…for good people to do nothing

Yesterday I posted a link on facebook to Kelly Oxford’s tweet asking women to tweet to her about their first assault. I said

I don’t recommend reading this, but you should know. Summary: “women have tweeted me sexual assault stories for 14 hours straight. Minimum 50 per minute. harrowing. do not ignore. #notokay

I was wrong. I DO recommend you read it. I recommend you read it for hours, for days, go back and read it again and again.

We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to hear about it. People are shocked or disbelieving when they do hear, as if it weren’t part of everyday life, as if it wasn’t happening every minute of every day to someone. I stay in my bubble and console myself with the idea that I already know, so I don’t have to keep reading about it.

Mine are fairly mild. The unknown guy who grabbed my left breast as I was walking down Van Ness in San Francisco, in the middle of the day, when I was 16. The guy in the public library in Richmond, VA who was so “friendly” and offered my 12-year-old self “a ride home,” which I was not so naive as to believe. The 16-year-old who grabbed me while I was walking down the hall of my high school and tried to kiss me, on a bet, when I was 13. We were in the same biology class and I saw him three times a week for the rest of the year. The “boyfriends” who pushed until I gave in so I could just get some rest. This is everyday stuff, it’s “just what you have to deal with.”

There are millions of worse stories in that thread. The fact that I and most people would call this “having been lucky” ought to be enough outrage you. NONE of this is OK. This should not be the GOOD story.

I know it’s upsetting, but that’s the point. We SHOULD be upset, it is NOT OKAY. We should be talking, listening, reading, posting, and realizing that the world has not improved all that much. People in power still treat the bodies of those who are not them, those who they do not respect, as property, property that they are free to trespass on, to review and criticize, to handle, to remodel, to buy and sell, without regard for the person inhabiting it.

This is not a problem of women, this is a problem of abuse of human rights, rights that we should all have. Rights that any person in a position of even the most minimal power can violate over and over again, because no one wants to talk about it and no one wants to hear about it and no one wants to believe it. To not talk, not read, not listen is to assist the perpetrators in pretending that there is nothing wrong here.

Myself, I can read it for a few minutes at a time. Personally, I think that’s a LONG time, especially as I read quite fast. I don’t know how many times I’ll go back, I don’t know how long I’ll maintain my sense of outrage, but I’m going to try to keep talking and keep listening and not call it “lucky” that it wasn’t worse. None of us are “lucky” to live in a world like this, and we need to change it. I don’t know if this is the catalyst, but I’m glad for once the voices of those who know it is wrong are drowning out the deniers and the excusers and are loud enough to get through at least some of the silence.


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