Trigger Warning: Explicit discussion of rape and rape apologism follows.
Often is the time that I wish I could update this space every day with thoughts on every topic under the sun, a constant celebration of what is good in the world, and tireless fusillades against what is not. For reasons of both self-care and lack of energy, I simply cannot, however. Yet my silence on one issue is glaring and it is time I said something, regardless of how exhausted I may be feeling right now and how ever much I may just be feeling a burning drive to forget the world exists for a while.
This is not a post about Julian Assange. It is a post that was inspired by Sady Doyle’s bone-shaking message of defiance on her blog yesterday pertaining to her ongoing quest to wrest apologies from two rich white cis men in the media who see fit to tweet personal information about potential rape victims, Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore. This relates to the Assange case, yes, but the reason this case has become such a line in the sand for many feminists is because of the broader social issues that this case touches on, and which, for all the media hullabaloo about Assange and his accusers, has not been discussed substantively by most mainstream outlets.
Doyle’s post is worth reading, to say the very least. The anodyne, lifeless words I just spoke will not do justice to what I am about to quote:
“I WILL NOT GO AWAY. WE WILL NOT GO AWAY. Because all of those women, all of those GODDAMNED WOMEN, all of those GODDAMNED RAPE VICTIMS and people who file rape allegations, they ALL got scared away in EXACTLY THIS MANNER. Using these SAME GODDAMNED TACTICS. They all had to go away, no matter what happened to them, they all just got scared until they went away, and for them, for their sake, because of everything they suffered, I am going to stand outside of Michael Moore’s tower with my megaphone until he comes. Somebody has to stand out here, somebody has to be the one that just won’t go away. Somebody fucking has to do it. Because those women matter.”
Thus I’m going to set those words aside tonight. Because what she has said is fucking true, and it needs to be shouted from the rooftops, the parapets, the mountains, foothills, hillocks, and goddess-damned anthills.
One of my closest and dearest friends, a woman to whom I owe my life, and indeed many aspects of the woman I became were cultivated by her, was raped by someone she trusted. The consent she gave was abused far beyond the limits she set out and she endured having things done to her that she did not ask for her, hearing poisonous words that haunt her to this day as the man who violated her flaunted what he was doing. She hasn’t reported this because of the institutional prejudices that would shoot down any attempt at prosecution, both because of what kind of woman she is, and the kind of sex she consented to have with this man.
So many forces in this world tell women like her, bright Polarises of humanity, that they stopped mattering the moment they were raped. Powerful people think nothing of using and dismissing her, dismissing what happened, hoping she’ll shut up and go away. This man told her she didn’t matter; the police would very likely tell her the same thing.
In the spirit of Sady Doyle’s words, Ms. T, you matter. You matter so goddamn much, you mean the world to me, you illuminated my life and you continue to do so to this very day. I cannot repay, ever, what you have given to me. This green Earth would be a lesser place without you.
These are words that I have told her in snippets, scattered puzzle pieces of the total whole of my love for her and who she is. She likely cannot read this post because of the PTSD that this bastard left her with, and I’d never ask her to revisit this tragedy- so she’ll hear my words in private and in person. But this proclamation of mattering, of love, deserves to be up in lights as well because we still lack the sheer number of outlets telling survivors of rape that they matter, enough to counteract the many forces tacitly and explicitly telling them that they do not.
Those four horrible letters, PTSD, cannot begin to encompass the enormity of life changes that rape visits upon someone. Read through the comments on Sady Doyle’s post as well, many survivors came forward, and their stories are moving. One woman who said she had to live an altered life while her rapist walked free as if nothing happened perfectly echoed a lament from my friend. A lament I have heard too many times from her, when the pain becomes too much to bear. The agony that she fights with every day because of the sense of worthlessness imposed upon her, both by the rape, and by broader social discourses that impose themselves on women is something I cannot put into mere words.
The pain I feel when she is triggered, when she’s crying out to the universe begging for the hurt to stop, for things to go back to the way they were… it’s a fraction of what she endures every day as a survivor. What this man did to her was to make her life such that it’s become an act of courage for her to go out and buy snacks for herself. She cannot forget what happened to her, she cannot enjoy crowds the way she used to, cannot enjoy touch. This happened because she was a woman in a society like ours, and a woman of trans experience; the sense of emptiness rape heaps on you is unbearable, the shame, the agony. I had to tell her, as my own body quaked with a fear that filled my voice, that her life was still worth living as she held a kitchen knife in her hand, teetering on the edge of snuffing that bright spark she embodies forever.
I say all of this because what has been lost in discussions about Assange’s accusers is any real discussion about rape and how women, cis and trans, experience it in our society. The shame and the silence it inculcates keeps the volume of such discussion somewhere slightly above mute and ensures that people think it’s perfectly fine to have a jolly good debate about whether or not doing something sexual to a woman without her consent is rape. While cadres of men wring their hands about withdrawing consent after its given, I have a friend who is still picking up the pieces of her life- and she’s succeeding, damnit, she’s making something of herself every passing day. But no thanks to them, no thanks to the Keith Olbermanns of the world, nor the other so-called progressive men who become Sir Robin and bravely turn tail when challenging social issues of gender arise.
