airing out my dirty laundry
Sex and intimacy are not something that people like to talk about in public. More precisely, it’s deemed inappropriate. With this attitude towards sex you’d think it wasn’t natural or normal. Therefore when the conversation shifts, when domestic abuse replaces intimacy, when sexual assault or rape replaces consensual sex, we don’t know how to engage.
airing out my dirty laundry is about my womanhood being used against me; my sexuality being manipulated for others’ purposes. Dirtiness is something we are ashamed of. After my experiences with an emotionally abusive partner and being raped on a first date, I felt dirty. I felt damaged. I felt broken. I felt ashamed. I felt like I should have known better. But what does that say about other victims? That they didn’t know better? This is where victim shaming has gotten us. Many victims of assault and abuse are afraid to talk about it because too often, those who do dare speak out are systematically ridiculed, discredited and reminded that there is little that can or will be done to prevent future harm to them or others. When no one else is held accountable, it’s no wonder that many victims blame themselves.
What I’ve had to remind myself is that my emotions, my reactions to what happened, are normal. I’m experiencing a normal response to trauma. I didn’t feel dirty because of what I did, I felt dirty because of what someone else did to me. By trying to conceal what had happened, I inadvertently excused these individuals for abusing me. I didn’t file for a restraining order against my partner because I didn’t think he could handle it. I didn’t go to the police after the rape because I didn’t want to further traumatize myself in legitimizing what had happened. The result of their actions stripped me of my autonomy. My body was the very site where trauma occurred. My mind had been trained to believe I didn’t deserve better. When you do not feel safe, you run and hide. When you do not feel safe inside of your body, inside of your mind, there is nowhere to run to. There is nowhere to hide.
airing out my dirty laundry is about reclamation. It’s not a return to the way things were before, but a reinstatement of power. It’s about exposing the truth despite being seen as inappropriate or taboo. If our silence helps perpetuate sexual and domestic abuse, it’s time we talked about it. It’s time we started airing out our dirty laundry.