Today in Rape Culture

[Content Note: Sexual violence; police brutality; revictimization.]

In the wake of the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, there has been another round of victim-blaming in the form of auditing the victims' responses to their assaults, specifically with regard to official reporting.

This happens every time there are allegations against a prominent man, or during any discussion of rape prevention. Potential victims are tasked with preventing their own rapes, and actual victims are tasked with preventing future rapes by reporting.

All to avoid tasking predators with the responsibility of not raping people.

Lately, suggestions of mandatory reporting by survivors have become increasingly frequent.

You know how I feel about those.

Over the past couple of days, I have read these two stories: The first, from Texas, is about police officers making rape jokes. The second, from Florida, is about a police officer being arrested after raping a woman on the hood of his patrol car.

I don't think mandatory reporting will ever be a good idea, for a variety of reasons, but chief among them is the reality that there are a number of people tasked with taking such reports who themselves are abusive and/or predators.

The variation on this theme is telling survivors that we must speak out and tell our stories. That, even if we don't want to make an official report, we are obliged to publicly disclose our histories of sex abuse and educate the world about its ubiquity and gravity.

This, too, is garbage.

I am someone who has spoken publicly about being a survivor of sexual violence, and I know the power that disclosure can have for other survivors. And the power it can have to educate people. But I am also keenly aware of the personal consequences and costs to speaking out.

Whether to tell one's story publicly, or privately, is a deeply intimate decision. And there is no One Right Choice.

No one should be shamed for silence, which can be a crucial act of self-care.

I desperately want survivors who want to tell their stories to be able to tell them safely. Which is why I have spent enormous amounts of my time and energy trying to build as safe a space as possible for that to happen—instead of lecturing survivors on what they should be doing, inside the context of a culture hostile to survivors, where speaking out is very likely to result in revictimization and secondary trauma.

I'm never going to tell survivors they have to do anything.

I cannot abide the vile fuckery of telling survivors they have to speak up about their abuse when there are so few people who feel they have to listen.

I cannot abide the cruelty of telling survivors they have to make official reports of their abuse when there are so few people to whom they can report who feel they have to take them seriously and keep them safe.

Maybe everyone who busies themselves telling survivors what we have to do could instead redirect that energy toward telling other people that they have to make safe spaces for us to report and tell our stories; that they have to listen to us and believe us.

Because, for real, what difference does it make if we report to people who don't care; if we all speak up all day every day, if we're not going to be heard and believed?

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