Aug 032004

This is the fast-spreading phrase from Misia’s LiveJournal. Misia is a survivor of sexual violence—and the disturbing fact is that many, many others are as well.

Of the female friends I’ve had, I know about half have been the targets of sexual assault. I don’t know how many of the others might have been but did not tell me about it, either because they didn’t feel close enough to me or because they simply couldn’t talk about it, period. And the
thing that suprises me most about this is not the number of women who have experienced sexual violence of some sort, but the people who feel that this number must be exaggerated.

Last week Romilly wrote in a similar vein about the different worlds men and women live in. For the average woman above puberty, the possibility of rape or assault is a real one that we must be aware of. We must be alert when walking through a parking garage alone, or through a strange area of town, or when going to an event. Certainly we don’t spend every waking moment worrying that rapists are lurking behind every tree or dark doorway—but we are aware that we are potential targets. It’s not something most men think about, even though men have also been recipients of sexual assault.

I consider myself fortunate that I’ve never experienced this. I’ve had men make advances that were unwelcome, or crude comments I found belittling, and on occasion I have even felt that a man was behaving in a manner I found threatening and I was careful to stay with my group of
friends. I think most adult females have experienced some of this.

But I’ve never actually been assaulted, or even felt in serious danger of being assaulted. I don’t believe it’s because I’ve done anything better or worse than women who were. There are undoubtedly choices and behaviors that put some women more at risk than others, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that they were assaulted because of those behaviors. The friend Romilly refers to in her blog was sleeping at home in her own bed with the doors locked when her rapist broke in; that’s about as far away from a high-risk behavior as it’s possible to get.

I know women (yes, that is plural) who were assaulted as children. And if anyone wants to tell me a child could do something to deserve being sexually assaulted, I’ll kindly invite that person to check themselves in at the nearest euthanasia clinic; such a person doesn’t need to be
cluttering up my planet. They can get in line behind the ones who actually did the assaulting.

My point is, it can happen to anyone, and it does. We can try to make ourselves feel safer by saying such-and-so was doing something wrong that led to the attack—she was dressed provocatively, she was drunk at a party, she was flirting, dancing, breathing deeply, you name it. We do this so that we can pretend it couldn’t possibly happen to us, because we will keep to safe behaviors that don’t put us at risk. And some of us will be quite vehement in our belief that “she brought it on herself,” because otherwise we have to admit the frightening truth: it could happen to us. Any one of us, for no reason at all besides the fact that some inadequate dickhead wanted to be the boss of someone else for a while.

I think Misia has the right idea. People who have faced sexual violence need to know they are not alone, and they have nothing to be ashamed of.

I’m Bertha. Many of my friends are survivors of sexual violence.

You are not the only one.

It was not your fault.

It does not define who you are.

No Pity. No Shame. No Silence.

 Posted by at 6:02 pm

  One Response to ““No pity. No shame. No silence.””

  1. I’m of two minds about this.

    On the one hand, I myself know or have known a lot of women, and several men, who have been raped or molested. I was once in a situation in college that could have resulted in similar violence, and it would have been considered “my fault” because I accepted a ride to get away from a party that was out of hand.

    The hatred directed at the accuser in the Kobe Bryant trial has been appalling. We do not know whether or not he is guilty or innocent. But the sheer fury of (mostly) male sports fans calling this girl all sorts of names, even a few of them having tried to put out a contract on her life on eBay (which pulled the auction), angers me even more than what Bryant himself might or might not have done.

    There’s a guy who comments regularly on a blog I visit now and again, and he insists there’s no such thing as rape and that feminism is essentially b.s. He claims that his wife, who is from the Phillippines (I wouldn’t be surprised if she were mail-order), changed his mind about rape by once saying to him, “Why do you assume that sexual injuries are worse than any other kind?” Perhaps because hardly any other kind of injuries impose the same stigma that continues to exist against rape victims. I finally got sick of it and told him off, and was surprised at how much support I got from other commenters who were also tired of his “men’s rights”-type rants. Including at least one other man.

    On the other hand, I get rather nervous at the other extreme, assumption of guilt simply upon the woman’s say-so. There was a guy who attended Harvard who was accused of rape a few years back. Though his accuser apparently recanted and the criminal justice system decided that he was innocent, the college still expelled him.

    When I was in college, one of the “wymyn’s studies” professors declared that there should not need to be a trial in cases of rape or any other sort of sexual assault, or even sexual harassment, because she believed such a trial had no purpose except to put the woman through additional hell.

    Um, yeah, except that in this country we don’t imprison people for years and decades without a trial. In more recent years, an unnamed feminist student was quoted to say that she didn’t understand why people “cared so much about the rapist.” There wasn’t any perception on her part that the accusation might not be true, or perhaps true but mistakenly directed against the wrong person.

    None of the above is an attempt to whitewash the viciousness of rape or the essential misogyny of denial thereof. Nor am I implying that any of your friends are liars, nor that any other specific woman is.

    I’ve just become a bit more skeptical of everything I hear. Something that might have influenced me more recently is my kinda-sorta b/f telling me that his ex had accused him of molesting their daughter a few years ago, when she was still in diapers. He’d put Desitin lotion on her butt because she had diaper rash, and the ex called the cops and tried to claim the lotion was actually semen.

    He’s finally got much more extensive custody of his daughter than he’d had for the last few years, simply because the system does favor mothers. One thing that convinced the court was how his ex-g/f is not only still vengeful toward him more than three years after he’d left her, but how she continues to be that way toward the father of her son, who is 10.

    Anyway, not really sure where I’m going with this; it’s mostly random and loosely connected thoughts. I hope I haven’t offended anyone, because that’s not my intention.

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