When not reporting a rape seems like a sensible option

M:

This rings so true for all survivors.

Originally posted on Another angry woman:

Trigger warning for rape and systemic abuse of rape survivors

Some years ago, I was raped. I never reported it.

I am not alone: the vast majority of rapes are not reported to the police. Some estimates suggest up to 95% of rapes are unreported. The thing is, a lot of the time, not reporting a rape seems like a sensible option.

When a woman reports a rape, forensic evidence is gathered using a rape kit. This procedure is highly invasive, consisting of a full, intimate physical examination and sampling from parts of the body which have only recently been violated. It is highly understandable that many survivors would not want to subject themselves to this intrusive procedure following a traumatic experience. There is also questioning, sometimes with an insensitive or disbelieving tone from the police. Between half to two thirds of rape cases never make it past…

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Thank You, Survivors, for Not Being Silent.

Dear Survivors of Sexual Assault Who Have Come Forward:

If only you knew how indebted I am to you. Because of your bravery – because of you facing your fears and demons and complexities, your inner storm that you managed somehow to weather, justice was served; voices were heard; perpetrators got help for their sickness, and the world – even in a small little corner, became better because of you.

It’s not to say that survivors of sexual assault who are silenced are not equally brave, have not equally dealt with inner turmoil, and do not deserve accolades even just for waking up the morning after they were treated horribly, often by someone they felt they could trust. My hope for those people though, is that because of those who talk, inner strength will be contagious, will prevail, will one day become the ‘norm’. Survivors know that they cannot end rape culture, and cannot permanently halt sexual assaults. But what can be done is a change in the climate. Those who tell their stories are the pioneers, the trailblazers, the ones who set the example by giving a voice to all survivors. It gives me hope that there will one day be fewer and fewer and fewer silenced, subjugated individuals.

What happens to so many survivors, is they are stripped of something that ‘others’ take for granted. Asking for directions, saying no in so many situations, hanging onto toxic people far too long, talking to strangers at a party. trusting those who have your best interests in mind, thinking they’re beautiful…become difficult chores that can be faked but rarely, if ever, felt. Eventually survivors retreat into a place where they are alone with their thoughts, and they blame themselves for shortcomings that simply are not there. Hearing a voice is like a strong arm reaching down into the well. It is hopeful and creates solidarity. Suddenly, pain and grief and the need to reconcile and move forward is shared. By someone in the same situation who decided to not let the past dwarf them into silence.

So once again, to those who have opted to be vocal and come forward with their stories, you are doing so much, perhaps without realizing just how much you’re doing for everyone. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’m Almost Ready.

There’s a part of my life that remains mostly unexplored and untreated; it’s like a scab I continually pick at, may always pick at, until the skin is too raw and too red and too bloody to heal. It’s a part of my life I’ve mentioned to people who matter, but only very few know the whole story, the version I have written and like the scab, picked at and picked at for a few years now, still not quite able to get it right, to tell it in a way that makes sense to me as the writer and me as the reader.

There’s someone I am falling in love with and I want to tell them the story. I want to hand it to them and let them read it, but I don’t want pathos and I don’t want tears and I don’t want them to question how or why I did what I did, why I subjected myself to what I subjected myself to, why none of the other adults in my life failed to protect me, to see what was happening to me. These sides of the story still haunt me. They’re feelings I can’t articulate and they remain unwritten for fear of triggering a gutteral response within myself I can’t undo or forget.

I wouldn’t share this story with just anyone unless I felt safe. I do feel safe. But I also don’t feel safe – from judgment, from pity, from disgust, from being looked at like a broken vase that can’t be glued back together. I’m ready to take that risk. I’d only take that risk for someone that I knew would protect me and give me dignity and respect, someone who deserves to, and has earned the right to know everything about me, even if it’s the ugliest sickest thing about me that exists.

I’m ready to let go of those ugly truths about me and share them with someone who may be able to handle them. Once I’ve done that, I’ve done all I can do.

On Jian Ghomeshi and Assault Accustations

When someone is accused of assault and they plead innocent, what determines whether we believe them or not?

