The perils of kindness.

Last night, sitting at my desk, trying to write a book review, I finally just burst into tears.

The book deals with Israel/Palestine, and the many brave and noble people attempting to find a path to true peace and genuine justice, and it comes on the heels of two other books that dealt with what amounts to the same subject matter — and last night’s book and the earlier two came at either end of days and days in which I was dealing quite intensely, in my writing and in my heart, with the topic of rape (a couple of times on this blog, on and on at Twitter, and elsewhere across the wilds and in the corners of the blogosphere), while all the while, people living across a swath of the world that holds a place very deep in my soul are being shot at from their own fighter jets and by their own police forces. And the public employees in some quarters of this country — teachers, for God’s sake! — find themselves faced with the possibility of losing their freedom to ever collectively organize again. And at some point I discovered that a (male) blogger had accused me (specifically) and other women bloggers of “raping” Lara Logan by choosing to use the story of her assault as a reason to write about rape. And then an earthquake in New Zealand….

What finally reduced me to tears was a good friend being kind.

In this case, the good friend happens to be a truly, genuinely lovely person who has spent his life telling the truth about Israel/Palestine, and the one clear thought I could get to (as I read his completely unrelated email and cried) was: How can the world still suck so hard, when there are such beautiful people in it?

I’m tired. I’m tired of the world sucking and of beautiful people dedicating themselves and their lives and all too often their deaths to trying to heal a world that still sucks. I’m tired of the ever-peeling layers of suckage — after all, just under “pro-democracy protests turn violent in the Middle East,” you’ll find “well-founded fears of chaos,” “well-founded fears of military takeover,” and “well-founded fears of economic collapse and further human suffering.” Under which, of course, you will also find “Lara Logan was brutally assaulted and more than 80% of Egyptian woman complain of constant harassment and women are raped everywhere, anyway.” Under which you will find… many other things that I cannot bear to think about right now.

It matters not that I’m tired. Not really. Despair and exhaustion are luxuries, and I already live in the lap of luxury.

But I confess that I have found it easier to not know over much about about Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran, or Wisconsin and Indiana over the past 24-48 hours (oh, and Ohio. Where apparently someone decided it would be a good idea to lock the people out of their own statehouse) — or even of New Zealand, where, after all, it’s not the sucky people, it’s the sucky tectonic plates we have to thank for the wave of grief and sorrow now washing over a nation. It feels wrong to admit this. I confess that, too.

I’m going to the J Street Conference this weekend, and I think that will have to count as my good deed for the next week. Me being tired doesn’t matter — but me crying doesn’t help.  I think it’ll be helpful to go hang out in a room full of compulsive do-gooders for a couple of days.

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Talking about rape.

The fact that the world is talking about the brutal assault of CBS correspondent Lara Logan 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.

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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.
———————-
(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.

The assault on Lara Logan & the reality of rape.

I’ve never been raped.

Why? Because I’m lucky.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

I’ve been groped on more than one occasion. I’ve been followed by men in a car late at night. I’ve been harassed on the street, and more than once not been certain it was going to end at “harassment.” A friend and I once found ourselves in a shared taxi with two men who tried to convince the driver (in a language they shared and we barely understood) to take us somewhere they could attack us (the driver physically pulled them from his car). I once discovered that my gynecologist was no longer in business – because he had raped several patients.

I am a woman, and I live in the world. This is what living in the world looks like, if you happen to be a woman. If none of that becomes rape? You’re lucky. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And while I might not have been raped, I know many women who were. Some more than once. Some when they were children. Some by people they believed loved them. Rarely, but occasionally, by strangers. And this is just the people I know.

I also spent five years as a rape counselor at the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, where I learned just how tenuous my status as someone who had never been assaulted is. One of the most famous cases we handled involved a young woman and her date — a well-known musician. They got to his place, and after saying yes, she said No. She said no so vehemently, with such certainty, that he had to tie her up to complete his rape. And yet some people still wanted to blame her.

The other day, as all of Egypt poured into the streets to celebrate their victory over tyranny, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was separated from her camera crew, surrounded by a large group of men, and then brutally and repeatedly assaulted. She was saved by Egyptian women and Egyptian soldiers, and CBS reports that she is still in an American hospital.

When Twitter got wind of this, folks went nuts. Some want to blame Middle Eastern culture, or Egyptians generally. Some say the rapists were hired goons, unrepresentative of anything remotely related to those who participated in the Egyptian uprising. Some have actually managed to blame Logan, and one man who should have known better made light of her fate and suggested it would have been “funny” if Anderson Cooper had been raped, too (he’s since apologized, so I won’t link).

But the simple truth is that the only culture that is responsible for this is human culture.

In far too many minds, all over the world, a female human is little more than an outlet or repository for male wishes or power. Rape is regularly and consistently used as a weapon of war. Rape is regularly and consistently used as a method of control.

But rape is also just regular and consistent. Men rape for no reason other than that they think they can get away with it — all the time, every day. Doctors rape, clergymen rape, husbands rape, boyfriends rape, employers rape, “dates” rape. Sometimes they employ tricks and ploys and intoxicants in order to convince themselves that what they’re doing is not (as Whoopi Goldberg so memorably put it) “RAPE rape” — but if she said no, or couldn’t say no, or was too afraid to say no? It’s RAPE rape. It’s all rape.

And lots of times, rapists don’t even bother to convince themselves. They wanted a vagina, and there was one in the room. They wanted to bond with their boys, and a vagina walked by. They wanted to show that bitch, or prove their worth, or relieve themselves, or take what any man in his right mind would take. RAPE rape.

Like most crimes, rape is a crime of opportunity. You don’t drive across state lines to pick-pocket — you go down to the corner. You don’t get on a bus to find women to attack — you attack the ones who are there and handy. Most of the time, those who commit sexual assaults do so within their own communities. Often within their own families.

Men and boys are also raped — every day — and that is at least one reason why that one tweet was so beyond-the-Pale wrong. No rape is ever funny, and the particular suffering of male victims is one with which we as a society have yet to grapple.

But men and boys, as a class, do not grow up and live with this fear, this threat, across the world and across cultures. This is women’s lot, and it falls on all of us.

Every.single.one.of.us.

I feel such pain and sorrow for Ms. Logan — not only did she survive this horrific attack, but her story is now public property, to be analyzed and picked over by all and sundry, people who have never met her and never will.

But her story is not as rare, or as easily dismissed as random violence, as so many would like it to be. Would wish it to be. And until we — humanity — admit that, millions upon millions of women and girls will be raped and assaulted year in, year out.

I’ve been lucky so far. I pray to God my daughter will be, too.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

 

UPDATE: Melissa Bell, a blogger at the Washington Post, wrote a very good, brief response to the reactions to the attack on Ms. Logan, including some important statistics. Please click through and read the whole thing.

A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women experience public sexual harassment, from groping to assault.

Here’s why this story is not just about Egypt, either:

In 2000, in New York’s Central Park, an assault similar to Logan’s occurred during a parade. Seven women were attacked. In the United States. Attacks occur everywhere, every day. Again and again.

The assault did not happen because Logan was a reporter in a dangerous country. It did not happen because that country happens to be Muslim. It happened because sexual assault occurs every single day to women everywhere in the world.