We Stand Together
We Stand Together
To the #StanfordVictim, your words and efforts have not been in vain. The contrary — you’ve made a bold first step. You’ve done what no one in your position should have to do — make a case for yourself, and for all victims of rape.
We stand with you. We see you. We see you standing with us, and we join you.
Thank you for your immense courage for prosecuting your case, and for your generosity in penning an impact statement despite having been triply victimized — once by the rape, once by the case, and once by the sentencing.
We rape victims are hiding in plain sight. We are your boss, your partner, your investor, your doctor, your teacher. We are people of every gender, of every race, of every age, of every country, of every profession.
#IwasRapedToo and I am willing to say so publicly.
#IwasRapedToo and I am not ashamed.
Today we choose to be strong. Today we choose to tie our strong public selves with the equally real fragile victimhood of having been raped. We are not alone any longer. We are now a community. As a group, we cannot be silenced or cowed.
And to those who still cannot speak out — we understand. We are with you. We are all with you. We will be with you until you can speak, and even then we will not abandon you.
In public, we are leaders and activists.
In public, we are polished and strong, fighting and successful. Professionals. We have worked hard to cultivate this image, we have worked hard to cultivate a persona that is considered to be ‘above’ personal experience.
In reality, many of us have experienced the unimaginable. Each of us have had our own individual experiences and the specifics of our rapes are different. But we’ve all learned to be afraid, to doubt, to question whether or not we are right, or valued, or even, if we are in charge of our own lives.
If we were in charge of our own lives, we may think, then we were responsible, we were accountable. We are defective. We made poor choices. We deserve this.
I say ‘think’ here because that’s often as far as it goes. These feelings go unsaid, unuttered to anyone but ourselves. In many of the same ways we wonder if our lives are our own, we wonder how our truths could harm and re-harm us. And because we are always questioning, then the narrative ceases to be linear. And when the narrative ceases to be linear, it becomes easy to pick apart.
Brock Turner’s father released a statement recently that said his son should not be punished harshly. That his 20 something years of being a good human being should not be negated for “20 minutes of action.” Language choices notwithstanding, the punishment of rape victims is never just confined within the timeframe of their assault — it happens once, in real time, in the body. And then it happens over and over and over, in our memories, in our lives, and in the minds of those who hear the story.
For this, and so many more reasons, many of us have never told our stories in public. It is too personal, intimate, and not for public discussion. Many of us suffocate in our own shame.
The #StanfordVictim’s courageous, eloquent letter has triggered extraordinary conversation. Her voice, and the clear injustice of her rapist, and his family’s and the judge’s response have made it possible for our friends, family, and co-workers to talk about rape without having to whisper it behind closed doors. Our Facebook and Twitter feeds have lit up with the unlikeliest of allies lending their voices in support of hers. Over 985,000 people have signed a petition to recall Judge Aaron Persky for his horrific judgment in the Brock Turner rape case.
After a lifetime of socialized sexual objectification, the concept of rape culture is finally gaining mainstream media attention and is becoming a more common topic of conversation — how it directly relates to the way we see women and women’s bodies, the value we place on sexualization, and how quickly we jump to the ‘boys will be boys’ mantra.
Even if you’re not a victim, rape impacts your life far more than you realize. In the United States, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have been victims of rape*. You probably know a rape victim and a rapist personally.
The Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz reportedly once told a room full of young male writers that they would do a bad job of creating female characters “Because the thing about…heteronormative masculine privilege…is you grow up your entire life being told that women aren’t human beings, and that women have no independent subjectivity.”
When questioned about his logic, Diaz stated that we simply live in a world that women, no matter what their accomplishments or fortitude, are not believed to be valued. And men are always thought of as valuable, no matter how terribly they behave.
But the conversation is changing. Stirring beneath the layers of deeply buried guilt, self blame, and grief, we start thinking: Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time to start coming forward, from our pillars of activism and leadership. Maybe it’s time to affirm our self worth. Maybe it’s time for us to stand together and lend each other strength, and be leant strength, until we can internalize our own and remember that truly and definitively we are blameless and shameless.
Allies, let’s end rape culture
Hopefully the media of the last week has illustrated powerfully how a culture of sexual objectification and victim blaming can destroy people’s lives.
You can help us by taking a stand against rape culture. Many people have written excellent guides on the subject on how allies can help:
- Ten Things (You can Do) to End Rape Culture: http://www.thenation.com/article/ten-things-end-rape-culture/
- 11 Ways to Solve Rape Better than Nail Polish: https://mic.com/articles/97362/11-ways-to-solve-rape-better-than-nail-polish#.ETLc2juAc
- How to Be an Ally: http://www.thehealingcenter.org/how-to-be-an-ally.aspx
- Here are Nine Ways to be a Good Ally: http://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/here-are-9-ways-to-be-a-good-ally-to-sexual-assault-survivors/
- Even “Nice Guys” are Rapists Too: http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/06/07/men-see-themselves-in-brock-turner-thats-why-they-dont-condemn-him/
Each of us has our own unique, personal experiences with rape. What’s astounding is how pervasive the story of rape is in every corner of the world. What unites us all is a common culprit.
If you feel safe enough, we welcome you to join us as allies and survivors, to help amplify the message in whatever way is meaningful and comfortable to you.
Susan Wu (@sw) — Startup Entrepreneur and Investor