Tag Archives: trigger warning

PTSD in the Age of Social Media

I opened my regular news reading to find photos of yet another rape victim. Yet another violation of a woman’s rights. In full color. The imagery stark against my retina.

I wonder sometimes if the reason why I cannot get the images of my own trauma out of my head is because every day I have to relive something of someone else’s sorrows. Media is spectacularly exploitative. Of course media is. Journalism is about telling other people’s stories, and because of it there is a trend towards exposing the most painful parts of a story without protecting the reader from their own pain.

This is part of why I strongly believe in trigger warnings. Do they seem stupid sometimes? Do we need to make sure we don’t overuse them? Oh, absolutely. If I didn’t read the articles labeled trigger warning half the time I’d miss out on valuable dialogue. But we need to be cautious with our readers. We need to be kind and thoughtful.

The images of gang rape coming out of India will not leave my head easily. The images of the girl in Steubenville, or the eleven-year old in Texas will not escape my dreams.

I wonder if the reason why so many survivors of assault, of rape, of abuse have not been able to heal properly because they are consistently given images to resurrect their own personal nightmares.

I cannot offer any solutions, because I cannot tell the editors of the world that showing us these photos makes our personal experiences sing louder than the present. I cannot deny that some days, all I want to do is throw in the towel and discontinue my fight, knowing that there will be days where the hurt is louder than the sound of my own voice stemming the tide against violence.

Can we heal when we know that the violence continues outside our own safety nets?

I know I can. But sometimes I cannot know it loudly enough.

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“They’re Trying to Help a Dead Girl”

The hacking collectivist group Anonymous released a video of the Steubenville football players who took a 16-year-old girl from house to house and sexually assaulted her. They simultaneously posted evidence on twitter, pushing the gang rape into the territory of pure unadulterated public torture.

Anonymous released this video on the same day the House of Representatives refused to vote to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Since when is it not in the best interest of the United States to protect women from violence? I have hope that when the next Congress comes into session we’ll have a different result, but I can’t get the feeling of fear out of my bones over this one.

The young men who are featured in the video of Steubenville are the kind of predators whom the Violence Against Women Act is supposed to protect us from. Sen. Patty Murray (from my state of Washington) put it best:

“The House Republican leadership’s failure to take up and pass the Senate’s bipartisan and inclusive VAWA bill is inexcusable. This is a bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate and that extends the bill’s protections to 30 million more women. But this seems to be how House Republican leadership operates. No matter how broad the bipartisan support, no matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the right-wing of their party always comes first.”

There’s absolutely no reason for House Republicans to have done this. Absolutely none. This is an action which is shameful in the eyes of the state.

The actions of the boys in Steubenville may not seem related, but if we don’t expose this kind of behavior as violence, we’re not doing our jobs as a society to protect one another. This young football player is giggling about raping a 16 year old young woman. (Allegedly. Except for the part where there are photos.) This isn’t the only reason the two are linked. Even with VAWA we’re not doing enough.  Like the football team, people who are well-regarded in their communities tend to be above reproach when it comes to the issue of sexual violence. A woman whose husband beats her every night is less likely to be believed, if she reports it, when that husband is a well-respected man. It was the Violence Against Women Act which helped to institute marital rape as a crime in all the states of the Union, as prior to 1994, there were still some states which allowed it.

This kind of violence is unconscionable, and the fact that the GOP will turn its back to violence against women makes me question their privilege. I hope none of them have known women who have suffered at the hands of abusers,  that none of them have had to listen when they heard the story of a friend or family member who was raped or beaten. Because, if they had, surely they would have voted with their conscience rather than with their party.

Yes, the supporters of VAWA  are trying to help a dead girl. They are trying to help a lot of dead girls, all of them who needed help and didn’t receive it. I am sickened today by the notion that there are people in this country who are likely laughing along with the boys from Steubenville – and I hope you’ll reconsider if you cackled at his jokes about Marcellus Wallace and Obi Wan Kenobi, because at the root of those “jokes” is the willingness to condone violence against a person and to use her for her body alone.

We should all be helping to end violence. We should be doing better.

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Transgender Day of Remembrance (A day after, but never late.)

Yesterday was TDoR. I respectfully ask everyone reading this post to please open this link to the list of all those who have died because they were living in their own gender. Please do so knowing that this is triggering for almost anyone. TW on this post in general for violence and bigotry.

I want to tell you the story of how my 10th grade teacher taught me why shock is not always a valuable tool to change hatred.

To begin with you need to understand my exposure to transgendered life. My family is filled with trans activists, with people who transitioned before I was born. I was raised to understand that sometimes people were born in the wrong bodies, and that it is OK to make changes in order to live the life you need to live.

