolated… isolated by the judgment of this community or by their own silence because they’d seen how others like them had been treated. They felt lonely in their darkest moments because we exist in a community that criticises people at the most harrowing point of their lives.
We’re cruel to one another.
But something else happens when survivors share their stories: other survivors start doing the same. They break the isolation of those who are still struggling. They connect with one another. Telling our stories is a potent way to cut through the loneliness of living with a disorder or in the wake of abuse. We have the power to create isolation but we also have the power to end it…
Because sometimes we gather in hordes underneath counterpost upon counterpost to judge a victim for weeks on end. The effect on someone who has just been traumatised are unimaginable to me. The crowd effect kills, and often those doing the dogpiling spend 80% of their time advocating for the very people they’re criticising.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why we insist on doing this to one another. All I can come up with is that we only consider the effects of our own judgment. We don’t look around us and weigh up the potential consequences when we’re one of hundreds who are criticising a survivor. You and I might make up a tiny pair, but when hundreds of us are piling onto someone who’s going through hell already, it’s inexcusable. It’s unforgiveable enough when there isn’t a suicide at the end of it.
But what about when there is?
Judgment will always be a permanent fixture on this site so the only thing we can do is counteract the isolation it causes.
We can tell our stories. The crowd effect works both ways, and when we share our truth, we collectively create a potent antidote to isolation.