Log in

No account? Create an account

The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
so this word 'weakness', it's not working for me
children of dune - leto 1
Potentially triggery, kinda ranty:

Note: this is possibly the first time in years I had to get someone to read something for me before I posted it.

I'm probably going to say this wrong.

I'm getting more and more wary with each time the word 'strength' comes up in relation to victims of sexual crime in this post (Triggery, and warning for comments) and this post (Triggery, and also disgusting). By wary, I mean pissed off.

Strength of character really has shit to do with how you handle being sexually propositioned/sexually assaulted/raped. And maybe this is totally defensive of me, but I'm pretty sure I was filled with strength of character, and I still shut down when I was drunk and a guy shoved his hand down my jeans and into my underwear. Come on, fuck that bullshit, I was eighteen and I was drunk, but I was in a safe space in my own hotel room with my best friend on the other bed and this still happened and I still blanked out on what the hell I was supposed to do with this. Hand. Underwear. How did this happen?

Assault and weakness, coercion and weakness, aren't synonymous. I will happily listen while people talk about how they are stronger than they were the say x happen and I get that, I do, and I support it and I support them; they are stronger because of it. But I was pretty strong, and I was pretty good at saying no, and I'm five foot ten and I know perfectly well how to use my height to intimidate, and I know how to express utter disinterest and repugnance with my body language and I know how to close my legs. I know how to kick and how to scream and that day, at some point that night, I remembered how to stand up, go to the bathroom, and lock the door. Then I remembered how to get in an elevator (I'm severely claustrophobic) and ride it up and down until i thought just maybe, he wouldn't find me. Or I'd find somewhere that wasn't there.

I'm a woman; that means I've been trained all my life on how to avoid being sexually assaulted. I could PhD in it, in how to avoid, get away, get help, i know this shit cold. And yet.

It still took five minutes for me to do that and that's four minutes and fifty-nine seconds I can't account for.

I really wasn't upset after. I mean, sincerely, I hardly thought about it, ever, at all; it's funny. When I talked about this, this was my punchline, my joke, I made it for years and years until I stopped talking about it at all, when I was in Dallas this guy stuck his hand down my jeans while I was drunk and I ended up in the elevator and I'm claustrophobic! I did it for the claustrophobia bit; everyone always laughed. It's hilarious, honestly; if you've traveled with me, you know my love of stairs.

Now skip that.

It was maybe five minutes or less; I mean, five minutes is no time at all, really, it's like, the time it takes to cook two hot pockets. I couldn't think of anything. I don't know why I froze, I don't know why everything stopped, I don't know why I didn't pull his hand out of my jeans and strangle him, I don't remember being afraid, or upset, or angry, or anything. And on the scale from propositioned to torture-rape, it's like, barely a blip, five minutes. And it couldn't have been longer, he didn't even kiss me, unbutton my jeans, take off my shirt, my roommate would have noticed if had been longer, surely she would have.

The thing is, people who come out of a sexual assault are stronger than they were, but they sure as fuck didn't always start from a place of weakness. You freeze, you panic, you stop thinking and maybe when you can again, when it sinks in--he has his hand. in. my. underwear. wtf?--you can still get away. And then again--work with me here, five minutes--maybe it's too late and you can't. Five minutes, two hot pockets, and that was plenty of time to get my jeans down enough. It's forever.

You weren't, they weren't, we weren't hurt because of our skirt, the alley, our body language, alcohol, smiling, dancing, singing, or because we were weak and say that last part twice because it needs saying, we were not weak; it was because someone hurt us.

We were stronger afterward, right, but we were strong before, too.

Posted at Dreamwidth: http://seperis.dreamwidth.org/18285.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments

I admire you so much, just fyi. *hugs*

We were stronger afterward, right, but we were strong before, too.
Thank you for this reminder. I value the strength I have now as a result of my experiences and past pain, but you're right. The problem is not that I was weak before.

I was assaulted by someone I trusted a few days before I left the Army. I sure as hell wasn't weak, but for those few minutes, I was stuck in wtf land.

