I feel for BuzzFeed writer Jessica Testa. While our blog may not get the massive traffic that BF does, I’ve still experienced brief bouts of hundreds of people being furious with me because I wrote something that genuinely held no ill-intent. I think that no matter how obvious it is that the Internet is full of millions of humans who disagree with you–who can and will let you know that in a heartbeat–it is still stressful when your words become a source of both brief and lengthy critical thought.
In case you missed it, this morning we wrote about a very incredible conversation started by Christine Fox (@steenfox). She asked survivors to tell her what they had been wearing when they were sexually assaulted, and the outpouring of responses were amazing. While we all knew the conclusion–it doesn’t matter what you were wearing, nothing you do attracts or invites rape–it was just so much more powerful when it came from survivors themselves.
So, when Jessica Testa compiled a list of these tweets for BuzzFeed, stating she had explicit permission from every user whom she quoted, many of the discussion’s participants and outsiders alike were upset about the amount of exposure these extremely personal details were getting. Christine Fox was asked permission regarding Testa’s use of her Twitter conversation, but apparently never gave it.
— Adele Dazeem (@steenfox) March 13, 2014
The amount of exposure the thread was getting was likely unexpected, as writer Anil Dash noted.
Billions of people know “visible on the web” doesn’t always equal “I want this published in the media with ads around it”. Respect that.
— Anil Dash (@anildash) March 13, 2014
Rewind: To be honest, I missed all this was going down last night. I wish I had seen it, though I have little doubt in my mind that it would have made my night a rough one; I don’t have very much memory of my rapes because my brain blocked large chunks of my childhood and teen years out. Once upon a time nearly two years ago, I wrote about this for The Gloss. It was the first time I had ever talked about it on such a public level. Sure, people who knew me were aware of my PTSD, or at least that I was “crazy”–I was a raging drunk who had frequent panic attacks and a very poor handle on reality–but I had not yet written it out all at once that way. The guilt and regret I had experienced on a daily basis for nearly a decade were desperate to come out, so they did.
After I sent my piece in and it was published, I felt profound sense of relief. I was crying and I was sick, sure, but I was relieved. I chose to tell my story, I chose to have my article published, I chose to have strangers read it. In doing so, I shared one of my most personal, painful stories and wound up communicating with many other survivors in the process–something that made me feel less fucked up, less lonely, less guilty.
When I read through the tweets from last night’s discussion, I felt that same sort of relief and warmth, like a blanket of knowledge reminding me that I’m still not alone. Of course, I do not know the motivations of the survivors who participated in @steenfox’s discussion because I don’t get to speak for them. Yes, I’m a survivor too, but we all have our own stories and even among those who have experiences, there are so many different opinions and feelings toward how others talk about our stories. And that brings me back around to the “ethics” debate.