Monday, April 24, 2006

Why Feminism? (Part 11)


Whenever anyone asks if there are any women out there who haven't been victims of sexual violence I start to say “yes, me” but somewhere in the back of my mind, the monster under my bed is still there, taunting me. I can’t say “no”, because I’d never be so rude or insensitive to compare what happened to me with actual rape; but I can’t say “yes”, either, because I know my deepest scar is not the six inch one down the center of my chest.

I needed to know why I couldn’t let it go. I know that certain idiots would say it’s because I’m in love with victimhood, but they don’t know how hard I’ve tried to pretend it never happened. They don’t know that until last year, I’d never told anyone any of it. Until now, I’d never told all of it – or even the most important part. They don’t know what it’s like to share everything with your friends, from shampoo to secrets, everything but this one....thing. They don't know that I have yet to say the words out loud. They don’t understand how deafening your own silence can become.

Reading and listening to women who have survived sexual violence as well helped in some ways because I felt less alone. I could see me in them and I felt less crazy. Their words began to explain what the normal discourse surrounding sexual violence couldn’t answer: why something as simple as a peeping tom (even a persistent one) would affect me so. In the mainstream media, sexual violence (at least the kind in which the victim deserves sympathy) is usually portrayed as unspeakably evil, but this wasn’t about unspeakably evil acts being done to me - it was about a betrayal of trust and a denial of dignity.

And yet, nevertheless, it was unspeakable.

It has always been partly due to my brother’s age and vulnerability as much as anything else that I stayed silent. Telling my friends meant telling them his secrets. Even in the vastness of the internet, talking about this is dangerous. My brother knows people (besides me) who read Pandagon and Shakespeare’s Sister. Hell, he knows several of the “A-list” bloggers - and they know him. Even if I only posted under my real name in the comments at Pinko’s or Angry for a Reason, I’d be betraying his trust just like he betrayed mine.

But my silence is a betrayal of another kind. It means betraying my twelve-year-old self and all the girls and women (and boys and men) who have suffered as I have, or worse. And I can’t do that either. So I post this pseudo-anonymously and hope the shit doesn’t hit the fan. That people either don’t figure out who he is or are smart enough to not care. That he, or our parents, don’t stumble upon this and get angry with me for simply talking about it.

I speak because it is the silence that does the damage as much as the act itself. It denies me of my own dignity and voice and allows society to ignore or condone such acts.

I speak because, knowing how difficult it is for me to do so, I understand that many cannot yet speak for themselves, and so I try in some small way to lend them my voice.

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