I don't think it's a matter of weakness or strength. I think it's a matter of something happening to you that no one can anticipate, kind of like a car accident. You take the driving tests, you wear your seat belt, and you still get slammed into out of nowhere and have to spend the rest of your life wondering if you had just checked your rear view mirror a little closer, or maybe hadn't been checking it at all, if things would have been different.

For me, I'm neither stronger nor weaker for what happened. I'm changed, for good or bad.

So, I guess that was my long winded way of saying I agree with you?

It took one minute of blank for me to have completely lost. It could take less. There is no weak or strong. There's just a moment, and in a moment, universes can end, and that's just the circumstance of that moment. And whoever fucking pushed the big red button.

I have always had an issue with the "strength" thing too, not because I don't believe I am strong, but because it's as if saying that I wouldn't be strong if I hadn't been raped. That one minute changed everything and I have no doubt that even now, if I went back in time knowing what I know now, I could not help losing that minute. All the minutes afterward weren't me proving I was strong by overcoming it or living in spite of it. It was just me still existing but with new big-red-button dents and paint coats added to experience levels that no one should have.

Strength ≠ strength against the weakness/evil of others. It only means the ability to persevere.

And I don't know if perseverance is truly strength, or just survival.

It's all about justification of the perpetrator, isn't it? I mean if there was a *reason* as to why it happened, and if in some way it can be blamed on the victim, then the perpetrator is somehow not as bad. Like, if you do walk down the alleyway, or wear the really short skirt, then people can turn to the lectures we've all taken and we can say, "oh yes, my bad, item 3 says don't walk down the alleyway, and I did. So sorry! My fault".

Because I think ultimately, people don't like the idea that there are people out there who are opportunistic, premeditated and planning on committing a *crime* - people who *intend* to violate someone else. If the victim is neutral and it wasn't their fault, they just happened to be there, then ... well, then we live in a world where bad people walk amongst us, all the time. And yet, when you look at the numbers of rape victims, well, we *do* live in a world where people walk amongst us all the time and their own concern for their own sexual enjoyment is more important than respecting other people and their boundaries.

Sorry for rambling but you got me with the - victims are not weak, they can be strong.

I don't know that harmonyfb woman, but I want to slap her.

That's kind of you; I want to punch her in the throat over the internet.

Oh that personal responsibility post just makes me rage inside. All women react differently to all situations. Not everyone will react the way to a situation that they are uncomfortable with or that they feel threatened. This does not make them personally responsible for other peoples actions.

She talks of herself and her values and strong and independent, completely free of social restrictions. She is so strong and proud, that she is demeaning women who do not all act like she would. Making them of lesser value then her and because they do not have the values, actions and reactions that all upstanding good people have

I though we got past this "there is only one good kind of woman in the world, the rest are shit" thing, but history is always repeating itself every single day by people like this.

I think you capture something so crucial really amazingly well here. I was assaulted once in my early twenties--not sexually, more of a fistfight with a guy which I lost, and I came away with a black eye--and I screamed the place down and the cops came and I pressed charges, but I'll never forget that moment of WTF? And thinking, he's not even bigger or stronger than I am, I should not have lost that fight! But I remember that disconnect of not believing it was happening, and I remember the embarrassment of feeling afterward like I shouldn't have lost (along with a lot of other things), when the real issue was that he shouldn't have escalated the situation by holding me down and punching me in the eye. And realizing how easily things like that can happen definitely changed me. So I'm sorry it even needs to be said and that every word of it is true, and for what happened to you, but I'm so glad you said this.

About 10-15 years ago, I was on a jury for a kidnap/rape case. The defendant wasn't a big strong guy, and in discussions, it came up that the victim was bigger than him. She had a bad back, though - could that be enough, it was wondered.

I said that I was only speaking from my own experience, but as a woman I've been told that if I'm ever in this position I should fight and scream and hope to attract attention, and maybe he'll stop. I've also been told not to fight, not to scream, because it'll just make him mad and it could go worse for you. Both sets of lessons have been sincere, and quite honestly I have no idea how I might react if ever put in such a position.

