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Jan 20

A letter from me to you…

*** TRIGGER WARNING: Some of the information below is graphic and disturbing ***

I don’t usually post Trigger Warnings on this site; not because I don’t believe in them. I think they are important and I am always grateful when authors use them. Some people criticize writers who use trigger warnings for pandering to an overly sensitive audience. I assume those comments come from people who have no experience with trauma, and I hope they get to continue living their ignorant existence. I also hope they sit down and shut up.

The reason I rarely post trigger warnings is that everything on this site needs one. Every single story, every single comment, every single blog post triggers me. But every single thing about this website lifts me up, in its own way. Every post reminds me I am not alone. Every comment and like and share reminds me that the conversation is shifting, we are making progress in breaking the silence, and our community is reaching those who need support. We are giving survivors a voice.

I am posting this trigger warning because some of the information below is especially disturbing. I’m posting it because if I have learned one thing on this journey, it is that bringing things to the light takes away their power over us.

Today, January 20, is Inauguration Day. Donald Trump was just sworn in as President of the United States. To say I am triggered is an understatement. I stayed in bed for hours this morning, unable to face the fact that America just instated a sexual predator and misogynist into its highest office. What motivated me to finally get out of bed was the realization that many of you are probably feeling triggered too. In this, as in with everything else, you are not alone.

A Letter to Survivors

Today I will have posted 13 Stories. Some of them have been sitting in my inbox for over a week, and for that I apologize. I have written to those of you who provided your email addresses, but I want to explain more about why I can’t always post them as quickly as I would like to, in a letter to everyone who has or will share their Story:

Dear friends and fellow survivors,

Thank you for trusting me with your Stories. Thank you for your vulnerability, and for your courage. On behalf of all survivors, thank you for helping us see that we are not alone. And thank you for being patient with me.

December is and always has been a difficult month for me. It’s not coincidence that it is when I started this Project, just over two years ago. At this time in 2015, my Story and this Project were featured in the National Post and Maclean’s Magazine. Stories were flooding in via the site and from survivors in my own life. Coworkers, grandparents, and complete strangers knew the details of my rapes. I was feeling exposed and inspired at the same time. I stopped sleeping and started falling apart, and with the help and support of my friends I got back on my feet.

If I am being really honest, I sometimes wish I could take it back. I wish my name didn’t appear in Google results, linking to details of my trauma. But every single time one of you shares your Story with me I have a renewed sense of faith that this is the right thing, and the right time.

Over the past two years, I have learned that I need to balance my activism with my own self care. I need to step away sometimes, I need to ask for help. You have all been incredibly supportive – I know that no one understands better than you.

I want you to know that your story isn’t being ignored. I believe you, and I care. I feel it is important to give each Story, each survivor, the attention they deserve. Sometimes, I can’t do that right away. No one has ever complained or criticized. I suppose, like many things, I put pressure on myself and forget to show myself the same compassion I feel for others. I just want you to know.

With love and support,

Lauren

The Privilege of Running this Platform

Receiving and posting your stories is a privilege. It is hard sometimes, but I don’t take for granted the trust you place in me and the support I get back in return.

Here is what it is like on this side of the screen:

  • When you submit your Story via the website, it generates an email to me. I get an alert, “Story Posted on WYR”. Depending on where I am and my emotional state, I either read it right away or flag it for later. I usually read each Story a few times. Sometimes they make me cry, sometimes they make me angry. They always make me wish I could reach out and hug the person who sent it.
  • I create a blog post using your content, exactly as you submit it. I do not edit content or grammar. The only time I modify the story is to redact names. If you send a picture, I include it (most people do not). Otherwise, I choose an anonymous photo that most closely represents your age/gender based on what I can tell from your story. I post the story and it appears on the site and is emailed to subscribers. There are a little over 1000 subscribers today.
  • If you submit your email (about 3 in 4 people do), I respond with a link to your story and a personal note. Between Elizabeth and me, we have responded to every single person who submitted their email addresses (about 3 in 4 people). Every single story touches me. Sometimes I share a personal experience with the survivor, I have told some of you things I have never shared with anyone else. At one point I considered just posting stories and stopping the personal responses, so that I could more easily keep up with the submissions. That day, a survivor wrote back to tell me how much it meant to him that I responded personally, and I realized it is too important a part of the process to lose – not just for you but for me.
  • I either post, or schedule your Story to be posted on Facebook, which automatically posts it to Twitter. We only post one Story on social media per day (so the 12 Stories posted today will appear over the next two weeks). This is to ensure that each one gets the attention it deserves from readers. The post reaches 452 Facebook users who “Like” the WYR Page. Posts that are liked or shared reach an exponential number of people. On average, whenyoureready.org reaches about 500 viewers per day from countries all over the world. On days where blogs or stories are posted, that number climbs to the thousands.

I don’t know what influences the number of submissions. Sometimes we get five or more stories in a day and wonder what prompted it. Maybe someone shared the site, or their own story. Maybe it was just coincidence. I never ask, because I don’t want to seem intrusive. We do see a spike in stories based on what’s going on in the world. When high profile rapists/attackers like Donald Trump, Brock Turner, Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby, and endless others are in the news, survivors look for outlets and support.

*** This is the ugly part: ***

I don’t know where all of the site traffic comes from, but I do collect some data. One of these is the search terms used to get to the site. Here are a few that have been used in the last two days – they are typical of what I usually see and they disgust me. I find it very upsetting to know that these people are likely getting off on the stories we share in what should be a safe space.

– Teen slut fucked at party story
– Teens raped hot stories
– Raping my son story
– How to rape after giving drinks story
– Rape of begging girl stories
– My friend rape me and I like it
– Raped the best friend sex story
– I want to be raped in front of my boyfriend
– Women enjoy raped story

I debated sharing this with you, I hope it doesn’t discourage anyone from sharing. My own story, “The Summer I Became a Slut” tends to get the most hits. I am certain this is because I used the word “slut” in the title and people come across it looking for something else. It sickens me to think someone is reading it and fantasizing about what happened to me as a teen.

Every couple of months, I get a flood of rape fantasy stories, all coming from the same user. This person writes lengthy, graphic, violent stories and submits them via the site. So sometimes when I sit down with a cup of tea and open my heart, I find that someone has gone out of his or her way to spread hate. I don’t respond to these ones, I delete them. I can’t shake the feeling that this person is a survivor who doesn’t know how to ask for help.

Sometimes, I get alerts that someone has linked to the site from another website. This is not as common anymore, but occasionally a Men’s Rights Activist group (MRA) posts nasty things about me and the site. I would like to say I have developed a thick skin, but I have not.

*** Okay, the ugly part is over ***

After two years of healing, growth, connection, and support – I am still fragile. The only real difference is, I am not alone.

Here are some updates on my personal healing journey – if you are interested in joining me for any of these please message me via the form on this site or Lauren [at] whenyoureready.org.

  • Tomorrow I am marching in the Toronto Women’s March.
  • Next month, I am hosting a gathering in my home for survivors. The event is February 11 in the late afternoon, in Downtown Toronto.
  • I am going to learn how to create a Word Press form that makes the submission process easier. I will still read every single story and respond to the ones that include an email address. I will still work on finding compassion for myself.

I can not say it enough: thank you for the privilege of being part of this community, thank you for sharing, and thank you for your support.

About the author

Lauren

Lauren Reid is the founder of When You’re Ready.org, a three time survivor of rape who built this community to let other survivors of sexual violence know that they’re not alone. When you’re ready, I’ll be here.

Permanent link to this article: http://whenyoureready.org/lovelauren/