Saturday, April 7, 2012

TBTN




Tonight I was honored to be able to speak at this event. It was a lovely experience. I arrived and all the major news stations were there to interview and cover the event. I was interviews by them all and interestingly all were men, except one. And there was a marked difference in the way the two genders approached this topic. The men asked the same strands of questions about my attack and the offender and how I got involved or what I think we can do to prevent this in the future. The woman asked me about my recovery process and the months right after my attack, she had read my blog and seemed very empathetic towards the cause. Both are important- I just thought I'd note the difference.

Men and women generally respond differently to even hearing my story. Men will usually get angry and talk about what they'd do to the guy if they could. Women usually cry and want to hug me. I think both are important. Both are needed.

Anyway, the event began with a candlelight vigil on the Provo River Trail and back to Exchange Park in Provo. We then heard from a woman who studies rape culture and teacher gender studies at BYU. My main take away from her was that many victims do not report their assaults (and for good reason, reporting means a re-raping in some ways), but they do talk to friends and family. And so, as friends and family of potential victims our discourse and encouragement to seek medical, emotional and mental help is crucial. Also, she noted emphatically that Utah's violence against women's stats are significantly higher than those in the United States overall, yet our budgets continues to get cut in legislature for prevention. This is a problem.


Then I spoke, here is what I said (adapted from this post):


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Exactly a year and a half ago today, I was out jogging near the Provo River Trail at 3 in the afternoon. I was alone and I was attacked, threatened with a gun and then raped. This was 1 mile away from my home in broad daylight.

I had been all over the world by this point. I’d backpacked Southeast Asia, I’d lived in Africa and travelled Europe, mostly by myself. But I wasn’t raped while I was travelling the globe; I was raped in my own backyard. It reminds me of that fact that most car accidents happen within 5 miles of a person’s home; most sexual assaults happen within homes or the innocuous setting of a date. It’s like we have this belief that if we stay in certain areas and take the right precautions, we can avoid certain things when in reality the problem is much bigger than that.

Up until about the 19th century there was a form of eugenics used for the kind of offenders I’m talking about. If they used their... possessions... for evil instead of good, it was not only acceptable but extremely common for them to lose said possessions (i.e. castration). Although I have been off and on tempted to get behind this idea, my well developed, educated and also feminine mind ultimately shies deftly away from such vindication. I know that justice feels like safety sometimes. But it isn't. This is bigger than one person being punished for a crime.

Because I know that buying mace, not walking alone at night, and taking self defense classes-while all good things to do- will not solve this problem, I want to talk about something else, something much more important and far reaching, the core of all of this awfulness.

The very essence of the understanding between men and women.

You’ve heard this before: “She shouldn’t have been running alone!” Let’s examine that a minute. What is that person saying- she somehow deserved to be raped because she ran alone? Well, yes, that is what they’re saying, but I don’t think it’s on purpose. Even people that say “When will women learn? You have to be more careful!” are not evil. I think they are really saying something different. Instead their words are a type of denial, a person like that is really saying-“if I can make believe that if I keep myself and loved ones in the ‘right’ situations, we will never be touched by such a problem”. I can comprehend this type of rhetoric, but it’s a problem because it literally ignores the reality that making cautious choices isn’t always going to be enough and it BLAMES THE WRONG PERSON. It’s called Victim Blaming and it’s a HUGE problem. What about a reaction like “When will men learn not rape women?” or how about “men should not be allowed out alone at night if they’re going to rape women”.

My situation is fortunate in that it gives me a voice and doesn’t allow much room for this victim blaming. I wasn’t running at night, I wasn’t running in a secluded area, and I wasn’t wearing anything provocative.

Let’s examine the real reason I was raped; I am a woman and our society believes that that occasionally warrants sexual violence. Let me be fair and assert a firm belief I have: men are not inherently evil, sexually lustful and dominantly, violently oppressive creatures, and women are not inherently weak, passive and sexually promiscuous creatures. And these very blurry generalizations that cause the kind of thinking that leaks into the unfortified minds of those who actually act on these irreverent impulses are, at least in part, to blame. 

Let’s go back to what we can do. Learn self-defense? Carry a gun? Well sure, maybe, but maybe that is also be feeding the paranoia and developing the problem into a state of heightened fear that is simply an unacceptable way to live. I never subscribed to this kind of living before what happened, and I do not now. I will not have my independence taken away, tarnished or questioned: simple as that.

I'd love to just put on my naive smile and tell you all to treat each other well and that that will feed the starving children. Or that if we never think about the reality of sexual offense, it will never be a reality. The point is... we each eminate something outward into the world from our minds and our unconscious (or conscious) beliefs...

So instead of focusing on my personal trauma or tips and tricks to avoid getting attacked, I want all of you to think today about the bigger picture and the actual problem. Think about what your femininity or masculinity means to you. Do your words perpetuate or make light of rape culture? Do you teach your sons to be dominant and your daughters to be submissive? Do you find yourself victim blaming and is it because you’re scared to death of the reality of sexual assault? Do you really understand and assert to the people around you that ANY kind of non-consensual relations is rape?

This is my plea to you to look deep inside and decide... does what exists inside of you concerning your beliefs about your gender interact in a helpful or harmful way with the very real and all too prominent issue facing us... or facing me. no, facing us... it needs to be your problem too.

1 in 3 women can expect to be beaten or raped in her lifetime. My remarks today are aimed to strike in the channel of pathos, higher intelligence, moral consciousness, and blatant awareness that we as a human race are supposedly capable of. But I will say this: these women, these survivors (not victims – they choose to be survivors), they are among you. Do not make the ignorant mistake or perhaps willful denial of believing they are not.

I know this because as my story slowly permeates my immediate world... more and more women share with me their similar stories.

Each story is different. Each woman. Each man. And as much as I wish I did...I don't have the answers. No one does.

But one right answer to any question never felt very real to me (maybe it's why I always hated math class). What I do know is that as my family and I have waded our way through the swamp that this event has placed us in, we've become increasingly disgusted by the gross shortage of literature, understanding and general awareness on the subject.

So here I am, creating it, baring my soul in the only way I know how through the only lens I have access to... my own.

So please share, share my story, share me. Please talk, please question your own stigmas, question yourself. Please, let the horror that I lived become an impetus for your action.

Do it because the helpless, hopeless feeling that plants itself stubbornly in the minds and bodies of women like myself is one I am unwilling to live with anymore.





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Then Kate Chandler finished the night with her reading of the Vagina Monologues piece "Over It". Powerful stuff from a powerful woman.

I am honored to have been a part of this event and hope that we, as a community can begin to change the way we talk about, deal with and understand the problem at hand. 

5 comments:

  1. Kelsey, I am so proud of you. I wish I could have been there. I'm sure it was amazing. Your speech couldn't have been any better, perfect. I love you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a great talk for this generation of women. I agree so strongly with you and give you my full support for what you are doing and how you are trying to educate us all. Your so powerful and your so strong as we all are when we believe in ourselves. Your a shining example of how we all should be when life throws us the butt end of the deal. You are so intuitive, always follow your heart and soul Kelsey. I Love you and believe in who you are and what you stand for.
    ~t

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  3. Great post / Blog.

    I stumbled across your site via desertnews.com article.

    As a man / father of a beautiful little girl i have worries about these situations. It is very comforting to read a "success" story behind such tragedy.

    Congrats on your engagement, & Congrats on being in control of your own destiny.

    Love & Peace

    Ben from San Fran

    ReplyDelete
  4. Really, I have nothing to say except, you're so strong. This is powerful.

    ReplyDelete

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