The power of silence vs. the power of talking.

If reading about rape will trigger you, please respect your own limitations. If you need to talk to someone about any sexual assault or abuse that you or someone you love may have experienced, please call RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

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shhThe fact that the world is talking about the horrible events in Steubenville is, to put it mildly, an unusual thing. Usually, sexual assault is wrapped in silence.

The silence of social niceties, the silence of discomfort, the silence of fear. Many survivors don’t talk because they’re ashamed, or because they were told they’d be killed if they do. Many don’t want the assault to take up any more of their time than it already has, and many are sure no one wants to listen. Many can’t yet find the words to tell the world what happened.

But it’s been my experience, as a rape crisis counselor and friend of survivors, male and female, that breaking that silence is one of the most powerful tools there is for dealing with the events survivors grapple with — whether it be the assault, or the assault’s aftermath.

Moreover, telling the truth — giving voice to the lived reality of millions upon millions of women and girls, men and boys — is one of the most powerful weapons there is for dealing with those who would deny the realities of rape.

To that end, I present today a guest post, a monologue written by a woman I know named Danielle.

Writing this piece was one of the ways that Danielle has found to grapple with what happened to her. She hasn’t yet performed the piece nor seen it performed, but she hasn’t ruled out the possibility. When I asked her if I could put it on my site, here’s what she said:

I went back and forth on whether to put it out there, because some part of me fears judgment for what happened. However, that is exactly the reason to do it. Women don’t speak up, aren’t honest, because of the fear of judgment. And, maybe it is time to add to the voices that say, “Not anymore.” What happened to me affected me in a major way, but I am not defined by it, nor do I continue to carry it with me like baggage. It happened. It changed me. But, it didn’t ruin me. And, if sharing it can help someone else, then yes, let’s do it.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do so in the comments or send me an email (contact information in the About page, to the right). I promise you, this space will be safe. There will be no trolling here.

Note: I first ran this post in the wake of Lara Logan’s rape in Tahrir Square. It seemed entirely appropriate to run it again this week.

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This is written as a monologue to be delivered to an audience, part acting, part performance art (I wrote it in the style of a Chicago performance troupe the NeoFuturists). Everything in italics is stage direction.
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(she walks slowly from upstage, in clothing slightly too big for her to give the effect of it almost falling off. a clear glass filled with bright pink liquid is in her hand. she is slightly unsteady, but not “drunk”…she may or may not sit down at the lip of the stage)

You made my second drink. (beat) I had a small buzz from the first…but yours tasted like rubbing alcohol. A quarter of the way through, my words began to slur. Halfway done, I couldn’t stand. (pause) “Drink up!” (stares into the glass, at the last bit of the drink…slams it back, then considers the empty glass for a moment–beat) Then I lost my sight.

You didn’t notice me trying to fade into the couch, to pass out with what dignity I could muster. When you pulled me toward you, I saw it in the distance, like when you see a tv on in someone’s home as you drive by. (beat) I pulled away. Did you notice? (pause) Your weight came down upon me as if it had always been there and I wondered if you realized that reciprocity had triumphed over reason. Your hands moving mine to you, my body a vessel for your desires, for I had none of my own. Blind, deaf, and dumb, just as a puppet should be. I followed you outside, stumbling, wondering what I could sacrifice in the name of Not Making A Scene. My clothing peeling off like shedding skin as I tried to keep it close, as if it could still protect me. But shed skin is dead skin and unchecked lust knows few bounds. Your weight pushing against me, supported by elbows abraded by fabric. I had the scars for a week. Did you hear my answer in the silence that followed your questions? Did you see me trying not to cry as you kissed my back, feigning tenderness? When you fell out, did you hear me whisper a quiet thank you, only to breathe it back in when you found your way again? Did you see the face in the window, interrupting us? No, that was only in my mind. I didn’t look you in the eye, but if I had, would you have noticed? My powers came back to me as it ended; however, too little, too late. Task completed, you bounded off with lip service, but not a second look. As you searched for scraps of food in the kitchen, I searched for scraps of myself.

You didn’t notice, did you?

Neither did I.

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