From silence to action

Feminist Thought, Sexual Violence
One of the insidious things about rape culture is silence. Survivors of sexual assault remain silent, fearing retribution, shunning or disbelief. Community members remain silent unsure of how to respond. Is she lying? Is {insert celebrity or well-liked neighbor here} the type of person who would do something like that? The perpetrator is often silent. Sometimes because he scarcely believes he is guilty, or perhaps to keep a low profile in preparation for the next victim. But just as there is silence, there is often sound. We hear the voices of perpetrators, maintaining innocence in some cases; claiming she deserved it in others. Voices of community members who support the offender and/or berate the survivor. Voices of advocates who offer comfort, righteous indignation and activism for survivors. And sometimes we hear the voices…
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What do you want? #rapeculture #vaw

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative, Sexual Violence
People who have witnessed the recent steps on my journey have sent me good wishes and hopes for the outcome I want. Truth be told, the healing, the outcome I wanted for myself, happened long ago. But I've started to talk publicly about it. And I recently told my ex my thoughts about our past. This has inspired the following question from many corners: What do you want? I want to agitate. I want to make people feel uncomfortable. I want to counter rape culture. I want people to stop blaming victims. I want to add my voice to the chorus of survivors. I want partners to question their entitlement over another's body. I want people to talk. Especially men to their friends and brothers. To their sons and lovers. Rape…
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Just asking. #rapeculture #vaw

30 Day Blog Challenge, Sexual Violence
Is it possible he really forgot? It's been twenty years. I'm the one who was traumatized. I'm the one who said nothing. Did nothing. Well, that's not really accurate. I buried it. Allegedly got over it and got on with it. Honestly, I tucked it away from sight, but it was never very far. I carried it with me into each new year. Into every new relationship. It colored every subsequent encounter. Every single one. So it leads me to wonder: is it possible for someone to inflict such harm upon another and not recognize it as such? Apparently it is.
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Justice, conflicted. | #vaw #abolition

30 Day Blog Challenge, Abolition & Justice, Feminist Thought, Sexual Violence
The defendants in the Steubenville rape trial were found guilty yesterday. My initial reaction was elation. Jane Doe was sexually assaulted, then publicly humiliated, and despite the attempt to cast her as consenting to the abuse, her violators did not get away it. Only that's not exactly true. The chain of complicity in this case is long and tightly woven with bystanders who refused to intervene, friends and acquaintances who felt the ongoing assault of another human was worthy of laughter and sport, and still others who felt the need to rally against Jane, for the sake of young men who ostensibly had the rest of their lives ahead of them. These complicated factors aside, two people were found guilty, and for that I was glad. But I was also conflicted. They…
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Yes, yes, yes. | #vaw #fem2

30 Day Blog Challenge, Sexual Violence
In rape culture, "no" is not always honored as "no." No was an important aspect of my experience of sexual violence, because I had initially given consent. I said yes. The problem came when I changed my mind, and my "yes" became a "no." I was alert, angry, and unambiguously vocal in my "no." Sometimes the situation isn't as clear. One lesson from #Steubenville? Yes, boys and men need to be taught how to prevent rape. But some also need to be taught what rape even is. — Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) March 17, 2013 In Steubenville, OH, two high school football stars were convicted of raping a teenage girl too drunk to give consent. She was too drunk to say yes or no. By taking advantage of her inability to respond, the…
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No means no* #NaBloPoMo #vaw #fem2

30 Day Blog Challenge, Sexual Violence
At times boundaries are rendered ambiguous, when in actuality, they're sharply drawn. In rape culture, this means no is sometimes given an asterisk: No means no* when your partner says it three times. Or no means no* when your partner hits you in protest. No means no* when (fill in the blank). No means no. It means no when it's a stranger. It means no when it's an acquaintance. It means no when it's a family member. If it's your spouse, significant other or otherwise longterm partner, it still means no. Rape culture perpetuates the myth that perpetrators of sexual assault are always scary men with ski-masks and guns, hiding in the bushes for the easiest target. Or maybe they're burglars who break in to steal your electronics and get…
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Stories of Sexual Violence #NaBloPoMo #vaw #fem2

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative, Sexual Violence
I am a survivor of sexual violence. I've never stated it publicly, but I've hinted about it here and there. I'm tired of hinting. It's risky, claiming survivor status out loud. It's old wounds ripped open and sprinkled with salt. Once-dried tears, bubbling up, spilling over. Heart racing. Doubts. Anger. It's triggering. Digging into that history, thinking about it, remembering it, and sharing it is triggering. One could reasonably wonder why do it? I'll tell you why: to counter rape culture. Telling my story gives other survivors permission to tell theirs. It opens a channel for dialogue, healing and transformation. It creates a space for would-be perpetrators to see the effect of sexual violence and potentially make more loving choices. It adds to the public discourse about sexual violence, masculinity…
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Speak to me. #NaBloPoMo.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Feminist Thought, Personal Narrative, Sexual Violence
Yesterday I touched on the risk of remaining silent. I have more thoughts on the topic, but I wanted to broach the other end of the continuum – speaking up. In this case, I don’t mean speaking out, per se, but rather truth-telling to yourself. And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. ~Audre Lorde Silence into Language As a narrative inquirer, I investigate stories. I wonder what we can uncover when we treat stories as data; when we mine them and make sense of them. I encourage women to tell and delve into their own stories, to engage in deep reflection about the gems they unearth during this work. This…
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The Risky Business of Silence #NaBloPoMo.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Feminist Thought, Personal Narrative, Sexual Violence
I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That speaking profits me, beyond any other effect. ~Audre Lorde For years I’ve carried a story untold. Two decades. Thank goddess I finally realized the untelling was its own telling; my silence its own story. Like an ill-trained architect, my silence designed a life that might not have been. And I suppose it had my permission – my silence was consent. But as of late I have been telling the story, rereading it and writing a new ending…building a brand new life. Silence wasn’t a strategy. Not a conscious one, in any event. I didn’t know I…
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Nuance and Gray Areas

Politics, News & Notable, Sexual Violence
I appreciate this piece from Linda on The Feminist Wire. Especially this section where she rejects the rape/not rape binary to make room for complexity: Dear President Obama, I appreciate your statement that rape is rape. I really do. Your intent, I am sure, is to reject the idea that there might be legitimate rapes and illegitimate rapes. But, alas, there are complexities to rape, just as there are complexities to life. There are (sometimes) gradations, ambiguities, complications, and varied amounts and forms of culpability. My boyfriend was not a monster. I know what monsters are, having unfortunately been trapped and caught by one when I was nine. That sort of thing changes your sense of humanity, the world, your future, your life. But at 16, I was not attracted…
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