Monday, February 15, 2016

What Not to Say to a Woman Who Has Been Beaten, Assaulted, or Raped

I copied this long ago into a draft and cannot now remember the original context. If you recognize it, let me know so I can add attribution.

(Real examples from our NTX communities)
A dude recently told me I was too vague in my "checklist" of things men can do to support women-- concern for respect, consent, and equality. I know women who have been harmed by men. I have been a woman harmed by men. I have personal friends who have been beaten, stalked, sexually assaulted, raped. If a woman tells you a story about this, how will you respond? These are ACTUAL things that people have told friends and me. These are things, if I may be so opinionated, never to say.

Note, I use 'woman' here broadly in the place of {person who has been harmed in these cases}, because women were the vulnerable people is who suffered the abuse in these real life stories. I am aware that people of any gender can and do suffer these things. But again, these are real responses that *women* I know, here, have received from *men*.

  1. Never say, "Well, if you hadn't had so much to drink." Nope. Dude assumes that there was drinking. Actually, in the case in point, only the man committing the violence was on drugs and drinking. She was not altered in any way. But if she had been very altered/intoxicated, she would not have been capable of consent, and it would still have been rape.
  2. Never say, "You could only expect something at an event like that." Nope. It doesn't matter where I go or who I'm with or what I believe. Anything that begins with "What would you expect when--" is an internalized version of "She was asking for it." Nope.
  3. Never say, "I try to stay out of drama." Nope. Rape is not drama. Battery is not drama. Sexual assault is not drama. It is a crime. And unfortunately, the women in these radical communities are not protected by the law as equally as we would hope. The police and courts do not support people like us, and calling it drama is extremely trivializing to what would merit jail time if perpetrated against a women in polite society.
  4. Never say, "What more could you want than to put out these vibrations of conversation?" We would prefer justice, but we'd also settle for known abusers to be banned from events and your friendship. And our own healing. Vibrations, really??
  5. Never say, "I like to think that just because they hurt one person doesn't mean they'll hurt another." Nope. While this may be true, this line of thought shields perpetrators of violence and allows them to keep preying on vulnerable people in the communities. Fuck "radical inclusion". Would you be inviting a known pedophile to your child's birthday party because his ongoing history of molestation doesn't necessarily mean he would hurt another child?
  6. Never say, "I'd prefer you didn't name names, because an accusation could ruin someone's reputation." What? Are we more concerned with the rapist, in this case, than the woman harmed? Would we say this about a murderer?
  7. Never say, "I think this could all be resolved if you just sat down together and talked." Nope. A woman is never required to make peace with a man who beat, assaulted, or raped her. No one is. If she never wants to speak him again-- he has not "earned" a conversation with her ever again. Have you ever heard of retraumatization? A woman's goals may be justice, healing within herself, and finding solidarity with friends. Not some feel-good story about making friends with her abuser.
  8. Never say, "You just really need to let go. You're letting him win by not 'letting go' of this." There's that trivialization it again. This is a battle against an entire rape culture that keeps assaulting my friends and me, over and over. If we don't talk, we stand for the status quo.
  9. Never say, "I've had my dick groped in a club. It wasn't that big of a deal. It's not my fault you have internal genitalia." This man thinks that when something is forced in a woman's vagina, it is equal to someone brushing by him and grabbing his penis. You'd be surprised how common this idea is. False analogy.
  10. Never say, only, "That sucks." This is equivalent to relating a painful story about illness and death, and the response is an emoticon. If you don't know what to say, say that. Trite, underwhelming responses send the message that you don't care about major injustice and harm.

If you recognize something you've said to me or a friend here, this is not an indictment. It is a request that you consider the underlying suppositions associated with what you said, in pursuit of more respect, consent, and equality. All my love. -J/G

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