Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rape culture, and how it affects me (and probably my clients, too)

I haven't been able to pull myself away from the #MooreandMe dialog on Twitter, even though I have a final that I've barely started due in 24 hours. The whole thing to me is really remarkable and inspiring.

Warning: This post can be triggering to survivors of violence and sexual assault.

Also, a lil background on #MooreandMe:
I decided to post about this after reading The Rotund's response to the all of this. Up until I read Kirby's post, I had a hard time putting my finger on why this is such a trigger for me (and how do I respond to triggers? I write about them and get angry on the internet, obvs). But then it dawned on me while I considered my own relationship and past with sexual assault.

Self-disclosure warning: I am no stranger to sexual assault. It's overwhelming for me to think about how many times I have been sexually violated/raped/molested in my life. It's to the point where I have a serious disconnect with my past. I speak with hardly anyone about it, not even my therapist. I, in an unhealthy way, consider it a non-issue; something I've moved on from. You know why? I barely can acknowledge what has happened to me as rape.

Every single assault I've experienced has been questioned by someone. When it was a family member, I must just be remembering it wrong. When it was a guy I hung out with in high school, I must have just been trying to get attention. When it was a guy I was in a monogamous relationship (or so I thought) and lived with, I must have just been bitter he broke up with me. Its not hard to believe that all of this questioning has led me to question it myself.

What Naomi Wolf and Michael Moore have done is no different from what those people who suspected I was lying have done to me. Let's say Assange didn't do it: does that make what Naomi Wolf said any better? No. Because she is still perpetuating the idea that it is okay to dismiss accounts of rape. And if Assange did do it? I don't know about you, but just because he's become the Poster Boy of Freedom and Truth does not mean someone he could have potentially raped should keep it under wraps until the U.S. gov't doesn't want a piece of him anymore. You know why? It's not their fault. If Assange did it and the government is using this as a convenient way to get what they want out of him, well, too bad, that is an entirely separate issue from the fact that he may have raped someone. If only they treated all rape cases this way.

If Assange didn't do it? Well, considering the world's track record of convicting people who ACTUALLY commit rape, I'd say he has nothing to worry about.

But, as The Rotund points out:

Assange’s innocence or guilt is not the current issue. It’s whether or not rape accusations are taken seriously. It’s whether or not women feel comfortable coming forward and talking about these things – to the police or to anyone else for that matter.

I have been profoundly impacted by rape culture and words that sound a lot like Naomi Wolf's. I have clients who say things like "It wasn't rape because he's my baby's father." THEY have been profoundly impacted by rape culture. Every one is hurt by rape culture. It is not to be apologized for. It is not "hooey." It is not simply the "dating police."

Naomi, as a survivor, I ask you to stop speaking for me. As someone who has experienced rape, I feel empowered by things such as #MooreandMe. I feel empowered knowing that there is a group of people out there who would be willing to fight for my right to be believed.

I will join that fight. I deserve to be believed. My clients deserve to be believed. And our culture needs to start honoring that.


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