Thursday, March 3, 2016

Till It Happens to You

People watch the Academy Awards for many different reasons. I, of course, tune in to see Cate Blanchette. This year I think many watched to see how Chris Rock would handle the lack of diversity in Hollywood issue, something the media well advertised.


And while I was expecting race to be the main focus of the night, I was surprised that, for me, the focus was bringing sexual assault into the healing light of day.  Joe Biden gave Lady Gaga an introduction by encouraging people to take responsibility for sexual assaults on campuses and asked people to go to the website It’sOnUs.org.  I understand that the site then crashed because of all the traffic. "Let's change the culture," Biden said. "We must and we can change the culture so that abused women or men like the ones you will see tonight will never have to ask themselves, 'What did I do?' They did nothing wrong."


If you missed Lady Gaga’s performance of her song Til it Happens to You, I strongly encourage you to watch it. With tissues.  




During the performance the curtains opened and a group of survivors somberly walked on stage. They looked terrified as I'm sure they were. How vulnerable and utterly exposed they must have felt. Never in my memory have a group of sexual abuse survivors been so publicly out. The group, holding hands, exposed their forearms to reveal such words and phrases as "Survivor," "You Are Love," "Unbreakable" and "Not Your Fault."


And then, of course, the movie Spotlight won the best picture award. I have not seen it yet as I tend to need to watch these things in small installments and in the safety of my own home lest they be too emotional for me.  I will wait for it to be released on DVD. But what a victory it must feel like to all those survivors of clergy abuse. There must be some huge feeling of vindication for them.


While I don’t remember all the details of the “investigation” after Daphne and I were raped, the one thing that always stayed with me was a police officer saying “well, what did you expect?”  Those five words haunted me and were the basis for my feeling guilt and shame for years and years. Of course, what did I expect - two women, two races? What the hell was I thinking?  Of course it was my fault.  It has taken me decades of therapy to work my way through that way of thinking.


Rape culture is deeply ingrained.  Even those who call themselves allies and advocates often fall into it.  It took me a very long time to shake off feeling shamed and belittled by a so-called friend who said that my boundaries were like landmines and called me emotionally unstable because of them.  All I was asking for was to own my own story, for her to respect my privacy. Her words made me ashamed of having boundaries. But no more.


So while many saw this year’s award show as a rebuke of an all white Hollywood system, I saw it as an amazing and beautiful recognition of an issue all too often swept under the rug. And a celebration of those who endured a crime that has, until now, had so much shame attached to it that victims are often too degraded to even report the crime.  


I really hope the tide is turning.  


I can't help but think that this is how gay rights were won - people having the courage to come out, even when it was terrifying to do so.


I really hope that all people will assume a responsibility to watch over each other and to step up when they know that consent has not been, or cannot be, given.  I really hope that people who call themselves advocates and allies are more careful with their words. Words matter and can have a lifelong impact. And I most especially hope that survivors will be able to hold their heads high and not feel the shame and guilt that others have foisted on them.


For now I will watch this video again and again and cheer for those 50 incredibly strong and brave survivors.


May their courage not be in vain.  




23 comments:

  1. I didn't watch the Oscars for a number of reasons. I had read of this performance and seen the video. Power.

    It was not my fault. I share your hope.

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    1. I think this is the first time that I actually believe we can turn this culture around. Hope floats.

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  2. I'm cheering with you, 8. It took a lot of courage for those young people to walk onto that stage. I hope the safety in numbers helped.

    And, I really hope that people hear the message of non-judgment. Besides the crime itself, the casual judgment of abso-fucking-lutely everyone else is devastating and long lasting.

    A safe, non-triggering, internet hug for all survivors...
    xoxoxox

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    1. Stepping out in front of 50 million people is an act of courage like I've never seen. Hugging you back.

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  3. hello 8, i watched lady gaga's performance with chills. she and the brave folks who joined her on that stage were able to make sure that i felt the increasing exploding and determined strength and anger that's needed to change 'the culture.' and god bless joe biden.

    i find it hard to believe anyone would accuse you of minefield boundaries. i think you're kind and solid. emotionally unstable? well, then and now, we all experience events and circumstances that shake us to our core. i assume that person wasn't such a good friend to begin with.

    isn't the world just the craziest just now? i hope this is the age of aquarius arriving upside down, but arriving never-the-less. i'm trying to make some sense of politics in america and the drifting away from simple kindness and welcoming of others.

    love,
    kj

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    1. No, not such a good friend, but I did learn a very valuable lesson from it so there's that.

      I think America has become so polarized (largely due to media spin) that I fear we will never find our center again. Unless, of course, a major event happens to pull us out of our self centered crap.

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  4. Often people give us feedback that is mostly meant for themselves, so I wonder if your boundaries were really ever in question? And secondly, I'd like to wring that police officer's neck...what a completely asshole thing to say. I would like to hope that we've made strides in that regard, although I have no personal experience to speak of, so wouldn't know, but I do think tv shows like SVU have brought a lot of awareness to the fact that treating victims with kindness and NOT blame is paramount. Anyway, thanks for the heads up - I didn't watch and had no idea about this performance so I'm happy to see it here.

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    1. I do think we've made strides, but people still say incredibly hurtful things. I think it will take time for this movement to achieve its goal but Lady Gaga certainly just gave it a huge push forward.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this. The Oscars aren't ever on my radar, but this sounds like it was very powerful.

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    1. Very powerful and very empowering.

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  6. I can't watch this and I rarely watch anything that has anything to do with this. I'm a survivor of lots of bad, and while I appreciate something like this, I'm not in a place to handle it right now.

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  7. I have known you for a long time and followed your path to healing with awe and respect. I can only hope, along with you, that the world is indeed changing and that people having to hide their experience of sexual abuse will forever be a thing of the past. Kudos to you my friend and to all survivors.

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    1. I really hope a shift in culture will help speed other's recovery. Shame is a very hard thing to shake.

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  8. Watching this video was both powerful and tragic: the looks on some of their faces made me want to cry. I am so pleased that Lady Gaga sang this with such feeling. I do hope the tide is turning.

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    1. I had the same feelings - powerful and tragic. Survivors should not need to put themselves on display to change people's thinking. But what a powerful message it sent.

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  9. Powerful. I especially liked the phrase "unbreakable."

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    1. There was a website called unbreakable where a woman photographed rape survivors bravely holding a sign with the words their rapist's used against them.

      Unbreakable indeed.

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  10. Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation. See the link below for more info.


    #happens
    www.ufgop.org

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  11. A Family FriendMarch 11, 2016

    I know the woman who violated your boundaries without any care. She is a very small, selfish person who thinks only of herself and her needs. All I can say I'm sorry she happened to you.

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