Content warning: sexual assault.
If you know someone you’d describe as “rapey”, or someone you know has sexually harassed or abused someone, you’re very obligated to tell others around you. Particularly me, a survivor of previous events. Here’s some tips on how YOU can support us without knowing our names, through a queer lens.
My credentials: I’ve been sexually assaulted three times in my life, twice by queer men and once by a trans woman. I did not ask any of these people to sexually engage, humiliate me, tie me up, put their genitals near me or in me.
They deserve to rot in isolation, but instead society has ignored their wrongdoing and put me in the dark, to doubt and to scratch my own skin off to write these words.
Here are some stupid questions I’ve been asked when talking about sexual assault in queer spaces.
1. Isn’t this gossiping?
As with everything you end up doing in this western, racist, cisgender, heteropatriarchal capitalist society, it’s the lesser of two evils argument.
Do you tell your survivor friends, your close friends, your collective members, your political factional members, your revue friends, your club executive, your classmates; warning them of the potential behaviours of person(s), subsequently allowing people to not live with potential lifelong trauma…
…or are you known as a gossip? Wear that label with pride because you’ve spoken about the things regularly kept silent. It’s better than being silent and your friends knowing they can’t talk to you about these things.
If you’re not a survivor, you’ll quickly learn who believes you and who doesn’t, and this’ll help you whittle down your friends into people you can trust and cannot trust. You’ll also experience some shit from punching up the power systems set out in society, and being called a gossip is the least of your worries.
2. But they’re X identity! That’s impossible for them to have power over you!
Hearing I’ve been raped by a trans woman is confusing for others, and every subsequent conversation ends up with me feeling less believed, less genderqueer, or with less friends. She sits at a few intersectional oppressions, and faces some horrible shit from society which has absolutely nothing to do with the fact she’s sexually abused me. Anyone can be raped. Anyone can rape. The statistics we gather are whitewashed and ciswashed. Was I given the ability to give my gender identity instead of being read (and disbelieved) as a male sexual assault survivor? Do Women of Colour have good relations with police and reporting systems? Do people often believe men who’ve been raped?
Separate your identity politics from personal experiences of rape. My identity doesn’t matter, their identity doesn’t matter. I just need you to keep them away from me.
3. Political spaces are better at dealing with these problems.
Fuck you StuPol hacks. All of you cover up these attacks on people’s bodies to protect your future involvement in government, in NGOs, in social movements. Liberal, Labor, Greens, Independents, or unaligned.
Don’t get involved in a group that isn’t upfront about having a policy regarding abuse; physical, mental or emotional. I’ve studied at a few campuses, done the StuPol thing and honestly this is the only rule I’ve been able to hold on to, to keep me safe.
Clubs, the USU, the SRC, the University should have their policy and procedures written on the side of buildings in the university. Instead, they are hidden online.
If you’re a student in a position of power you should be putting out media and statuses fighting this silence. #BreakTheSilence or be part of the gross rape culture that puts serial abusers in more positions of power and more situations to abuse others.
4. The Survivor is in danger if I say anything.
Do you know what makes me the most upset? Knowing all my rapists have gone on to rape others. It’s what burns me the most inside, knowing I did nothing because I had to protect myself before saving others.
If you know someone who’s a rapist you need to say something AND protect survivors. Stop thinking that you can do one or the other. I’ve had enough of binaries, and I’ve had enough of silence.
If you know a survivor who doesn’t want to speak, that’s fucking legitimate. But you need to find the place where they are going to be okay, and you’re going to be able to fight this abuser. Unless we are fighting against this behaviour we are condoning it, allowing it, and promoting it in our society.
Since being involved in survivor groups, this is the question we always come down to. I am happy to say that my survivors know the people they can’t trust because I can name these people in those spaces. That their friends know, and so on, and so on.
If I had the money I’d pay for the billboard at the UTS end of Broadway and put their faces and names on it. I don’t want anyone else to suffer (except them) what I’ve had to go through.
5. Survivors are to blame.
I’ve never hurt someone physically that hasn’t been self-defence, but this makes me want to rip someone’s stomach out when they say this. It’d help them understand exactly how I feel in that moment.
6. We’ll never know the full story, so I can’t do anything.
Perhaps worse than above. It’s people who are trying to be left-wing or juggle their morals whilst not wanting to engage with a situation that’s fucked from the beginning. If someone comes out to you as gay, there is a celebration. It should be no different if someone’s a survivor.
YOU SURVIVED. YOU ARE RESILIENT AND TOUGH AND FABULOUS! YOU DON’T DESERVE THIS SHITTY SOCIETY BUT RIGHT NOW WE CAN BE HAPPY AND TRUTHFUL WITH EACH OTHER!
7. Survivors can’t have sex.
I still frequently make a bit of cash on the side through sex work. I still enjoy myself during sex—from vanilla sex, to kinky, squelchy sex. The difference is that it’s all consensual. I value the enjoyment I can get from sexual experiences when there is consent.
I’m not comparing it to those experiences in my head unless I’m unsure there is consent. I don’t think about how I was tied up and raped when I’m tied up and fucked if I’ve consented to it.
8. Survivors are attention seeking for their own benefit.
I won’t deny I am seeking attention. I want people to be engaged about how horrible sexual assault is every day of their lives. It’s 100% not for my benefit though, save for the idea that I don’t want to be sexually assaulted again by my abuser(s).
But I could attempt to do that without being vocal. That’d be selfish of me, from my perspective. If I didn’t tell people they shouldn’t be in a room alone with someone who’s abused me, then who knows what could happen to them? Could it have been something that changed if they knew?
My aim is to prevent this from happening to anyone else.
9. Doesn’t empowering survivors makes them targets?
I was asked this by a once-best friend, when I wanted their help in coming out to our friend group. Needless to say, if you believe that being more in the public light makes you a bigger target for rapists, you should realise it’s got nothing to do with who’s in the spotlight or who isn’t.
Celebrities have been molested, assaulted and raped, as well as countless working women, poor people, transgender folks in countries you can’t pronounce, and some of your closest friends. If we had more power we’d be able to prevent more rape by naming and shaming those who do so.
10. Things are getting better and cultural change is slow.
Our society can be changed tomorrow if everyone who read this article spoke to one person a day (within their limits) about sexual assault. Sit in front of Google. Look up statistics. Write on an A4 piece of paper and stick it on a wall. Spray paint it on your local train station.
It’s only as slow as you’re making it happen. My rapes are your responsibility now, and can be shared and talked about. You don’t have to pretend you’ve got nothing to say about it now. You don’t have to get it right. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to do something.
We need to #BreakTheSilence and if you can afford that billboard at the end of Broadway that’s where I would start.