This is not truly about Assange at the end of the day, and fools who think that the unique circumstances of his spearheading of Wikileaks are enough to ring-fence this and say nothing whatsoever at any time to do with sexism has entered the discussion about his accusers and the rape-accusations against him are people I have next to no patience for. I remained silent on this in part because many people were saying what I have tried to say here better than I could. But what Doyle reminded me of was precisely what I have just said, this is not about Julian Assange nor specifically about his accusers: it’s about a society where women who have been raped, or who even dare to use the criminal justice system to get justice after they have been raped, are automatically slandered and disbelieved. The first thought is about how they might be fucking some man over, rather than ever considering the possibility that they are telling the truth. How these women have been treated is how the vast majority of women, especially those who are fully divested of personhood by the state like trans women, sex workers, and immigrant women, are treated when they stand up and grant utterance to their experience with an eye towards justice.
For my friend, Ms. T, for everyone Sady mentioned on her blog, for everyone who responded their with their own tales, and for the armies of survivors around the world who cannot speak, I stand up and say enough is enough.
- I am sick to death of men coming into every public discussion about rape and putting the words “Duke” and “Lacrosse” together in his post explaining why he’s entitled to shame and mistrust survivors.
- I am tired of folks quoting a long refuted study about how supposedly 50% of all women lie about rape.
- I am beyond tired of hearing “innocent until proven guilty” when I never said anything about presuming guilt, only about understanding and putting a premium on the victim’s pain and experience and the fact that she wants to kill herself, because it fucking matters.
- I am sick to death of men talking about how women get a kick out of getting ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ in a courtroom, as if accusing someone of rape, especially someone who is well liked, is the easiest goddamn thing in the world to do for which there are no emotional and physical consequences.
- I am tired of people getting on my ass about how I think all men are rapists when I never once in my life have said that.
- I am sick to death of people making extremely pathetic and tired excuses for anything bad that happens to a transsexual or transgender woman.
- I am tired beyond words of arguing against people who try to find some way to prove that a woman brought a rape on herself by doing or not doing x, y, and z.
- I utterly despise and am sick of men who say that talking about rape culture is ‘misandrist’ or man-hating in any context.
- For that matter I’ve just about had it with people who say there’s no such thing as rape culture despite the fact that we see its workings laid bare Oz-style in every high profile drama about rape, or despite the fact that people like Sady Doyle have to endure high velocity shit sprayed at her in the windtunnel of Twitter threatening her with rape and other harm for speaking out.
- I’m sick and tired of people who think trigger warnings are hi-larious and represent “political correctness gone mad.”
- I’m sick of people who believe there is such a thing as “political correctness” and that it protects people like rape victims andor PTSD-suffers when it seems the only ‘correct’ thing to do in these peoples’ minds is mock them.
- I’m sick and tired of comic artists who make fun of rape survivors.
- I’m sick and tired of men who heap nothing but scorn on survivors and people who try to help them, then compare paying alimony to being raped in a disgusting bid for sympathy for their right wing agenda.
- Indeed, I’m sick of anyone who gets very squeamish talking about actual fucking rape but liberally compares anything they don’t like to rape to drive home how much they think being overcharged 50 cents at Pizza Hut or getting sniped in TF2 by a hacking player sucks.
- I’m tired of people who think prison rape is little more than risque humour.
- I’m tired of people who forget that both trans and cis women are raped in prison too.
- I’m *really* tired of people who think prison rape is a ‘just punishment.
- I’m bloody well tired of people who think sex workers can’t be raped.
- I want to scream at people who think sex workers being raped is funny, cause to make a shitty pun, or is somehow ‘to be expected.’ As if rape just happens, you know?
- I’m very peeved with people who think that feminists want to take all the ‘spontaneity’ out of sex by calling for people to be more certain about consent.
- I’m tired of people who say “Yeah rape is a horrible thing, but…” and then proceed to say something that entirely minimises and/or erases why rape is so horrible.
- I’m tired of people assuming that if a man is found not guilty of a rape that it must mean the accusing woman lied maliciously in some golddigging effort to extract revenge of some kind. Rather than, say, the fact that the police may have picked up the wrong man.
The fact that I can make this list go on and on is troubling to me on a very deep level. I was not my usual eloquent self tonight, but this post is a cry of outrage, of anger, and a firmly pronounced willingness to permanently commit to this space the fact that I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. All rape victims deserve better than the very abridged foregoing list of bullshit rape apologism I’ve laid out just now. They deserve to have more people speaking out and proclaiming loudly that the way we as a society deal with rape is deeply flawed and perpetuates oppression. People who say that rape culture doesn’t exist because we criminalise rape clearly have not bothered to listen much when a woman does try to make use of such laws to have her assailant face justice.
Ms. Doyle’s words could very well be my own:
“You all matter to me. I don’t care if they say you don’t matter. I don’t care if they act like you don’t matter. I don’t care what they do to us, to all of us, all of the shit they do to make it possible to discredit and bully us and make us too scared to report, all of the misinformation they spread — it’s not rape if it started out consensual, it’s not rape if it happened while you were unconscious, it’s not rape if you’ve had sex with him before, it’s not rape if you hang out with the guy later, it’s not rape if you love him, it’s not rape if you like him, it’s not rape if it happens to you because you’re worthless, these are all lies – because it doesn’t change the fact that you matter.”
Rock on, sister.