“Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug.”
Strong words, I know. Those words leapt out at me as I read an article recently in Time magazine by Laurie Penny about the recent “Me, Too” response to Harvey Weinstein’s behaviors and the reality that this isn’t just experienced by the Hollywood elite.
As we know, sexual harassment, abuse, assault and stalking are often a fixture in many women’s lives.
Me, too. I didn’t write about in my memoir, You Carried Me, because I do believe it’s important to decide what you share, if you share it, and where you share it, but as you can probably imagine, yes, I do know what it’s like to be victimized.
Although I can relate to the multitude of women who have been targets of sexual abuse, the resounding words of “me, too,” awoke something in me that only a few others can understand. As I saw women giving voice to their experience, finding strength in the sad but strong numbers of others who share in their experience, my heart cried out for a population who I think would love to say, “me, too,” but are largely ignored and even silenced in our culture:
Although their words are often much more lengthy than the hashtag #metoo, that is the very message that is echoed in the emails and correspondence that I receive. “You’re a survivor?! Me, too! All these years I thought I was the only one…”
In a world that claims to fight for women to be respected, our experiences heard, female survivors of abortion, like Gianna Jessen and I can hear our questions about where our rights were as we were being aborted echo back emptily.
In a world that works to protect those who are victimized, survivors are largely ignored and even accused of lying about their experience.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve read those accusations made about me. Despite my medical records reflecting the abortion procedure, medical staff’s statements confirming the events, my birthfamily admitting to the attempt to end my life, there are still those who hurl words of contempt and disbelief.
Those words certainly don’t go unnoticed. Those very statements made about Gianna Jessen, which I read in the news over the years, made me very carefully discern whether I would come forward with my story publicly. And I hear from survivors repeatedly how they, too, read the articles about those of us who are open with our stories, and are often paralyzed by the negative commentary. Their fears in ever talking about their experience is often reconfirmed and even intensified by the journalistic coverage and keyboard commentary courage that smacks of victim shaming.
Of course, that sort of victim backlash has also been seen in the midst of the “me, too” awareness. I can almost hear the words percolating in people’s heads if they haven’t encountered it or worked with survivors themselves. Surely this hasn’t happened to this many women, right? Surely some of these women must be lying.
As survivors of abortion, we aren’t alone in our experience of being forced into silence and victimized by a society that struggles to accept the difficult truth about our lives and abortion.
How did we get here? As the writer in Time’s October 30, 2017, edition so beautifully states, “that’s how structures of oppression work—by excusing almost everyone involved from acknowledging what’s happening.”
Whether the oppression abortion survivors face is known by those who are excused from acknowledging it, which is truly a large section of our culture who aren’t fully informed on abortion and survivors, or it is done entirely by deliberate efforts to silence us by the media and abortion industry, (personally, I suspect it’s likely a mix of the two, with most simply being excused to acknowledge it through lack of information), the reality is that abortion survivors long ago learned that there is a cost that comes from speaking out about our experience. A great cost.
And as I read this Time article, although I was saddened by our experience of being shamed, silenced, ignored and accused of being disingenuous, I found strength in the reality that although we, as survivors, may not have our own “me, too,” movement and hashtag, we’ve come a long way in the last 44 years since Roe v. Wade.
We’ve found strength in our adversity. We’ve found purpose in the midst of our suffering.
We’ve discovered that we aren’t alone.
No matter how the media or the abortion industry may try to discredit or dismiss us, we know our truths.
And no amount of oppression will blanket it.