Thursday, April 10, 2008

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

I bought this shirt. I am a survivor. Jennifer Baumgardner created the shirt as part of a project I Was Raped she has been working on through her organization Scarleteen, a sex education program (which will receive some of the proceeds from the sales of the shirt to fund their work).

This story was in the Sunday NYTimes and the comments are atrocious.

I think the comments on the blog post about the shirt from The NY Times are the most revealing thing about the project. So many people are saying that “no rape survivor should shove this in my face” or that “it’s personal” or “what am I supposed to say” or “if I were a rape survivor I wouldn’t wear it therefore it’s fucked up”, etc., etc.

What's beyond the realm of fucked-upedness is people comparing rape to the mortgage crisis or fucking losing a job:

We have all been victims of something. Ever lose your job, your house, your sanity? Ever been bullied or humiliated?

Yes, those things suck, but A) the victims are not blamed (maybe in bullying) and B) the complete decimation of trust, security, shame, violation, degradation, fear, self blame (what did I do?), and it goes on and on DOES NOT COMPARE ON ANY LEVEL. This is disgusting minimization. Not to mention that rape victims suffer from Rape Trauma Syndrome some of the highlights include flashbacks and nightmares that continue to haunt and traumatize you after the event. Any smell, sound, etc that reminds the person of the event can also further traumatise the victim. Not to mention long term effects like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which has a lot of the same symptoms as Rape Trauma Syndrome only you get to enjoy it for years to come. I was first raped in high school. Now, over 2 decades later, I am still dealing with PTSD and I probably will be dealing with it for the rest of my life (I will also admit that part of this stems from childhood emotional and physical abuse from my mother.)

It’s obviously doing it’s job and no one’s even wearing them yet! Words cannot express how much rage I have at the people telling me that I am victimizing myself by choosing to buy and possibly wear the shirt and telling ME HOW I should deal with MY OWN healing process. They obviously want us to not bother them with the fact that rape happens, and it happens a lot, and it doesn’t happen in dark alleys, and it doesn’t happen only at gun or knifepoint, and it doesn’t only happen in bad neighbourhoods or that it somehow doesn’t happen to “strong” women. (I was once told that I couldn’t be raped (by someone who did not know my past) b/c I am a hardass.) And it happens often and it happens to people they know.

They say the shirt is stupid and ineffective whereas there are over 300 comments which means it’s pretty damn effective so far in getting people to talk about it. Then they say, “well why not make rapists have the word rapist tattooed on their head”, uh, how about because about maybe 1% ever get found guilty, maybe.

Well, when I get the shirt, I’m just going to head back over and read these comments and I know it will get me to wear it. I’m sorry you don’t want to talk to your children about rape. I’m sorry you don’t want it shoved in your face. I'm sorry it makes you fucking uncomfortable. But you know what? I didn’t want to be raped, and I’m sick of everyone thinking that it’s a private fucking matter. If someone had just beat me up in an alley and I talked about it you wouldn't tell me that was private so FUCK YOU. It's about getting people to talk about the subject, it's about me and letting all the other victims who I come into contact with every. damn. day. that they are not alone. That they can talk about it, that it IS NOT something to be ashamed of or something that should be a dirty secret. And if they want to talk with me, that I'll be there for them.


Lina said...

I've got to be honest, I hate the t-shirt. I get it, don't get me wrong. I wouldn't wear it personally because I am one of the dickheads you're calling out - I'd loathe the reaction. But the fact is I hate it because it'll just get lost with the sea of slogan Tees out there - I Club Seals, I Facebooked Your Mum, Fuck Me Like The Whore That I Am, Rehab Is For Quitters, Leave Britney Alone, Nija Please....
Do you not think it's trivialising it by putting it amongst those t-shirts? That's my gut reaction, anyway. But I understand it's about 'owning' your experience. And hell, this from the girl who won't even blog properly about her own experience, I should be quiet during this debate! xx

Mary Tracy9 said...

I am terribly sorry you had to suffer that.

You are 100% right: no one should tell you how YOU should deal with it. No one.

My only concern with the t-shirt is that the words "I was raped" seem to be very tiny, and I wonder if they will be at all readable. But, as you said, if it helps to bring RAPE out in the open, then it can only be a good thing.

Rebecca said...

I like the t-shirt because I think it really illustrates the way a lot of survivors feel.

I think you have some really excellent points there -- some perspectives I agreed with implicitly but had never seen spelled out.

Quite frankly, if my son saw someone wearing that t-shirt and asked me about it, I would gladly talk to him about rape. This is because first and foremost, I want him to learn about it from me, and learn to assume non-consent from potential sexual partners until explicitly told otherwise.

What I don't want is for him to first learn from his peers that women "cry rape" when they change their mind, or that women who refuse his advances will change their mind if he persists when they say no, or that inebriated or unconscious people are vessels for his lust. These are all prevailing attitudes in our culture, attitudes that I want him to grow up understanding are wrong, so I will probably discuss these issues with him (in an age-appropriate manner) long before he reaches puberty.

Anonymous said...

This is a very personal post. thank you for sharing.

that is a pretty awkward shirt... I'm not saying you shouldn't wear it. but...

well i hope it helps you get closer to being fully 'healed'.

as always,

Mary said...

The controversy and anger stirred up by this shirt is testimony to its power.

I love it!


jk said...

I'm appalled all those people think they have the right to "approve" the clothing someone else chooses to wear. Makes me wonder what they say about me behind my back, and all the message T-shirts I wear.

White male here, but a non-rapist who's also disabled (bad heart), and disgusted with what capitalism has done (They've turned the whole planet into a "Tragedy of the Commons". Why can't more people see that?).

There are also things I disagree with you on, but won't litter your blog with my own views. This place is yours and I respect that.

So do whatever you feel helps with healing, wear anything you want, and spit in the eye of anyone who tries to tell you what to do with your own blog, mind or body.