Meow: Buh bye silence on sexual assault

photo by Anna Sneed, www.annasneed.com

photo by Anna Sneed, www.annasneed.com

I was going to write a post about how my car got stolen a couple of weeks ago and how I decided that this was some mystical message from the Clouds, an assumption that was then confirmed by my Jungian analyst trauma therapist when she asked, with wistful ah-ha-ness, “So, what does your car symbolize in your ego?”  I replied, “That it is in the wrong driveway and needs to remember to lock its doors?”  

I know, I’m her pet patient.  Evolved AND wise.

But, I dunno.  Something else came flapping into my brain, pushing out the trivial and material.  That something else revolved around an article I read about that white college kid who just recently got released after raping an unconscious woman, allegedly drunk.  I read that article and then I dove into a swirly goose chase of other op-eds, every author screaming about how incredibly unjust this whole thing is and how absolutely flawed our society is and blah blah blah.  And I started to really think about why - aside from the obvious and pervasive misogyny and patriarchy in our culture - this sort of thing ever happens.   I mean, I know that when they sit in that courtroom they’re NOT standing up and saying, “Boy is innocent because he is male.  Girl is female, so we don’t care!”  

I promise that that woman had an arsenal of talented lawyers, but STILL, they couldn’t get the Law to get on their side.  I guarantee there was discussion of, to use a slang term, “blurred lines” within her behavior and the night in question.  And instead of focusing merely on how unjust that is, it’s important that we figure out why her lawyers and her defense couldn’t persuade the Law to read between the lines.  Why?  If we don’t dig in right here, we’ll never prevent sexual assault and we’ll certainly never treat the offenders in the way they require.

What is happening, then?

Here’s my (very novice) theory:  We’ve given sexual assault a black or white definition, when in reality, sexual assault is a spectrum.  

Bear with me here and consider this:  Sex crimes are exchanges of power.   The degrees by which power is stolen varies based on the situation, the perpetrator, and the victim.  But, the common thread is that the offender wants power and the victim either surrenders it or has it stolen.  Right now, we only accuse the offender if the power is stolen and often only if it is stolen violently.  We don’t commonly hold an offender responsible for the slippery slope of a less clearly defined assault, for instance if the victim was unconscious or maybe not verbally saying no.  Why?  Because the Law is male.  And while most men don’t necessarily steal a woman’s power through sexual assault, almost ALL men have encouraged a woman to give away her power via sexual surrender in exchange for safety, approval, connection, security, and success.  

Before I go any further, I must emphasize that this is not a dude-bashing post.  Not at all.  Men need and want this education as much as women.

I myself have been the victim of sexual assault, at all different areas of the spectrum, from the violent to the surrender.  I’ve been sexually abused and severely harassed and “cat called” every single day of my life and I have been raped.  The full realm.  Obviously, some are more directly catastrophic than others, but they have all done very similar things to my person and to my life:  They communicate to my nervous system that I may never stand up and speak my mind or else I will be harmed in irreparable ways.  They have caused me to automatically shift into submission when engaging with men, whether in business or in life.  They tell my heart and soul that my sexual being is not for me to revere and belongs to men.  And, most importantly in terms of my work in the world, they reliquinish me to the mere object patriarchy wants and needs me to be.  

These offenses have changed my life dramatically.  They have the ability, without help, to render me a bobble head of trauma and not an actualized human being.  They have affected every single job I’ve had, every relationship I’ve attempted to keep, every bit of joy I try to claim.  I’m not exaggerating and I’m not being a wimp, as many people love to label women who speak up about these offenses.  This is the truth.  And the more I read about these offenders getting acquitted, the more it all makes sense.  So, I’m going to be honest about what I know it is like as a victim of these assaults.

Ready?

In MOST cases of my assaults, I either consented or I didn’t speak up.  It's true.  Not in my body and not in my mind and not in my heart, but in action.  Why?  Because I knew that if I let it happen, my life would be easier and no harm would come.  I knew that if I gave him that power, that things would be ok and I could sew myself back together.   This - THIS - is the message we need to pay attention to when it comes to sexual assault.  Because women can’t sew themselves back together and we can’t ignore what happens the next day and the next day and the next day ... and the next generation.

Now, if you’ll allow me to make a sweeping generalization and a rather uneducated hypothesis, I will further state that I believe that at least 99% of the world’s population of girls and women are victims on the spectrum of sexual assault.  And, if we really dial that back and we really look at what that means, then isn’t it possible that the order of the world right now and the imbalance of female and male influence over war, treaties, economics, and basic human rights may very well be directly connected to our inability to recognize the magnitude of the surrender of power involved in sex?  Wouldn’t it very well be fair to say that men have used, often even unconsciously and not with intended harm, a spectrum of sexual assault to subjugate and oppress women and have thusly been able to maintain and wield power that they obviously do not know how to handle?  And, in the same vein, isn’t it clear that the majority of women today are recovering from a daily dose of silencing that reminds them that they are mere objects and ought to just sit back and keep being pretty?

I look forward to the day that our sex education is not just about the ever-important topics how to avoid pregnancy and STDs, but also includes education on how to know when you are truly consenting and when you’re not and the aspects of power within.  I look forward to the day when our legal system recognizes a spectrum of sexual assault and trusts the named and obvious effects of said assaults on a woman’s life, resulting in fierce sentencing of offenders.  I look forward to the day when our society doesn’t blame or question a woman’s truth.   I look forward to the day when my own daughters know that they hold all the power in the world, of which no amount of safety is worth the loss.  

So, for any woman out there reading this today and knowing that in small or big ways, you’ve made (or been forced to make) sacrifices of your gorgeous, primal power, I send you some steely strength.  You don’t have to take it.  You don’t have to agree to it anymore.  Consent is such a bull shit notion.  Look a little more deeply and you’ll see that all along, all you wanted was safety and the freedom to be you.  You consented only because it in the chess game, it was the next best move.  There are other strategies, ones that sadly won’t be found in the current wave of feminism or from your own mothers, as those have all been tainted by the ruling order.  But, they can be found just in the willingness to talk openly to each other and to the world.  Something that I myself am afraid to do.  In fact, writing this piece makes me feel like I’m in harm’s way, which is insane, right?  But, what I have learned is that the ruling order is more bark than bite.  And I can handle both and so can you, so fuck it.