SPEECH: Silent Protest 2013 de-briefing

This is speech cobbled together from inspirational bloggers, feminists and thinkers I have read over the years. For many of them I have lost their references, but their words still ring in my heart. Thank you to them.

A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women.

In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself.

A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.

Rape culture is 1 in 3 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.

Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives.

Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements.

Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.

Rape culture is the idea that only certain people rape—and only certain people get raped. Rape culture is ignoring that the thing about rapists is that they rape people. They rape people who are strong and people who are weak, people who are smart and people who are dumb, people who fight back and people who submit just to get it over with, people who are sluts and people who are prudes, people who rich and people who are poor, people who are tall and people who are short, people who are fat and people who are thin, people who are blind and people who are sighted, people who are deaf and people who can hear, people of every race and shape and size and ability and circumstance.

Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing that the victim of every rapist shares in common is bad fucking luck. Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing a person can do to avoid being raped is never be in the same room as a rapist. Rape culture is avoiding talking about what an absurdly unreasonable expectation that is, since rapists don’t announce themselves or wear signs or glow purple.

Rape culture is pervasive narratives about rape that exist despite evidence to the contrary. Rape culture is pervasive imagery of stranger rape, even though three out of four survivors are raped by someone they know, and 1 in 2 is likely to be raped in their home, the home of someone they know, or anywhere else than being raped on the street, making what is commonly referred to as “date rape” by far the most prevalent type of rape.

Rape culture is people meant to protect you raping you instead—like parents, teachers, doctors,ministers, cops, soldiers, self-defense instructors.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that there is a “typical” way to behave after being raped, instead of the acknowledgment that responses to rape are as varied as its victims, that, immediately following a rape, some women go into shock; some are lucid; some are angry; some are ashamed; some are stoic; some are erratic; some want to report it; some don’t; some will act out; some will crawl inside themselves; some will have healthy sex lives; some never will again.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that a rape victim who reports hir rape is readily believed and well-supported, instead of acknowledging that reporting a rape is a huge personal investment, a difficult process that can be embarrassing, shameful, hurtful, frustrating, and too often unfulfilling. Rape culture is ignoring that there is very little incentive to report a rape; it’s a terrible experience with a small likelihood of seeing justice served.

Rape culture is silence around rape in the national discourse, and in rape victims’ homes. Rape culture is treating surviving rape as something of which to be ashamed. Rape culture is families torn apart because of rape allegations that are disbelieved or ignored or sunk to the bottom of a deep, dark sea in an iron vault of secrecy and silence.

To the survivors: I want to tell you a story about two wells.

The first is almost infinitely deep, the second is shallow not unlike a pond. It is a struggle, a seemingly endless battle to fill the deepest well with water. It may take years to fill. The second well is filled by the first rain.  Once the deepest well is filled however, it will sustain its keepers through hardship, and will not be dried up. The second well, the shallow well, will be gone with the first sign of drought.  If the depth of a well is the depth of the sorrow of the human soul, then our wells are some of the deepest. But when we, through the support of others, are able to claw our way to the top of the well, the happiness, strength and resolve eft there will make us virtually impervious and impenetrable. We will be strong, where shallow wells crumble.

When we survive sexual assault, we are the gift. When we survive, when we go on to love, to work, to speak out, to have fun, to laugh, to dance, to cry, to live, when we do that, we defeat our attackers. For a moment, they strip us of our choices. As we heal, we take our choices back. We are the gift to ourselves, our families, our communities, and our nation when we survive.

Survivor, you are a courageous, beautiful soul, and I am in solidarity with all of you.  The day I was raped, my choice was taken away from me.

On Friday, 15 April 2011, the Silent protest gave me my choice back.

And I choose not to be afraid of the words “Rape Survivor”, nor will I be ashamed of them. I choose to fight back CHOOSE.

I broke my silence, and I will never be silent again.

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