“Your Silence Will Not Protect You” – Audre Lourde
I assume that we all encounter “jokes” that are clearly perpetuating ideologies that lend excuses to violence. How do we deal with it? And how has this “joke” culture evolved with the advent of social media and facebook? I’ve seen a number of twitter trending topics and facebook statuses (and groups) that make my stomach churn. But, on to the article at hand: Note to ex-Facebook friend: Sexual abuse is not funny | JournalNow.com:
A recentFacebookpost read, “If a prostitute is raped, is it rape or shoplifting?” My stomach churned as I hastily replied, “As a survivor of incest andan advocatewho works to eradicate sexual, physical and emotional violence against all women, including changing the desensitized culture we’ve created and perpetuated that marginalizes these experiences, I ask that you be more thoughtful in your postings.”
Several minutes later, a friend of a friend “liked” my comment and within seconds the originalFacebookfriend had blocked me from viewing his wall posts.
And that is often how easily we close our eyes to the abuse of women we feel somehow “asked for it.” Women, we believe, brought the violence upon themselves.
Now I suppose I could have ignored the posting. At worst, the comment was misogynist. At best misguided. In the age of thesocial-media revolution, it seems as though anything goes, including off-color jokes that cause us to giggle with nervous laughter, slightly uncomfortable … about race, gender and sexual violence.
So, of course, myFacebookfriend wasn’t about to receive a pass. His attempt to silence me only strengthened my resolve. In order to create lasting change we must take action, not just offense.
I take offense because I am a woman. I take offense because I have a mother, grandmother, aunts, sisters and nieces. I take offense because my two sons may have daughters someday. I take offense because in the past three years that I’ve openly shared my own sexual abuse, I’ve heard from hundreds of women in our community sharing their stories of victimization and survival. Some of them prostitutes. All of them worthy of our protection.
I take action because in the words of poet and writerAudre Lorde, “Your silence will not protect you.”
Those of us who have suffered sexual abuse and violence are often silenced by shame and stigma. I speak for the women who have not yet found their voices. I speak for the 1 in 6 women inAmericawho will be victimized during their lifetime. I speak because somewhere in theUnited States, a woman is raped or sexually assaulted every two minutes.
I speak because I know a woman who spent 16 years as a prostitute. She was raped by her grandfather for five years. She was only 11 when the abuse began. In an effort to escape from the pain and terror of sexual violence, she began using drugs. At 16, she became a prostitute to support her drug habit. She worked street corners, back alleys and affluent neighborhoods. She’s been beaten and raped at gunpoint. She’s witnessed unimaginable horror. In 2007, she graduated from college with honors and lives and works in our community.
I don’t think she’d laugh at the punchline.
Rape is violent and never justified — whether the victim is a grandmother, college student orsex worker.
AishahShahidah Simmons, award-winning producer/writer/director of No! The Rape Documentary, spoke at a recent rally: “Again, I ask where do we draw the lines of who can and can’t be assaulted, harassed, and/or raped? As long as there is any group of people including but not limited to adolescent and teenage ‘fast’ girls, women, trans people, queer people, and sex workers who are marginalized, then all of us are vulnerable both because it’s all subjective; and the lines of the margins shift all of the time. Who’s acceptable today may not be acceptable tomorrow.”
I stand in solidarity and sisterhood with any and all women who have been raped. As for my former Facebookfriend, I hope somebody posts this on his wall.
It’s incredibly important to note that when, as women, we excuse assaults on certain women, a part of it is because we want to feel safe. We want to think that bad things happen to “those kinds” of people, and not us. When in reality we know that it can, and does, happen to anyone. Sexual and domestic violence know no boundaries, we know this, and by throwing our sisters “under the bus” as it were, we are perpetuating the notion that some women deserve it which keeps all of us unsafe because as the author notes, who “those women” are is subjective and the line shifts all the time. As women it’s important that we stand together, recognize and proclaim that violence is violence is violence and it won’t be tolerated any longer-no matter who it happens to.