There is bravery in saying “no”.
If you have the privilege of living your life without someone you trust touching you inappropriately I am jealous of you. You live in a world I am unaware of. I know trust, and I know manipulation, I know twists of the truth, and I know a life with memories that are hard to live with.
Many, many, many people have stories that are way worse than mine. My heart aches as I hear them. One by one I hear the hurt, I hear the self-blame, and I hear the aches in their soul that have latched onto their body.
So many go silent. So many take full responsibility, we know of no other way. The brain is complex and is designed to protect us from the reality of the fog we were in. The harsh truth is learning the shame of putting yourself in a position that led to moments you don’t want a part of your story, and blame you don’t feel strong enough or empowered enough to put on the other person.
Ownership. We have a responsibility to understand our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses that led to a place we never wanted to get to. That is our part. That is our ownership. We play a part in the “dance” of a toxic relationship. The awareness of our contribution is important in moving forward in our life. But there is more.
Self-Doubt. Do you remember saying “no”, saying you want it to stop, saying you are uncomfortable? We forget our “no” in the midst of shock and trauma. We only remember what happened. Our “no” feels small, it feels insignificant, like it doesn’t matter, and we blame ourselves that it wasn’t loud enough. You are twisted into believing what respect actually is. You believe what you are told to believe about yourself and what is going on around you, within you, beside you, and happening to you. You are taught to doubt your intuition in the weakest moments in your life as you navigate an airplane unsure of which way is up and what is upside down.
Loss of Control. It is all scary, it feels unavoidable, even though it is completely avoidable. It is avoidable! There is a way out! The voice showing you the way out seems small, you have to find it, but it’s in there. Once your control is taken away it’s hard to get it back, and that’s a really hard one to describe to someone that doesn’t understand.
There are people who have said “no”. Who have slapped the face at the disrespect someone is treating you. Who know their worth so concretely they wouldn’t have someone tell them otherwise. To the people who are strong, and we all are strong, but it’s the moments when we are weak that we are the most vulnerable, where we are most open to suggestion. To being a target.
I commend the stories of men and women than have said “no”, that have “fled” in the presence of an unhealthy environment. I applaud you, respect you, and know the strength it took for you to do that. Sadly, those stories are few. The stories of pressure, of manipulation, and intense pursuit are the many that I hear and that I have survived. I don’t claim innocence, but I am claiming the struggle, the battle, the reality that it is not as easy as people who don’t understand think it is. I want to get it, I want to comprehend it, because I want to get stronger.
The thoughts my brain wants to cycle with is ‘what is consent’? Is consent a resounding “YES, I know what I am walking into”, or is there such a thing as a ‘coerced consent’. A “no”, followed by a “no”, and another “no” until your body realizes there is no other way out except a quiet “yes”. Is that consent? Has anyone felt that way before? When the question persists until the answer is the one they want, is that consensual? When you feel there is no way out is that consent?
You are mad you are there, you blame yourself for trusting, that you put yourself in that moment. But once you are there, you are scared. How do I get out? Where’s the door and how do I get there? What do you do when you feel stuck? When someone takes away your control and you want it back, when someone you trusted makes you feel safe and then takes advantage of that safety, when someone you trusted makes you blame yourself?
If this isn’t you, I promise it is your friend. I promise it is your neighbor. Not talking about a time in their life they want to forget. Not wanting to remember the hurt. Not wanting to believe that little person hurting and crying is still someone inside of them.
If you said “no”, if you ran away, if you fought for the belief you knew about yourself I am in awe. You amaze me, and you should be proud of the strength, bravery, and courage it took to do what you did.
If you didn’t know how, if you froze, if you got stuck, if you got lost, if you got tangled in twisted lies you need to know that you have strength too. You and I may at times feel that we lost it, but I refuse to give up on trusting my God when I lose my trust in people. He is bigger than the strongest enemy, He is louder than the voice of manipulation, He loves me in a way that exemplifies love. My God is my constant, He will fight with me, for me, and beside me. He lives in me. When you forget your strength don’t forget His.
If you want to write an Anonymous comment on this one or none at all I completely understand. This is a hard topic that so many of us struggle with silently, you are not alone.
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