Every time I write about rape online, I have to delete a constant influx of judgmental comments about survivors who are still stuck in their trauma. This is not just the internet. When someone rapes you, it is not a pixelated affair. The blood is real, so our victim blamers and trolls have power that leaks into the everyday lives of many survivors.
What we say about others’ trauma matters. Over the years I’ve watched a steady stream of friends fall off Fetlife after trying to win a war against the internet’s vilifiers that seemed impossible to win. All they wanted was for people to stop judging their trauma, but for those privileged enough not to know what that struggle is like, having the freedom to criticise is more important than others’ wellbeing.
Rape doesn’t happen in one static moment. Before you recover, its backwash is intolerable and seemingly infinite. The shunting to and fro of survivors between deniers, apologists, police, and courts creates a kind of psychic homelessness, leaving a foundationless place from which to scramble towards healing. It leaves those who need sanctuary most lost in the loneliest darkness. All hope of finding a tolerable life evaporates.
Many recover, but apologists and a community’s lack of compassion still have power over some survivors. Even those who’ve found healing are periodically spat back onto the side of the road in trauma country by the blame of people who know nothing about a life that has rape in it.
I don’t know what gets people stuck in their trauma. I imagine that there is a host of things that do it. My ignorance means I must consistently quash my desire to judge survivors. I am, in many ways, stuck in certain behavioural habits that are less than healthy, as is everyone, and it took me an infinity to find healing from rape. I will not pull up my soapbox and look down on those who’ve not come through their trauma simply because I came through mine faster. Their stasis doesn’t make them lesser human beings. It makes them people who don’t have the resources I do, or the time I have, or the luck.
I healed by doing nothing particularly special. I’m not some hero with supernatural strength or knowledge or a treasury of rare resources. The only thing I ever did to get here was get up and try walking again. Resourcefulness is nothing more than a willingness to keep looking for solutions after you’ve run out of options.
Victim blaming and trolling traumatised people? That’s different. That takes a whole knot of internal ugliness and ignorance, so when you’re pointing fingers at survivors, all you’re doing is showing us how much stronger they are than you.