Melissa Schuman, Nick Carter and the Refusal To Be Afraid of Being ‘That Girl'

Melissa Schuman recently named Nick Carter as one of the recent renowned male names on the long list of those accused of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry.

As a reason for waiting to come forward, she wrote, in her blog post: "Who the hell wants to be famous for being raped?"

Making the decision to come forward and have something traumatic become a large part of your SEO legacy for as long as the Internet may exist is a tough choice.

When we speak out as trauma survivors of any kind, not just sexual abuse, we’re accused of wanting attention, choosing to be “victims,” trying to get some sort of personal gain, when actually what we’re trying to do is help other people realize they are not alone. At least, that was my motivation, which is why it doesn’t take long for my association with 9/11 to make itself well known in an Internet search.

When you do an image search of Helaina Hovitz, it suggests that you might "Also like to search for Osama bin Laden."

Every girl’s dream.

11_27_metoo_02 Demonstrators participate in the #MeToo Survivors' March in response to several high-profile sexual harassment scandals on November 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. David McNew/Getty Images

Before I made a decision to sign a publishing contract for my memoir, I wondered, “What if people think I’m still That Girl? What if they judge me? What if they think I can’t let go of 9/11 and want everyone to throw me a pity party? What if the families who lost loved ones throw eggs at me?”

But after a few days, I let those “what if’s” go, because my motivation to help reach as many people as possible and share my experience and hope with them was greater than the fears my ego was trying to shove into my way.

I’d like to think that I’ve left a greater mark on the Web than that image search as ‘9/11 girl’ and all of the personal essays I wrote that share certain aspects of my experience that most people would like to keep locked in a safe somewhere forever.

I had a book published at 26. I co-founded my own social good news site (which is still on hiatus, in case any venture capitalists are itching to get their hands on that one, hint hint) at 27. I worked a leadership role at my dream publication for a while. I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of stories for more than 50 outlets that are positive in their messaging, helpful in the awareness and donations they raise for worthy organizations, nonprofits and individuals, and exist as a service to those who find them relevant in the health, mental health and wellness world.

At 28, I’m a rescue dog mom, I’m a wife, I’m a storyteller, I’m a zillion things that I don’t need to list because honestly, I’m not that important and you probably don’t care.

My point is, whether you’re a millionaire actress or a stay-at-home mom, you are more than what’s happened to you. We all are. There’s a ton you’d never know about me and my private life that the Internet will never reveal, even though I do tend to share a lot about certain aspects of my life to help others.

We are more than any medical or psychological diagnosis. We are more than things that were done to us, if we choose to be. People are complex and their lives are rich.

For every woman—or, hey, even man—who shares an experience that comes with risk, there are trolls who mean nothing to you waiting to tear you down. Those are the kind of people who just leech off of other people’s bravery or feel so unheard in their own lives that they feel the need to slap comments all over a site whose logo is a tiny bird to feel important.

11_27_helaina_01 Helaina Hovitz is an editor, writer, content strategist and author of the memoir "After 9/11." Helaina Hovitz

As a journalist and an editor, one of the first things I learned from the great Rebecca Traister was “Don’t read the comments.” I usually don’t. Now, though, if someone tags you in a tweet—oh, let’s say, for example, that you wrote another Op-Ed for Newsweek where someone said “We’re supposed to be celebrating the fact that you ran away from the base of the Twin Towers as they were falling when first responders were running into them?”—the contact is unavoidable.

Yet, no matter how much reflecting I do, I just don’t see a world in which a child should have been running into the crumbling World Trade Center instead of running for her life away from the cloud of debris.

What’s important to reflect on is this: after you speak up, make sure you do two things.

One, own your experience and use it to help others in whatever way makes the most sense to you in your everyday life.

Second, make sure you take care of yourself, and that you have social and professional support to help you work through this time period, however long it may be.

The women coming forward over the past few months are starting a revolution. The people who do come across my book and read it are realizing that there is a name for what they have and there is a way to create a better life. If your motivation is to do something meaningful, never be afraid of being That Girl.

Helaina Hovitz is an editor, writer, content strategist and author of the memoir After 9/11. She has written for The New York Times, Salon, Glamour, Forbes, Women's Health, Teen Vogue and many others. See more at @HelainaHovitz, www.HelainaHovitz.com and Facebook.com/HelainaNHovitz.

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