Content Warning: Sexual Assault
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday and I stumbled across a video that stopped me dead in my tracks. The new Elliot Moss music video, Without the Lights, is absolutely gorgeous. I was stunned by the story and movement of this piece.
Not two days earlier I had read Ashe Vernon's Survival for the first time and wept.
"this is the first trumpet to sound in an empty concert hall.
it’s rain against a window that’s always let a little water in.
this is for the words you wished you could pull back inside you,
but more than that,
it’s for the words you never let out.
this is a story of survival.
it is your story,
even when you feel like that word
does not belong to you..."
- Ashe Vernon
Both of these pieces tell a story that hundreds and thousands of women have lived. This is the nightmare that 1 in 5 women is living. This is the experience that hundreds and thousands of women replay in their mind over and over and over trying to figure out why. Trying to figure out how to move on.
The United States has been a war zone for those fighting back against rape culture. It has also been a museum. In 2014, at Columbia University, Emma Sulkowicz planned a performance art piece entitled "Carry The Weight" in which she carried the mattress she was assaulted on to protest the university's response to Title IX reports. In 2013, the organization FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture installed an art piece in the Washington, DC, Reflecting Pool that stated, "I can't forget what happened but no one else remembers."
I have stayed quiet on the issue of rape culture, excluding an article from last spring. I didn't feel I was warrior enough. I didn't feel safe enough to fight.
But I have silently raged over the outcome of the Stanford Rape Case since June. How we are so concerned, and rightfully so with Brock Turner's pathetic incarceration. How we have given name to her assailant, but continue to refer to her as the Sanford Rape Victim.
I have fumed over the statements made by a certain political candidate. Locker room talk is not acceptable. It is dangerous. Even worse than that is the fact that we went this long without acknowledging the fact that Trump is up for trial on a CHILD RAPE CASE.
I don't have an art display, or a picket line, or a campaign. But I have this article. I have this voice. And I will not be silent anymore. Silence is not consent. But I am standing here now and I am saying, actively, that I do not consent to the way this country not only handles but perpetuates victim blaming and rape culture.
I am appalled. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that I live in a world where sexual assault is normal. It is a blessing that we have resources available to sexual trauma survivors and abuse survivors, but it is terrifying that we need to have them at all. What have we, as the generations of the land of the free, come to? Why are we still teaching women not to get raped, but teaching boys that "locker room talk" could ever be okay? How does this happen?
Please, if you do nothing else to stand with those affected by sexual assault, watch Without the Lights one more time and really try to see it. Try to understand the impact this kind of violence has on the mind, body, and soul of a living, breathing person.
We can not allow this kind of violence to continue. We have to find a way to let love be the backbone of our country. We have to find a way to break the silence. We have to find a way to change victim to survivor in our vocabulary. Please. I beg you.
When you go out to vote on Tuesday you will have already chosen who your candidate, I am sure. And there are far more factors to consider than the perpetuation of rape culture, I know.
But please, please consider the impact your vote could have on the future of your country.
The lives of men and women, children and the elderly, gay and straight, survivors, allies, advocates, artists, scientists, creators, and humans are at stake.
We are people.
We are survivors.
We are the future.
And we are begging you...
Please turn on the lights.
PS. When I watched this...I thought of you.