You probably saw a few weeks ago on Facebook that women were posting the status “Me Too” as victims of sexual assault. Maybe you were even the one posting it. I know that every time I saw those two little words, my heart broke. I had multiple friends post that as their status, and I was saddened that there was so many.
Now although I have been catcalled (which feels pretty terrible), I personally have not been sexually assaulted, but I do not want to belittle others who have. Rather, I want today’s post to be a way for me to try to relate to the struggles these women (and men) have faced. I normally try to avoid controversial posts, but this has seriously been on my mind lately and I think it needs to be said. So bear with me, and here goes.
I could research statistic upon statistic of sexual assault. I could tell stories that I’ve read and heard of how the people react to being victims of sexual assault. But I’m not going to that. The only story I feel authorized to tell is my own.
I am a very empathetic person. I can usually pick up on people’s moods, and if they’re strong emotions, I usually feel them too. While I cannot know the extent of the emotions one faces after sexual assault, I feel like I have a pretty good idea. There’s pain, isolation, guilt, shame, maybe anger for what happened, and the feeling of invisibility. That specifically is what I want to focus on today.
I have felt invisible lots of times. I’m the youngest, so I felt like growing up, I was always in my sister’s shadow. That wasn’t entirely a bad thing, but I felt like I was expected to be my sister, and then people, especially adults, were disappointed when I did not fit that same mold. While a lot of things about us are similar, I am a very different person than my sister.
That’s honestly part of the reason I’m at Ball State. It was somewhere where I knew very few people, and therefore there were no pre-existing expectations from me. I thought that at Ball State, I wouldn’t feel invisible again. But I was wrong.
I’ve mentioned my job before, but I haven’t really mentioned what it is that I do. I work at a building on campus called the Alumni Center. It hosts events and there are lots of offices upstairs. But since it is near the stadium, there aren’t really any other purposes for it (so it’s not like anyone has class in there or anything). Anyway, my official position is “Student Event Attendant”. What I actually do is way more than that. I am part of the custodial staff, so I clean bathrooms, empty trash, and vacuum. But I also help set up and tear down for events that are happening by moving tables and chairs. It’s very behind-the-scenes, and needless to say, I am invisible a lot at work. To some of the people in the offices, they have never met me and thus I am just the nameless force that empties their trash or cleans the bathroom.
There have been multiple large events at the Alumni Center, even in the short time I have been there, where there are people dressed up in suits and dresses. They don’t notice me in my t-shirt and jeans. I’ve walked through throngs of people before or even stood off to the side, and I’ve seen eyes pass over me as if I’m not even there.
But even still, despite that, there are people that see me. I’ve had conversations with some of the office workers, guided people to where they needed to go, and done other things as well. So Ball State recently got a new president (like just started this summer new). I have seen him at work like 5 times, but I have not had the chance to introduce myself to him. Despite this, he still has noticed me and said hello to me three different times. All those times, I’ve been busy doing something for my job, but he noticed me anyways. As president of the university, he is under no obligation to speak to me. But he sees me anyway.
There is another way for people to notice me at work. If I am making noise or moving something, people notice. Last week, I was the only staff member in the building because I was called in to lock up. There was a small group of women having a meeting in the conservatory, which is the main area and has a type of hexagon cobbled/tile flooring. Our wheeled trash cans make really loud noises going over the floor and hitting every piece and crack in between the hexagons. So anytime I had to wheel something over it, I tried to be quiet for their sake, but they noticed me anyways.
So what does my work have to do with sexual assault? There are a lot of similarities actually. Most people will probably “pass over” and not even notice the victim or the problem. But I promise there will be people who always notice. They may say something, they may not. But they notice. More people will notice once there is noise about it.
As much as the “Me Too” movement broke my heart, I also secretly loved it. I wept over my friends who had that as their status, but I saw so much hope in that. It’s a pretty powerful thing when people can find their voice. I know those statuses were only geared towards women, but when all people can talk about sexual assault, those voices get heard, and guess what? Suddenly, you lose the feeling of being invisible.
I know it might be hard, but I hope you can find your voice and speak out about sexual assault. If you can’t find it publicly but you want to talk, I’m always here. Feel free to contact me somehow, and I’m more than happy to be a listening ear, cry with you, or whatever else you need. I’m here for you. You don’t have to be invisible anymore.