The men who commit sexual assault are humanized and given the benefit of the doubt over and over again, while the victims of rape are abused, doxed, and accused of lying.
Over the past few weeks, I have started and then stopped writing a piece about the current happenings at the forefront of American news and politics. I have done my best to put my fingers to the keyboard to succinctly articulate the myriad of ways in which rape culture shapes our society. But, every wave of my anger is shortly followed by exhaustion—the sheer exhaustion of doing the work and the mental health issues triggered by being subjected to the horrors perpetuated and protected by powerful men.
Being a feminist whose work is is published online, whose livelihood is centered around deconstructing oppression and promoting the wellbeing of marginalized people, is enriching but it is also exhausting, because everything we do is met by abuse from anyone who benefits from the current structures firmly put in place by their forefathers generations ago. And yet here we are, doing the work because we have no choice, because our existence alone is a form of resistance and because our existence depends on us defending ourselves.
I wanted to write a clear, compelling piece about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the supreme court, but my rage filled me and then the exhaustion followed. I believe Christine Blasey Ford, I believe Deborah Ramirez, I believe Julie Swetnick, and I believe the victims and survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault who, like me, have had to endure the myriad of stories flooding every outlet, reminding us of the similar ordeals we were subjected to by people who held no regard for our autonomy. We let out our blood, we show our pain, our scars—we re-traumatize ourselves for the sake of hopefully not letting yet another misogynist sit in one of the most powerful seats in this nation and yet, we are met with not only disbelief, but the psychological terrorism of abuse supported by those who write and pass our laws. We share all of our stories only to see them consumed by the voyeurs who enjoy seeing our pain, who enjoy reading about us being assaulted, about seeing our professional lives curtailed by the entitlement of people with more structural and social power than us.
Misogyny is exhausting, rape culture is exhausting. Our responses to it, our resistance to it is a scramble for survival, not just a disagreement over beliefs or politics, but the assertion that we have a right to exist without being perpetually harmed by people who would rather see us as human incubators and sites of racial and sexual violence. How am I supposed to calmly describe rape culture when I can visibly see it and feel it rip away at my life and the countless lives of those who died at the hands of rapists and murderers, the people who refused to believe them and the people who killed them because they thought that it brought dishonor to their families?
The men who commit sexual assault are humanized and given the benefit of the doubt over and over again, while the victims of rape are abused, doxed, and accused of lying. We’re always asked about the rapist’s potential and right to a stable life, and we’re never asked what potential we were robbed of. I’ve been yelled at and threatened for writing about my experiences with rape culture and met by numerous #NotAllMen responses, and now I’m being asked which boys haven’t forcefully tried to assault someone—as if the systemic nature of rape culture excuses it, as if the bar couldn’t get any lower, as if the pain and depravity of our society couldn’t get any worse. So, how much longer do we have to put ourselves in harm’s way before people begin to believe us? Before people begin seeing rape culture as something that isn’t only real, but pervasive throughout all cultures?
How many survivors have to come forward before we decide that patriarchy and men may not be suited for the positions that they hold in society—that their patriarchal heritage has allowed them to view the rape of women as a right as opposed to a crime? As long as men like Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas (and multitudes of other men like them) are allowed to make decisions which alter millions of lives, it is clear that our society isn’t ready to put an end to the scourge that is rape culture, patriarchy, and all other forms of oppression. It is clear that survivors of sexual assault will continue to struggle within a society that gaslights us, deems our pain and our experiences non-existent or a threat to patriarchy.
So what do we do with our anger and our exhaustion? I don’t have a perfect answer. The only thing that I have learned over the past ten years of doing this work, and the only thing that I am certain of is that it is important for survivors to rest, it is important for us to protect our hearts, our bodies, our minds. I think of how many of us have died too soon because of how stress, anxiety, depression and fear have truncated our potentials and our health, and I remind myself of how important it is that survivors support each other, that we celebrate each other, that we share tenderness, softness and compassion amongst each other because we believe each other, we know what that anger feels like. That quick burning energy that evaporates into exhaustion. We fight for ourselves, we rest for ourselves and hopefully, one day in the expansive future, the work will be done.
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