Too often child molesters are prominent community members, upstanding citizens, in the public eye on a large or small-scale and are known for their relentless selflessness and charitable contributions. In creating this sterling reputation, they are in a bubble where they feel they cannot be touched. After all, will the community believe, or worse, forgive, a nefarious child molester if they have already developed a reputation for being a wonderful person? Will children feel validated in confessing to being abused if they think nobody will believe them? It’s a fool-proof plan.

Jian Ghomeshi is a beloved figure in Canadian music and Canadian broadcasting. Today, allegations that he has abused and assaulted his ex-girlfriend have caused him to lose his show, Q, on CBC. Ghomeshi has garnered a following with social media junkies and hipsters who appreciate his good-natured casual interview style on Q. He has also gained respect of fellow journalists, Canadian writers and thinkers for his insights, witty writing style and smart popculture and politcal commentary. Ghomeshi has interviewed almost everyone and has done public speaking gigs all across the country. As a former member of the novelty band, Moxy Fruvous, he has cemented a place too, in Canadian popular music. Some remember the Toronto-centric “King of Spain” and the uptempo acapella-pop/rap homage to Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham”. He comes across as kind-hearted, social justice-minded and the kind of ‘celebrity’ you could sit down and have beers with and talk about music. On top of everything else Ghomeshi is attractive and by all accounts, an ‘appealing’ public figure. So the first reaction that we have to him claiming that the allegations are 100% false and that he was robbed of his show by a jilted lover, is to believe him and resent CBC’s decision to pull the plug on Ghomeshi’s show.

But upon looking deeper at the message potentially reveals a few possibilities: is this the ‘truth’ of a man who is trying to clear his name by being ‘open’ to avoid suspicion? Is CBC really going to put themselves into an ugly reputation-ruining legal battle over allegations that could easily prove to be false? Is Ghomeshi’s statement opening which expresses “deep personal pain”, concern for his mother and the loss of his father a subtle ploy to elicit sympathy from the public?

Accusations of this nature are always tricky; there’s the victim’s view of the events, the perpetrator’s view of the events, the law’s, the public’s, and what actually happened. Whether we as individuals choose to believe Ghomeshi or not are dependent on our relationship with him as a public figure at this point with so few concrete facts floating around in the story. Right now, we just have Ghomeshi’s version of the story. Where are the others and what other facts will be released following his statement? Who’s side are we on: CBC as a corporation trying to protect its image, or Ghomeshi’s self-serving but possibly true version of the events which cost him his show? Time will tell.

Similarly to Ghomeshi’s war of words with CBC is TLC’s cancellation of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo due to alleged child sexual abuse convictions of the man that June is currently dating. Networks have a corporate and money-driven duty to protect their own interests, and whether or not TLC and CBC are in the right or wrong in these cases is up for debate.. Networks don’t want to soil their reputation by promoting people who may have exploited others. In doing so, they are condoning and perpetuating rape culture by keeping popular programs, thus making a statement that says, “we don’t care if this person is guilty or not, they get ratings”. It’s a double-edged sword that television networks must bare under controversy; do they assume guilt or innocence, and at what cost?

Do I believe Ghomeshi or not? I don’t know. On one hand, it is hard for me to imagine him as an abusive and uncouth battering boyfriend. But that’s because I know his public persona and not who he is in private. And for all I know, there’s no such thing as his public persona outside of the public eye. We assume we know celebrities and the stronger their brand is, the more we peg them as being exactly who they represent themselves as being. Thus, when Ghomeshi says he is innocent and that he was wronged by CBC,we fall back on the image of him as smart, level-headed, good-natured, wholesome and handsome. If we believe someone based on their public persona, we are suggesting that if someone wants to commit atrocities they simply need to do what countless child molesters and abusive husbands have done in the past and create for themselves a wall of upstanding citizenship good deeds to hide behind. I think in this case, we need to hear the other side of the story in order to get a fuller picture of whose story is more true, but the fact remains that facts speak for themselves and we can only hope for the truth, or cracks in the veneer to reveal themselves in the near future. Either way, I am troubled to hear both sides of this story and I’m sorry that there is controversy surrounding someone I have such a profound respect for. I’m also going to mourn the loss of Q, a wonderful show that made indie artists and actors and politicians palatable, relatable and human to me.

