Monday, October 18, 2010

End the Shame on Victims of Sexual Assault

Victims of sexual violence in the Congo are protesting the use of rape as a weapon of war. Good for them! They are in a culture that devalues women -- especially if they've been violated. It is never the victim's fault!

The Congolese women are moving from victim to survivor with their actions. It will not be easy but many important things are not.

In the USA (and many other places) we must remove the shame from the victims and survivors of sexual assault. As long as we are unnamed in news reports it will seem that no one knows anyone who has been raped. No one should be named without consent but I believe naming victims will help end the shame. I am a survivor of the kiddie porn industry and I am open about what happened to me.

I have no shame because of what was done to me. None. Not a tiny drop. If there is shame and opprobrium let it fall on those who commit the crimes. That is where it belongs. It is never the victim's fault.

A bunch of years ago a friend and I were walking in the town where we lived. We happened to be discussing flashers and what to do if confronted by one. A flasher exposed himself to us a few minutes later and we -- without thinking about it -- burst out laughing. She pointed at the creature, we looked at each other and continued laughing. Tears ran down our cheeks and we had to lean on each other for support. The flasher shrank away. We never saw him again.

Our laughter gave us both a feeling that we were in control in that situation. Flashers generally want to elicit horrified reactions but we refused to cooperate.

I am not suggesting laughing at rape; it is too traumatic to laugh at, certainly. But victims who take the power over their feelings and then their lives will be able to more on to become survivors.

It is true that living well is the best revenge.