Day 4 – On her own terms – telling, appropriation, and reclaiming our experiences.

since may i’ve been editing a zine for survivors of sexual assault with an amazing friend Kate Ravenscroft. We greatly underestimated the impact of the project on the people that contributed.  We recieved over 50 contributions and beyond both deadline dates still had people clamouring to submit.  Everyone that I’ve spoken to has told me of the way in which they felt once they disclosed their experience, often for the first time,  it was no longer theirs. The medical, legal, and psychological professions and media  for whatever good intentioned reason, have  effectively contributed to a re-silencing and appropriation of our voices, and often retraumatized many of the people they claim to support.  The moment someone comes forward, her story is almost automatically wrested from her, to be scrutinized, cross examined, medicalised,  analyzed, believed, and often disbelieved.  In no other crime do our accounts of events get taken from us so often and with such force, leaving the very people the crimes have affected almost invisible.  So many times I have heard the sentence  “it (usually in reference to the criminal justice system)  is like being raped all over again”.

It is vital that survivors are given every opportunity to not only tell their stories, but  have them heard the way in which they want to be heard, and told the way they want to be told. At every step of the way our perspectives need to be considered. If we choose not to or are incapable of speaking up for ourselves, adequately trained advocates must be readily at hand to explain to whoever the appropriate bodies are the experiences we may have, or the way in which a situation impacts on us.  Our stories don’t belong to anyone BUT us,  they are not media sensation, or fodder for inappropriate cross examination.  They are not to be minimized, trivialized or ignored.  Reclaiming our experiences, using them for strength and growth can only happen if the people who claim to be our allies take a serious interest in being our allies, and know that with that comes an immense responsibility.

I think the role that creativity plays is immense.  For me, true agency over my own experience has come through being able to put it into words.  For some, words are inadequate, and visual art or music has been vital to taking back power.  For some, it’s media work, putting the perspectives of survivors on television, on the radio, and in print.  For others it’s been technology that’s allowed them to voice their views. there are many blogs that focus specifically on surviving, along with internet forums that offer support in getting through.  However we do it,  it’s vital that it’s done on our terms and in a way that gives us maximum agency. 

For more info on we will not go quietly – a zine for sexual assault survivors go to www.wewillnotgoquietly.wordpress.com or email wewillnotgoquietlyzine@gmail.com

the wonderful Kate Ravenscroft who is also blogging during these two weeks can be found at  www.16impacts.wordpress.com.

Tomorrow, a really significant anniversary in which i try explain what it’s like for younger women to survive abuse during childhood.

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