All the women in the room nodded.

We all talk a good game about what we'd do if... but considering all the great comebacks I've thought up an hour after when they were needed, I just don't know. So if I can't know what I'd do in a hopefully-won't-happen future, who the fuck am I to tell you you did it wrong in a much-too-real past?

As someone whose first reaction is to freeze in pretty much every confrontational or even just unexpected situation, sexual or otherwise, I appreciate the hell out of this post

Thank you for this.

My sister was date raped while she was at a military academy. She didn't report it, didn't say anything about it, because she had to work with all the other military people who had been present in the bar, and to this day, I don't know if the guy who did it was another academy student or a civilian. I didn't ask, and she didn't tell me.

She's nearly six feet tall, and trained in self defence by the US government. It didn't make a difference when enough alcohol was involved.

It didn't make a difference when someone drugged her drink while she was on vacation in Cosa Rica, either, but in that case, the Air Force guys with her were decent human beings and brought her back to the hotel room as soon as they realized something was wrong, and neither touched her not let anyone else do so.

The "personal responsibility/strength" argument is bullshit. She should have been able to trust people who are supposed to back one another up in combat, and trust their lives to one another's skills in an aircraft, to have her back in a bar as well -- the guys who did the right thing the second time should be the rule, not the lucky exception. 'Personal responsibility' is respecting and backing up other people.

This, so much this. Thank you so much for commenting.

The "personal responsibility/strength" argument is bullshit. She should have been able to trust people who are supposed to back one another up in combat, and trust their lives to one another's skills in an aircraft, to have her back in a bar as well -- the guys who did the right thing the second time should be the rule, not the lucky exception. 'Personal responsibility' is respecting and backing up other people.

That was perfect. Thank you for articulating that so clearly.

You freeze, you panic, you stop thinking[...]

This! So much this.

The worst that ever happened to me was years ago some guy, who sat next to me at the movies and kept putting his hand on my thigh. And even though I usually have no problem asserting myself and yelling at assholes, I was to frazzled and caught up in a giant WTF??!? to do more than just take his hand and put his back in his own lap. It has nothing to do with strength, how we react in an unanticipated, shocking situation.

I ... think I won't be reading rage-inducing links right now. I just wanted to say thank you for articulating something I haven't been able to.

It has nothing to do with strength. And I think it should be noted that sometimes people don't come out stronger, sometimes don't come out at all.

I think it could be said that everyone comes out changed.


Yes, you nailed it. Thank you.

You weren't, they weren't, we weren't hurt because of our skirt, the alley, our body language, alcohol, smiling, dancing, singing, or because we were weak and say that last part twice because it needs saying, we were not weak; it was because someone hurt us.

thank you

Okay, so not getting into my own experience with this as it is far too early in the morning and I have had neither alcohol nor caffeine but, suffice it to say, it happens, you panic, and sometimes, if you are lucky enough, you can still kick a man in his balls even if he is currently standing behind you.

Just wanted to share that I saw your post, followed by today's Day by Day cartoon. I know this person tried to rile people up, and often tries to hard, but really? As in really-really? Maybe it was the timing, but this was too much.

I totally agree with everything you say. I find it so sad and mind-boggling that there are women out there who need this stated because, really?

The thing that gets me is that I've been very lucky, I've never been assaulted or anything like that. I also know how, if I'm ever in that situation, I should theoretically act. Key word there? Theoretically. Because no matter how much I know how to act, I can't say how I will act once I'm in that situation.

The fact that people can ignore circumstance, mental conditioning (as in, from society telling women to basically shut the fuck up), fear etc etc makes me mind boggle. Again.

Also, didn't the people involved in this whole thing show that 'strength' when they reported this all to the convention organisers? Just because they didn't publicise their 'strength' or 'personal responsibility' at the time doesn't mean it didn't happen.

my mind, it is boggling.

Also, awesome last line.

I totally agree with everything you say. Yes.