You don’t owe anyone a tour of your scars.

I’ve written something like this before, and I’m going to try to say this again, hopefully better this time.

When someone is demanding proof, details, exact examples — or worse, proclaiming, without asking, the impossibility of your very life — you don’t owe it to them to put the spotlight on your most vulnerable places, to reopen your old wounds, and gut yourself just so they can see.

I understand, in reaction to the silencing and denial and absurd faith in a different world, the impulse to blurt out the truth.  To uncover the ugliness inflicted on you and hold it up to their eyes.  I know that impulse, and I decide to go with it, sometimes.  It isn’t wrong or bad to do that.  But it is dangerous, and risky.

And this is just to say: you don’t have to.

You don’t have to risk exposing yourself to worse — to being gaslit to your face instead of in generalities.

You don’t have to risk being denied autonomy over your own story and dissolved into fuel for the exact perverse ideas your lived experiences contradict.

You may have plenty of testimony to give.  And when you give it, please keep an eye on what it does to you, to cut yourself open again and again, exposing your insides to open air and the opinions of those who will declare that what you’re bleeding isn’t blood.

Please, take care of yourselves.  Take time, if you need to, to cool yourself down afterward and to plan how to manage these things beforehand.  Consider what kind of bandages work best for your spirit.

If you want them, there are multiple guides out there with tips for how to disclose trauma and abuse, with suggested questions to ask yourself and steps to remember.  Like those, I would reiterate: if someone has already proven themselves hostile to you and disinterested in listening, it is okay to distrust them.

And disclosure?  Is an act of vulnerability, and vulnerability requires trust.

It is okay not to trust people to listen right.  It is okay not to trust people not to violate your further, with reactions only a hair different from “Are you sure you aren’t overreacting (i.e. reacting incorrectly)?” and “Are you sure it was really [blank]?”

You don’t owe it to anyone to risk that.  You don’t owe a tour, or a vivisection, or an open house.  Lock them out if you want.  Build a fence.

You don’t owe your new violators the story of your old ones.

9 responses to “You don’t owe anyone a tour of your scars.

  • Vesper

    thanks for writing this post. everything in it is important and doesn’t get said or heard enough.

    just wondering, but is there a way to mirror your stuff on Tumblr in an abbreviated “read more (link)” format that will point to the full post on your WP without having to use a “read more” on the WP itself if you don’t want to…? to help drive people to your WP and deter them from reading the whole thing on Tumblr, never bothering to visit your WP let alone comment there.

    just a thought.

    • Coyote


      I've thought about that. For this post, I decided to make it fully readable on-dash, just 'cause I want to really up the chance of it being read fully through, but for other posts, depending on length and subject matter, I'm thinking of putting a link that says "Keep reading" that brings people to the WP post, like you said.

      I mean, I'd have to do it manually, but I'm already re-tagging manually and since I don't post many times a day it's no big deal.

  • Libris

    I appreciate this post.

    Question: is this solely about disclosing sexual violence/similar narratives, or just kind of… stuff in general? (I feel bad saying ‘trauma in general’, because what if it’s not traumatic enough, etc, but including this note in case it helps you understand where I’m coming from.) I’m asking because it doesn’t specifically state that, but almost all the links seem to be about that, and I don’t want to spill all my thoughts somewhere where it wouldn’t be appropriate.

    • Coyote

      I appreciate your comment.

      The links are just the ones I could easily find that I thought would be applicable, but I think the concept — you don’t have to tell people about times when you were hurt — is generally applicable, yes. Sooo, stuff in general.

      • Libris

        Then… this is always something I find difficult, so I appreciate you writing about it.

        It’s hard to consider it even really being a thing that might apply, you know? I always figured that, well, if I had to be hurt, then I needed to turn that into a weapon for other people to use. It didn’t matter if that caused people to hurt me more; if they were hurting me, then they weren’t hurting someone else, and I was already fucked up, so all I could do was try to weaponise that to try and prevent other people getting hurt.

        Mostly I try to fight that assumption for the sake of other people. It’s not fair to expect other people to weaponise themselves; they are real people with real hurts and also real agency, and I don’t want them to be hurt more.

        It’s hard to think that about myself, though – like, I’m only me, so what does it matter if I get hurt more, you know? I don’t know. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.

        ….I realise this probably sounds ridiculous and is full of messy feelings. Just. ‘disclosure is an act of vulnerability’, instead of an act of throwing your wounds in people’s faces, hoping that that will distract them from hurting others. Resonated a lot.

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