Allegations are just allegations. It is our job as the public to walk a tightrope of not jumping to conclusions about someone who might be wrongfully accused or having respect for potential victims who were coerced into unwanted sexual acts. I personally believe based on what I have read from Ghomeshi’s camp that his story is unlikely and full of holes and oddities that don’t add up. I personally believe that if people claim to be victimized the biggest respect we can owe them is to listen to them and further investigate their claims before slamming the door shut. We know Ghomeshi and we don’t know these as-of-now ‘faceless’ alleged victims. In this case, I think I am choosing to go against what I know in favour of what I know to be true about sexual violence.

All My Friends.

Let’s back up.

It’s January 2013 and I still live in Edmonton. I remember learning about the concept of “Blue Monday” – I think that’s what it’s called – the last Monday of the month of January which is statistically for financial, weather and darkness reasons, the most ‘depressing’ day of the year. I remember feeling it. It was pressed down on my back like an anvil falling on a cartoon chicken. It was -40, it was that blue-black dead brittle dead tree branch colour outside by about 3:30 pm. And I had just lost my best friend, who had stabbed me in the back and then blamed me for her senseless snapping-in-half of any assemblance of love and loyalty that we had in six years of close and meaningful friendship. That was almost two years ago now, “Blue Monday” and since then I’ve moved to a new city, obtained a second degree, left my last career in hopes of (someday soon, please!) finding a new one, meeting and falling in love with the man of my dreams, and becoming overall, a more confident and strong-minded person who has a new (albeit unlikely) best friend and a new life and sits in her west end Vancouver corner of the world with books and tea and soup and new running shoes feeling generally fulfilled except for that little itch in the back of her neck that says, “your friend betrayed you. All your friends have betrayed you at some point.”

Let’s fast forward to the present. In the present day, I spend my time in coffee shops and pubs eating things and drinking things I shouldn’t. I spend my time applying for jobs with full knowledge I probably won’t get them. I reflect back on the time I was a teacher and hated it, and I regret not giving myself enough attention and fairness to understand and appreciate the good I was doing and the fun I was having instead of losing the light in my eyes and wanting to hide in a corner and return to what I was doing before all this Vancouver craziness happened. Because I live in the past. And when I’m not living in the past, I’m looking so deeply into the future, I’m craning my neck to peer down into a well of darkness and ignoring the sunlight that warms my back and surrounds my body at times. I am thinking today about something a friend of mine that I used to work with – let’s call her Gina – said to me once: “You think that when you’re out of high school you won’t encounter mean girls anymore, but you will always unfortunately encounter mean girls.”

Mean people can only truly be ‘mean’ if you care what they think. Once mean people know you care what they think, they will use it. They will use it as a lasso and wrangle you in and hog-tie you to their opinions and then ride away leaving you stranded and tied in the dirt when only they can really untie you. And they won’t. You know it, they know it. You’re stuck out there, until you’re not stuck anymore.

I’ve lived that again and again. I can think of all the times I had friends – good friends, best friends, friends that I thought would be in my wedding party – who are either no longer my friends, or are so distant from me that they’re pins in a map of my life on another continent. Sometimes I don’t know what friendship is, nor do I know what I did/am doing/have done that has left me a brokenhearted non-friend to people I cared about more than anything. What did I do that was so bad, I’d have friends purposely slight me in public forums they know I will see, just to make me feel badly, and why? These are people I have and would have journeyed to the ends of the earth for. And now, they’re scraps of nothing that I haven’t cleaned up yet.

Giving Thanks: An Open Letter

Dear You:

How do you give thanks to someone just for being their amazing self? By giving thanks to someone for not being what hurt you. You’ve never been anything but good to me, supportive, kind-hearted and protective. You’ve never been anything but encouraging. You remember things I say. You know what is important to me. You are committed to doing right by me. You’d never dump me with a high five or call up my best friend or ignore me for weeks at a time or stab me in the heart for your own selfish juvenile tendencies. Because you’re not a ‘boy’. You’re not some child who is afraid of emotional expression, you’re not someone who is paranoid about entering into something that might be construed as real. You’re not going to be my friend and stick your foot repeatedly into my world until eventually you’ve used it to kick me down so many times I assume, “this is what being in love is like; waiting on the sidelines.” I was so proud, pleased, happy and excited to introduce you to my family and friends and my world. You bought me my first gift that a man I’ve dated has ever given me. You came over and took care of me when I was sick. You are absolutely everything to me in this moment, and I am enamoured with how safe I feel, how well I’m treated, and how I just look at you and smile without even being able to explain why. I know my own worth but I sometimes don’t feel it, but you’re always there to remind me just with one brush with your fingertips, and one gaze, or a few words — “I knew you could”, “you look lovely”, “you’re so much cooler than me”. Sometimes I have so many good feelings I cannot carry them inside my heart and I have to gently press them deeper inside to make more room, like the folding of fine silks. You are the most wonderful and amazing person to come into my life and there is nothing more apt than giving thanks for you on this day. I am full, and it is because of you.

