i have had many conversations about sexual violence recently, both in a professional and personal manner. yet i always find myself in dismay at the responses i get when i even mention the words sexual assault or rape. usually the response is a blank stare, mouth slightly open as if to say, “oh my gosh, why are you talking about this?”, and then they just move on to a different subject. i’m left there wondering where the words i just said went. and as much as i want to bring the conversation back, i don’t. why is this? what is it about their silence that silences me?
sadly this isn’t an isolated experience. i have spoken with many victim/survivors who’ve had the same experiences, and this has left them feeling even more alone and ashamed. among the many messages our silence sends to victim/survivors, it is that we, as victims, must silently fix the damage that someone else did to us. it is, gosh- i really am sorry that happened to you, but could you please not talk about it? it’s making me uncomfortable.
in her memoir “after silence” nancy venable raine, talks about her experiences as a victim/survivor;
[while at a dinner party where other authors talked about their projects] “ . . . everyone listened respectfully. after i finish there is a long silence. finally, someone said, “what about susan brown-millers book, against our will? it seems to me she covered the issues.” several women around the table nodded their heads in agreement. was this comment, i wondered, a version of “no one wants to hear about such terrible things” or am i being oversensitive?. . . she responded, “brown-millers book was a landmark achievement. she looked at rape in its historical and political context and redefined it as an act of power, not sex. i’m trying to look at rape is a meaning-bearing experience for the victim.” i thought i was beginning to sound both muddled and defensive. i was probably both.
“well,” our hostess said, smoothing out the napkin on her lap and turning to the person on my left. “shall we get off rape to something . . .” she paused, apparently at a loss for words. i fear the next word would be “agreeable.” it was
sometimes i wonder if sexual violence has embedded itself so deep into our society that not only is it expected to happen, but we have accepted that it happens. and often times when we accept something, the questions we ask switch from focusing on ending it, to focusing on dealing with it.
i have a very hard time dealing with things, just ask my husband. to me being told to deal with it, is just another way of telling me to get over it. and i don’t want to just get over rape and sexual violence, i want to end it. we do this by talking about it. we do this by not responding with silence when victims/survivors of sexual violence talk about it. we do this by acknowledging that our current culture shapes what we think, how we feel, and what we do, about sexual violence.
see, i don’t think that people respond with silence because they don’t care, i think people respond with silence because they don’t know what to say. i think people want to think good of everybody, and that things like this just don’t happen to people they know. and the issue with this thinking is that it continues to isolate victim/survivors in their own community.
let us do what romans 13:12 reminds us, “the night is almost over, it will be daylight soon; let us give up the things we prefer to do under the cover of darkness; let us arm ourselves, and appear in the light.” we need to learn how to live in the light, so that the darkness can’t consume us anymore, as a society, not just as victims/survivors.
rape culture teaches that it is only those who have been directly impacted by sexual violence (i.e those raped, or assaulted) who are the ones to carry the damage, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. rape and sexual violence impacts every human on this earth whether directly or indirectly. without understanding this, we leave sexual violence to continue on it’s path to destroy our daughters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends, cousins, and all male counterparts to those as well.
so in this series i have titled, “lies society tells you about sexual violence.” my goal is to highlight some of the common lies, i hear from others, and from the rape culture. i am choosing to write each post as a different lie in this series because i want to give my readers an in depth understanding of where the lie stems from, examples of the lie, and ways to overcome believing the lie.
this is an opportunity for all of my readers to get involved. if there is a specific lie that you want me to address, or question you have about sexual violence, please leave a me a message in the comments section or send an e-mail my way to remain anonymous.
please check back next thursday as i conquer the very first lie, “sexual violence is a woman’s issue”. i’m extremely excited for this series, and i look forward to hearing your feedback! until then, be filled with peace and blessings!