abuse, advice, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, rape, strenght, Uncategorized

Being Victim and Being Brave

Yesterday, I opened Roxane Gay’s new edited collection, Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture, a selection of stories of abuse, harassment, trauma and surviving. I knew, given my history with rape and it’s structures, it would be no easy read.

The first three stories (introduction included) were visceral, troubling and unnerving. The fourth cut me to the quick:

“Sometimes people tell me that something bad happened to me, but I am brave and strong. I don’t want to be told that I am brave or strong. I am not right just because he was wrong. I don’t want to be made noble.
I want someone willing to watch me thrash and crumple because that, too, is the truth, and it needs a witness. “He broke me,” I say to a friend. “You’re not broken,” she whispers back. I turn my palms up, wishing I could show her the pieces.”

– “& the Truth is, I Have No Story,” Claire Schwartz

I cannot speak for how hard these words hit me: they collaborated with a truth inside me, a bothersome narrative which I find others reaffirming for me once they hear I was raped/assaulted.

It is the same mantra which they will tell countless others:

“You’re a survivor/Brave/Strong/Better/[Input inspirational comment here]”

And I do understand the impulse and the kindness which drives them to tell me and others these words. I also rail against them, because they erase the messy truth of the event, the negate the reality of rape and that to become a survivor in any way, one is first a victim.

That’s a denigrated word nowadays: victim. It’s frowned upon to see a someone, post-rape, as a victim:

“You’re a survivor”

But to be a survivor at all, one first needs to be a victim. Sometimes, after rape/harassment/assault, you need to be broken. You get to be torn apart and take the time necessary to re-piece parts of yourself together, however haphazardly. I needed time – a lot of it – to repair and recollect. I look back on that time, full of self-pity, loathing and anger, and know I was not the image of a survivor; I also know that I needed that time to find recovery and locate self-care in myself.

I recall one day at feminist event, one of my peers told us her story, told us her rape, I sympathized, felt an instinctual bond, a desire to protect. Another attendee interrupted her:

“Can I let you know, you are not a victim, you are a survivor”

I remember thinking: What is wrong with being a victim. Why is it so negated? So hated a term? Why do others feel the need to remove that identity from us?

Is it their own fear? Their own unwillingness to see the unjust realities of the world? An uneasiness over how easily rape can happen? Or is does it fall back on the old moniker: ‘everything happens for a reason’ so of course, you survived this and became better?

I cannot tell, I do not know the reason behind these platitudes; I do know their is nothing wrong with being a victim.

One cannot become a survivor without having first been a victim, and there is nothing wrong with that truth.

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abuse, advice, domestic violence, feminism, feminist, gender, misogyny, rape, sexism, strenght, women

1 is 2 Many

Watch this minute one video in which President Obama, Vice President Biden, Daniel Craig, Benicio Del Toro, Dulé Hill, Seth Meyers and Steve Carell as they advocate an end to sexual assault.

The video, in a change from many mainstream reviews of assault and rape, places the responsibility of stopping rape on men – on the rapists and assaulters, not the victim:

 

‘If I saw it happening, I’d never blame her, I’d help her.’

and encourages people to be understanding and supportive of victims.

The video was published by the White House and includes a selection of prominent male figures, encouraging men to take responsibility for the rape epidemics all over the world.

 


 

 

In the video about, both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden discuss the Council on Women and Girls and their joint desire to end violence against women.

President Obama says that as a government, and as a nation, we have the capacity to stop sexual assault, support those who have survived it, and bring perpetrators to justice.

Biden, who has long been an advocate for women’s protection from rape and violence, in the video states:

Freedom from sexual assault is a basic human right, no man has the right to raise a hand to a women for any reason, any reason, other than self-defense.

Furthermore, Biden encourages that women no longer be blamed for their assault; he correlates the survivors of rape and assault with those who have been robbed or attacked, and emphasises that these men and women are never asked questions such as ‘what were you wearing’, ‘did you cause this’ etc.

President Obama’s depiction of sexual assault and rape is empathetic, racial, ethnically, and sexually diverse in its understanding, and emotionally sympathetic towards survirours and their families struggles. Moreover, Obama highlights the severe self-doubt and emotional baggage associated with the aftermath of rape and how this can affect much more than just the individual:

It has to matter to all of us, because when a young girl or a young boy starts to question their self-worth after being assaulted and maybe starts withdrawing, we’re all deprived of their full potential. When a young women drops out of school after being attacked, that’s not just a loss for her, that’s a loss for our country.

What is evident here, is that President Obama is implying that the men and women who commit assault or rape damage more than just one individual life, couple, or family, but – furthermore – damage the nation in which they belong, to his great “shame.”

Vice President Biden emphasises:

No man has a right to go beyond no.