I’ve been doing weekly Q&A sessions with my followers on Instagram. I tried something different recently and posed the question “If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?”

The question/answer platform provides anonymity, with zero judgment. A sense of security for someone to express how they feel and release it to the world. Without the disclosure of an identity, it enables empathy.

Admittedly, I expected the majority of the people who took the time to answer to say things like “oh I wish I had focussed on my career earlier” or “I wish I could go back and spend more time with a parent before they passed”. Instead, some of the responses I received were even more heartbreaking.

I got the first couple of replies like, I wish I hadn’t met a particular guy or had dumped him sooner. Then the first one hit me and I was completely taken back. It was about a girl that wished she could go back and tell her mother sooner that she had been molested, instead of keeping it from her to protect her.

Well, as you can imagine, this hit me like a tonne of bricks, straight to the heart.

This girl had exposed herself to the rest of my followers and the world and by doing so, she allowed other people to come forward about the abuse and violence that they had endured. I had facilitated people to come forward about trauma in their lives, as a form of therapy, awareness, healing, or whatever you’d like to label it as.

I noticed a very distinct pattern over the 24 hours that the story question was posted, there was a lot of pain and trauma. Others were coming forward about rape, molestation, and violence. On such a personal level, it was truly heartbreaking. The re-emerging pattern here was that they were all women, or rather, women that had been taken advantage of by men.

I’m grateful for the honesty of the people that answered. You don’t usually expect responses like that on social media. The surface of social media boasts perfection, full of perfect people with their perfect lives. Everyone forgets that it’s populated with real people, that have gone through life-altering events. We’ve become accustomed to blocking out the suffering of others. Most of us think it’s the reality of the world that we live in. We should just accept the fact that bad things happen to people but not to the people on social media, because everyone’s tanned, having fun and happy.

What really made my heart sink was that anonymity allowed people to come forward so they wouldn’t be judged. Sharing their past trauma was okay because they wouldn’t have to feel shame or embarrassment by being in the victim spotlight.

Whether it’s men or women, this isn’t a gender issue, it’s a human issue. At the center of all of it: entitlement. Entitlement is the force that drives expectation. No one is entitled to another person’s actions or their body. There is no ownership over someone and their body.

I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking that I sound like an idealist, thinking that I can solve a worldwide issue with a few simple words. I’m not trying to sell you my services or products, my goal is to raise awareness. I’m telling others to remove entitlement from their lives and to respect people’s rights. It’s not a crazy notion. It’s called being a decent human being and respecting the boundaries of others.

The entire issue needs more attention, the world needs more empathy without judgment and abusers need to be held accountable. To the people that did reach out, thank you and I’m grateful that I could help you with whatever you took from that. If you or anyone else needs to talk, you can drop me an email or message on social media, with zero judgment.

Originally published at medium.com