The response to yesterday’s post completely overwhelmed me– in the most beautiful way.
I was extremely nervous to put something so private, so vulnerable, so personal out into the world. I had grown used to carrying the burden of that secret for six years and to release that weight? Wow, it didn’t seem possible.
But with your help, it somehow feels lighter.
I was showered with love and with remarks about my bravery. And my courage. I don’t know if I would pick those words to describe sharing my story, but I appreciate them dearly. I’m honored to be described in such a way. I decided to write about my own experience because I was so angered by the remarks of political figures who seem to believe they know more about rape than women who have actually been held down against their will. It’s incredible to me that we can come so far in certain areas of progress, and yet we always seem to argue about women’s rights. This isn’t “I am woman, hear me roar” — this is “I am human, I have the ability to make choices, the right to make them, and I deserve to be treated as such.”
These are fine words I can type now, but it took me a long time to get there. Because when it came to my writing, my career, my public image — as a writer, an editor or as Lindsay Tigar on Facebook who went to Appalachian State, works for NBC and writes this blog — I wasn’t sure I wanted the scarlet-colored word of “rape” associated with me. Even if I’ve been writing about women’s issues since college, and mostly, about love, dating and, well sex. But consensual sex or a lack of consistent sex. Talking about the heavy, scary topics was always something I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure how to go about it or if I could even do it as well as I express what it feels to fall in love with someone.
How could I eloquently describe what it feels to fall out of love with yourself? To blame yourself for something that wasn’t your choice? To pretend you weren’t bothered when you walked past the person who raped you? To wonder if it really was your fault? How could I illustrate the thoughts that creep back into my mind every time a guy buys me a drink or when the eve of my birthday rolls around?
But then the greatest question bubbled inside of me earlier this week: how could I not talk about it when so many women need to hear that it can happen to anyone?
Yesterday alone, 15 women came forward to share their story of sexual assault, molestation or rape with me. Their words, their experiences are their own, and it’s not my place to tell them. But reading how many women, of all ages, stages, countries and walks of life, have been taken advantage of — absolutely broke my heart.
But it also really inspired me.
While we have all endured both the trauma itself and the long aftermath of mentally and emotionally processing it– we have all, also, rose above it. We’ve all made something of ourselves– some have met loyal, loving partners. Others have gone on to lead women’s groups and write about important topics, like this one. Many are incredible friends who support those who have gone through it, those who are afraid of it and those who can’t speak for themselves. Some are the strongest women I’ve ever known.
Knowing that like me, they were survivors — didn’t make me think any less or differently about them. If anything, it made me see how powerful they really are. Because being attacked — in any form — will never define their story, it’ll just be part of it.
As soon as you claim it, as soon as you let those awful words leave your lips: “I was raped” — they don’t own you anymore. They lose their power and you gain it. You don’t have to hide behind them and they certainly don’t define who you are as a woman, as a professional, as a lover, as…a person. They become words that belong to you and a painful experience that you overcame to become something stronger, brighter and more beautiful than you already are.
Thank you so, so much for making me accept that while what happened the night of my 18th birthday will always be a part of me and it is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not something I have to hide or a burden I have to bare. It is something I can now share anytime, anywhere, when you need to realize that you are many things — but alone, is not one of them. And what happened to you– it’s your story to tell, no matter how long it takes to say it.
If you’re a survivor of any form of sexual assault and you’d like to tell your story anonymously, I will publish it — without your name or any details — with your permission. You can fill out this form (I won’t even know who sent it!) or you can email me, if you feel comfortable enough. Talking about your experience will help give you power back.