TW/CN: Mentions of rape, sexual violence and mental health issues.

2016, I was in the kitchen when I realised I’d been raped. I was probably making a curry, maybe even a soup, and without further given attention, the thought left as quickly as it came. There was no melt down, no big revelation, no teddy bear hugs from trusted confidantes, just me, a wooden spoon and a rickety stove.

 

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Self-Portrait, 2013 // © CKN

Prior to this revelation, I would routinely undergo severe panic attacks, breakdowns and irregular eating habits; which at the time I had attributed to onset depression and not PTSD. It seems somewhat laughable that almost a year after the incident took place, my brain was finally able to compute; but this is in fact the reality for many victims of sexual violence — be it physical or otherwise.

In the recent case of Harvey Weinstein, I can’t help but laugh at the knee jerk reaction from media platforms looking to get a say in an act that is old as time itself. I was and still am hesitant to publicly address my experience under online campaigns such as the ‘#metoo’ banner for numerous reasons, the strongest of which being indifference. The campaign, which was actually birthed ten years ago by a black woman, is both a magnifying glass and a hindered to effective action against rape culture.

Harvey Weinstein is not the first of his kind or peers to come under fire for sexual assault, yet remain active in their respective field. Casey Affleck, Nate Parker, Charlie Sheen and Woody Allen are all shining examples. Furthermore, we strengthen their resolve by allowing these abusers in position of power; evident in the American presidential election, Silvio Berlusconi and Elhamy Agina. In allowing public shaming to overrule public disciplining, we theorise the violence as opposed to manifesting the act as something punishable by law. What good is highlighting one figure as the face of sexual harm when the victims of many others are still silenced and blacklisted?

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Performing at Poetry Meets Soul, 2017 // © Poliana Baumgarten

For many victims, public acknowledgement and portrayals of sexual violence actually come as a disservice. Huge emphasis is placed on the act of physical violence and not mental/emotional manipulation that in turn contributes to the great number of undocumented cases. Moreover, critical discussions that have arisen have fallen into the gender-bias trap which also further alienates victims from speaking out. Terry Crews’, recent admission on Twitter that he too had been a victim of sexual assault zeroes in on intersections that are ignored in the face of public campaigns.

Those who sit outside gender binaries, are fluid in their sexuality or even identify as BME are often challenged for their admissions. Moreover, the discussions of sexual misconduct have primarily focused on the entertainment industry. Non cis-male folks working in STEM fields, education and business are often forgotten in these dialogues, let alone workplace harassment, secondary education and even the home. If we look further afield, many of these people do not receive adequate access to resources or treatment in lieu of their experience. In limiting our understanding of violence as physical violence against non-BME bodies, we become complicit in rape culture when we ought to do our best in challenging and dismantling it.

Through my writing and my work, I aim to challenge preconceived ideas about sexual violence. I do not wish to compare my experience with others, rather encourage a collective of survivors to form a supportive union.  That being said, it should not solely be at the hands of the survivor to complete this work. The resolution falls on everyone’s hands to curb everyday sexism and gender conforming commentary that neutralizes sexist behavior whilst at the same time hyper-sexualising bodies.

I am however, proud of the many people that were able to come forward and speak out. Your bravery has not gone unnoticed and neither are the voices of those who are unable to follow suit. You should never feel pressured to speak about your abuse, nor should you use your platform to speak on behalf of others, rather, provide a commentary that argues that there is strength in speaking out, but justice in taking action.

 

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