With love,

What Has Elliott Smith Done for Me?

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I often think if I had a time machine and I could use it for me (although my first instinct is to use it for somebody else specifically – but that’s another story), I would go back in time to the later 90s-early 2000s as I am now, and see Elliott Smith in concert.

When I was in my second year of Creative Writing in undergrad, I wrote a story called “Elliott Smith” which was an entirely symbolic breakup story devoted to the deep fandom and appreciation I had developed then for the late Smith, who had changed my life when I was in my early twenties.

I used to discover music in what Ryan Adams would call “the twilight of my youth”, by googling things like “a list of the saddest songs” and in all honesty, that was how I came upon Elliott Smith. I was transfixed. Here was this figure, this person who was no longer alive but who felt as real and current and relatable to me as any of the other artists I knew. Here was someone who was able to function in life on a good day, but could express the most shattered things, the deepest confessions, with clear-eyed empathy, with poetry, with references to things like Shiva and Punch & Judy shows and the Son of Sam and Icarus that I knew, could understand, and could merge with as if these words were about me, or just for me. A good artist makes music for others; a great artist makes music for themselves and manages to reach into the hearts and souls of others and dredge up their fears, desires, thoughts, lives, and hopes for the future. I remember one time, I was walking home in the dark in the very early springtime and I heard Elliott Smith’s “Twilight” for the first time, and it felt like the world stopped spinning for just those four minutes and 30 seconds. Everything vanished into scraps and pieces except for this song, that conjured up an image for me of a young girl laying down in a park fountain covered in a layer of pollen. And that was where the story came from, a story for which I was awarded $2500 which is maybe what I’m most proud of to date, amidst so many other accomplishments.

What it’s like for me is to be trapped all the time and never feel like I can fully be myself with almost anyone for so many reasons – which is again, another story. What Elliott Smith has done to help me with that is to make me feel less alone, and validate my feelings of self-hatred, vulnerability and contempt for other people who have wronged or hurt me in the past. A song like “Memory Lane” reminded me then of my experiences with bullying and now, makes me think and feel about the damage of vicious gossip and lies. What Elliott Smith has done for me is insurmountable; he has taught me about writing, life, depression, self-destruction and the heartbreak that is wasted potential, bygone times, beauty that is so unrealized by the masses that it’s almost shameful that a song like the aforementioned “Twilight”, “Happiness”, “Somebody That I Used To Know” or “I Didn’t Understand” aren’t staples in the lives of every generation Xer in the same way that Nirvana’s tunes have leaked their way into the subconscious of the young, music-savvy (or sometims not-so-savvy) masses. While this is a crying shame however, seeing Nirvana t-shirts for sale for $12.99 at Wal Mart is not necessarily a corporate nightmare I would want for the man who broke everyone’s heart in a mesmerizing, nerve-wracking, awkward and out-of-place performance like this one, which showed a counter-culture underground hero being forced out into the cruel judgment of the spotlight, and losing (as if anyone thought there would be another outcome when Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” was also on the Oscar bill that year).

There are all too many saviors in music – anyone from the Backstreet Boys to some busker on the street that no one has ever heard of (yet?) can be a savior for someone in need. Aren’t musicians really just guardian angels that come along during times we need them the most? And isn’t their music merely their sermons, words of wisdom, guidance along the way to get someone in need to where they need to go? Music has saved my life far too many times to count, and I don’t even care how cliche that sounds because it’s the truth and always has been, ever since my mom played music in the car before I was old enough to even comprehend what song lyrics meant. Elliott Smith might be one of the artists who has most been that savior for me. When there was nobody else there, Elliott was my best friend and the person who led me into the light, whatever that light looked like.