Being Believed — The New Normal

December 21, 2017 Nonfiction Comments (0) 93

Being Believed — The New Normal

A massive scandal involving celebrities, newsmen, artists and politicians and has shoved rape, domestic violence, molestation and sexual harassment into the spotlight. Women accusers, whose stories had been met with everything from hushed skepticism to bald-faced doubt just a short time ago, are now being listened to and believed. 

Speech will be the business of men, wrote Homer in the Odyssey in the 8th century. Indeed, the lack of female narratives in the media, in the arts, in politics, and in history today is not because these narratives do not exist, it is because they have been smothered under layers of repression and white, male privilege. 

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in every 4 women in the United States have been victims of domestic violence and 1 in 5 women have been raped. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime including assault or murder — about $127 billion dollars a year.

While these stats prove that violence against women is a problem of epidemic proportions, it is also true that this is a story that has never dominated the news cycle for very long. Society has long looked the other way as women who dared to share details of sexual assault were blamed for what happened to them and/or tossed aside because they took too long to speak up. Women lie about abuse is a myth the patriarchal world holds up as true in order to maintain power and control. 

There are many theories about why women are being believed at this moment in time from the suggestion that mainstream feminism has finally taken a foothold to the fact that we have a sexual predator for a president. I think it is because there are so many lies — from the daily propaganda tweeted by Trump to the GOP’s tall tales of tax reform — that the truth became a reckoning. Survivors, by continuing to speak out, have created a new world.

As a survivor of sexual assault, I felt as if my assailant had stolen my true identity. To release my experiences of violence, abuse, and sexual assault at his hands, was to peel aside a façade of protection. The very act of admitting the shame, guilt and pain of my past was transformative and reclaiming. What we have experienced as a nation for the past few months, are women taking back who they are by sharing stories of humiliation. By exposing our humanness and our frailty, victims have turned our lives into powerful testimonies of survival. 

Revolution is a sudden, radical and complete change. Revolution happens when a paradigm can no longer hold. There had to have come a point when women’s stories and the truth of our lives could not be held under water to drown like the unwanted runt of a liter. That time is now.

This is the beginning. Now we must make room for all the stories. Not just from the well off, the well known, the white women. We must listen for the stories from the black and the brown women, from the queer people, from transgendered folk, from those with disabilities, from Native Americans, from all survivors who have been marginalized in this conversation. We must mourn all the women’s stories that will never came out. Women who died at the hands of violence. Women, who, for whatever reason, cannot speak out. 

If being believed is this country’s new normal, it is because women got us here. The very act of never letting up on our narrative; of telling our stories day after day; of standing up for our own integrity has transformed the nation. We did it. Our vulnerability has proven to be our greatest strength.

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We’ve Seen #MeToo, Now Let’s See #IDid

December 21, 2017 Nonfiction Comments (0) 97

We’ve Seen #MeToo, Now Let’s See #IDid

It’s time to do something about men who rape, batter, and abuse.

There are boat loads of them out there. I bet you can name at least five of the more famous ones. To the women reading this, how many gropers, predators, rapists, batterers have you met in your lifetime? I wager it is at least a handful. The plethora of the use of the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter and Facebook confirms the magnitude of the problem of violence against women.

On October 5, the New York Times printed an article detailing nearly 30 years of sexual harassment by movie producer Harvey Weinstein. This is not the first time a man with considerable power has had his past “indiscretions” uncovered. The media reports, the women come forward to tell their stories and nothing changes. In a month or a week or a year another horror story surfaces.

I am not surprised when I hear that men use their power to take advantage of women, not even in the arts where everyone is supposedly so liberal and inclusive. My shock is the lack of change, the cavalier disregard and the way the narratives of women like Samantha Geimer, Dylan Farrow, and Nicole Brown Simpson seem to dissolve and fade out as quickly as they surface. When I hear women’s stories of abuse isolated by the media and often presented as possible fictions (give the men a chance to explain for crying out loud) my head blows off.

In drama school my acting teacher promised to make me a star on a Monday and by Friday was pushing my head down to his unzipped fly. In the late 70s I lived with a young movie star who worked on films by day and bashed my head in by night. That was followed by a short lived career as a young actress, where more than once I was asked to lick, kiss, fondle, and/or simulate sex with a male actor during an audition “scene” for a line up of men sitting behind the casting table. I moved from acting to production where, as one of a handful of women among a predominately male film crew, I was singled out and screamed at for stepping over a dolly track.

We live in a patriarchal world that continues to devalue and objectify women. Hollywood should be given an Oscar for doing it better than anyone.

I acknowledge that there are men who are victims of sexual assault, rape, and battery as well. I admire all survivors who come out with their stories and those who, for whatever reason, have decided to keep their stories inside.

But violence against both men, women, and other genders is, for the most part, committed by men. So I think we have to separate out the abuse of women by men because it is different. The way men think, act, and treat women is embedded in our culture and our implicit inequality is, perhaps, the major reason women are abused more often than any other gender. Sexual assault happens more frequently to women because misogyny condones it.

What can be done to stop this epidemic? Teach boys and girls about equality and power. Break down the stereotypes of being masculine and feminine. Let everyone know that feminism is not a dirty word. Those are a few ideas.

Here’s another one. It should not be up to the survivors to end violence against women. I had a dream of reconciliation that when I came out with my story of surviving domestic violence, my batterer would own up to his past and join the movement to end violence against women.

If all the men who have assaulted women wrote “I Did” on their status feed we could line up the “Me Too’s” alongside of them and then maybe we could begin to do something about it.

One out of every four women will be raped or physically assaulted in their lifetime.

To stop violence against women I call on any man who has harassed, raped, or beaten a woman to stand up and admit your complicity in the silence that perpetuates violence.

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