There’s a comedian named Margaret Cho. She’s hilarious. She’s also full of rage.
Cho, like so many women, has been the victim of multiple sexual assaults. Some of the attacks on Cho happened in dark parking lots and at friends’ houses. But some happened in broad daylight with witnesses—no one questioned the man playfully lifting a girl in a swimming pool. What people didn’t see was how he strategically placed his fingers inside of her as he lifted her out of the water. What everyone saw was innocent horseplay.
Margaret Cho was sexually assaulted by several men, and these attacks scarred her deeply. Cho is posting one story at a time to vent her rage and share her stories. Her #12daysofrage campaign on social media urges survivors to use the hashtag to share these all too common stories in a show of solidarity and healing.
Cho’s use of social media as a confessional as well as a rallying platform to shed light on criminal behavior is admirable. There’s something therapeutic in sharing these private and horrific stories.
When I was nineteen, I told my mother about my stepfather’s sexual abuse. Her initial response was to scrawl shorthand versions of my account on a legal pad, as if preparing notes for the defense—not mine. I never dragged our family into court. Nothing could be proven. There had been no rape. My mother decided to settle the matter by, “believing that I believed.” In this way, she could go on with her life as if nothing had happened. By that time, I lived 800 miles away. We could see each other without my stepfather being involved. No life-altering arrangements necessary.
But there’s always that elephant in the room…
For a long time she wanted me to either forgive him in a way that involved acting like nothing had ever happened or to recant my accusations altogether. Many times over the years I considered doing just that. But I’m not a liar. Recanting would make her happy, but it would eat away at me for the rest of my life.
Neither one of us likes the other’s stance on the issue, so we don’t talk about it. But it’s always there. I told her that her husband deliberately sought me out when I was alone, waited until I was asleep and fondled me. If this had been anyone else in the world, my mother would have executed vigilante justice and happily sat in jail. But her husband? No. Perhaps she decided that because I was no longer an immediate presence in her life, she could afford the collateral damage of taking his side.
I love my mother; I always will. But love doesn’t preclude rage. And pent-up rage has to go somewhere.