Me Too: The Path to Saying It and How Horror Helped Me Believe It
I’m grateful for horror. It challenges me, helps me empathize with others, and gives me an outlet for exploring my fears. But what I love most about the genre is that after years of watching and reading horror, I’ve learned that I can survive terrible things. Since the beginning of the Me Too movement and through my reckoning with my own past trauma, I’ve leaned on the women of horror for hope and inspiration. In a time when I desperately needed strength I could identify with, horror gave me Laurie Strode, Beverly Marsh, Diane Freeling, Jay Height, Sarah, Amelia, and most of all, Sidney Prescott. These women showed me what weakness and strength really looked like and helped me believe that I could be strong too. Horror has helped me survive, understand, and make peace with the hardest years of my life.
Two years ago, I was on my way to work and noticed something trending on twitter. Alyssa Milano had tweeted that if every survivor of sexual assault tweeted #MeToo, the world would be forced to confront how many of us there were. And that this was a real problem. (I would later learn about Tarana Burke and the origins of the movement.) I wanted to join her, but I was scared. At this point I was still considering myself a victim and struggling to admit that anything had happened to me in the first place. I still remember the intersection I was stopped at when I decided that I was going to tweet it also. But I had to wait till I got to work first. And that’s when I started making my plan.
I was a twitter lurker at that point, rarely tweeting anything and mostly just scrolling so I only had about 20 followers. But they were all friends and family; people who knew me personally. And I could not have any of them know my secret shame. I tweeted #MeToo. Only that. But only after blocking everyone I knew. I have no idea if that actually kept anyone from seeing my confession but no one ever said anything about it. So I guess my secret was still safe.
I was terrified that someone I knew would see and that it would get back to my family. They would never look at me in the same way again. They would know I had been weak. Or that the opposite would happen and other survivors would tell me I didn’t belong in their club. That my assault wasn’t real. Years of minimization had taken its toll and I still sometimes question whether I actually deserve to say I’m a survivor. I will find myself thinking “Why are you making such a big deal out of this? It’s fine. Nothing happened. You’re imagining it.” But I thought about Nancy Thompson taking her power back. And Beverly Marsh finding the courage to stand up to her husband and her father. If they could be brave, so could I.
The Access Hollywood Tape came out while I was rereading Stephen King’s Rose Madder about an abusive husband with a tendency to bite. It was while reading this that I uncovered a specific memory that I’d been repressing. I was comparing Norman, the biter, to my first husband and thinking to myself “He wasn’t so bad. At least he never bit me.” Then I remembered that he had. For years I had convinced myself that the scar his bite left was damage from a sunburn. And that he had bit me on the opposite side of my face than the scar it left. There’s still a part of me that can’t quite believe it actually happened. I search my mind for something else that I can believe because that was the scariest moment of my life. And every time I look in the mirror, I see a reminder of it. By reading about it happening to someone else, I was able to see how horrifying the act of biting another person to injure is and I could not diminish it anymore.
Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Gerald’s Game led to a long and honest conversation with my husband and was the first time I’d actually shared how I felt with him. Watching Jesse tell her younger self that “Just because it wasn’t the worst thing that has ever happened, doesn’t mean it was nothing” spoke right to the heart of my denial. For a long time, I believed that because my first husband never punched me in the face or sent me to the hospital, that he couldn’t have been abusive. These words from a character confronting her past gave me permission to see myself as a victim. Before I could consider myself a survivor, I had to actually admit that I had been a victim. That it had all really happened and that it was wrong. I have Stephen King to thank for that.
Throughout the Scream franchise, Sidney Prescott showed me the kind of woman I could be. Someone who fought back. Over four films she showed me how I could continue living my life after trauma. Refusing to remain a victim. Her book, Out of Darkness, made me realize that I could come out of my own darkness. She is my ultimate role model. In her book, The 1990s Teen Horror Cycle, Alexandra West helped me understand that Sidney was so powerful because she refused to let anyone else write her narrative. And that I could take charge of my own.
In Revenge, Jen showed me that I could be a warrior. Her tattoo (that looks just like mine) helped me reclaim the body that had been abused and mistreated for so long. I can’t change it, but I can learn to look at it in a new light. And not be ashamed.
In The Babadook, Amelia showed me how I can continue to live with my mental illness. And how letting my loved ones in can help me heal.
In The Descent, Jess showed me that even though the worst has happened, I am still here.
In The Perfection, Charlotte and Lizzie showed me that my scars can be beautiful. And that when survivors come together, we can drown out those who would seek to use us.
In M.F.A., Nicole showed me that I am not alone. She said the things I wanted to say and got the revenge I never will. And she showed me that in order to get it, I would have to sacrifice my humanity.
Laurie Strode showed me that surviving trauma is hard. And it affects the people around us. The image of her kissing herself on the forehead showed me a way to look at myself with compassion and helped me stop blaming myself for what had happened. In Halloween H20: 20 Years Later and the 2018 sequel, she showed me that life goes on and it’s up to me where my story goes.
Thanks to these strong women and men, I can finally say:
I am a survivor of sexual assault. I was assaulted by a man with a camera in a grocery store. I was assaulted on two different occasions that I barely remember because I was blackout drunk. I was continuously assaulted for three years by my first husband. These assaults have affected every single piece of my life. I have PTSD. But I am a survivor. I survive it every day. If anything like this has happened to you, know that I see you and I care. You can survive it too. You are not alone.