So when I was in the 10th grade, we had a unit on racism and hate crimes in my literature class. I’m not entirely sure how it came up, but someone said something pretty awful and moments later our teacher was angry – and she told us all to watch “Boys Don’t Cry” the movie about Brandon Teena. For those who aren’t aware, the film is the story of a trans youth who was raped and murdered because of who he was. Being the well behaved student that I  was, when my grandmother picked me up from school I told her we needed to rent a movie for my homework – I wasn’t actually aware of how intense the movie was, and I certainly didn’t know what my reaction was going to be.

I watched the movie in my grandparents basement by myself, and afterwards I cried for four hours. Watching the movie hadn’t just been about watching the story of Brandon, but had been about watching the story of every person in my life who was trans, and the abuse that they might suffer were they in the wrong place at the wrong time, were they to come out to the wrong person, or were they to be found out.

We shouldn’t live in a world where watching a movie should make you so terrified for your people that you cannot hold it together enough to leave the basement.

I called my mother in tears and told her what I had watched, and she told me that she was disappointed in my teacher for having told impressionable teens to watch a movie like that. When she saw it in the theaters, she said that grown adults were sobbing in the aisles,. and she felt physically sick while watching the movie.

I’m glad this movie exists for one reason only: it is a great teaching tool if you’re not a part of the community. If you don’t understand the persecution, and the cruelty that happens to people who try to lead their lives in the way that feels right. It is an unflinching view of cruelty and reality.

The point of this story is this: Sometimes we don’t need television or movies to understand fear. For me, I actually didn’t need to see that movie. I probably shouldn’t have. For some of my classmates, it was likely a harrowing but life changing film.

The fact of the matter is that we still live in a time when the Brandon Teena story could happen again. Even yesterday on TDoR itself, I was helping a friend gather resources for a young trans person who does not have a home to go back to. I have heard my trans peers talk about experiences that made them want to commit suicide rather than live in the gender which society assigns them at birth. I have seen friends thrown out of their homes, threatened with abuse, and yes – I have known about suicides.

Being transgendered is not an easy path to walk, and I hope that people will educate themselves, and lend a hand when someone is in danger – because every life lost to bigotry is tragic, even if we didn’t know each other. Our jobs, as allies, as cisgendered people – we need to become better at supporting those who are different. We need to become better at supporting the families of those who lead different lives. Please learn to be tolerant, because without that tolerance we are lost in a sea of hate. The biggest thing you can do TODAY is to never ever call someone by the gender which they DO NOT identify with. Using pronouns THEY choose is another big one. Respecting their name choice. Make these shifts in your language, and you make the world a slightly better place.

 

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Bullying – It’s not just for kids anymore.

I was bullied in middle school. I was the kid you made fun of.

Well, as an adult I’m tired of watching the scenes of bullying play out again and again and again. Over the internet, in workplaces, during lectures. And it’s not just about the middle schoolers anymore. It’s about adults.

And the bullying isn’t targeted at straight, white men. It’s targeted at women. Smart, vivacious, intelligent women. Women whose bodies are used to attack them. The bullying is anti-feminist rhetoric. It is anti-woman rhetoric. It  has in one instance been anti gay rhetoric. And it has to stop.

The one year anniversary of the Tyler Clementi suicide was last month. He committed suicide because his roommate secretly streamed a “romantic interlude” on the internet. Tyler Clementi was gay. His roommate outed him to the entire world, and as a result he jumped off the George Washington Bridge.  The individual who outed him was sentenced to jail for a mere 30 days. 30 days for outing someone, and causing them to jump to their death. 30 days for bullying someone into such a state of depression.

Amanda Todd was a fifteen year old Canadian girl. She is the youngest person I write about today. She posted a YouTube video about her experience of being cyber bullied as a cry for help. A year ago she started befriending people on the internet and was convinced to flash a topless photo.

One year later, a man contacted her on Facebook, threatening to send around the picture of her topless “if [she] don’t put on a show.” Terrifyingly, the stranger knew everything about her: her address, school, friends, relatives, and the names of her family members. Soon, her naked photo had been forwarded “to everyone.” – Huffington Post

She was found dead, bullied with the image of her own body, and the shame that she felt knowing that everyone had seen her topless. It is possible to bully someone to death, and both Tyler and Amanda are examples of how it is done.

But bullying isn’t just for teenagers and college students. Adult women are receiving the same kind of treatment.

” Anita Sarkeesian runs Feminist Frequency, and writes similar things to what I do, except that she critiques video games. After her kickstarter in order to fund a project called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.  She seeks to interrogate the kinds of stereotypes which permeate gender dialogue in video games. And because of that, she has been attacked by the internet. The kind of bullying she has been the target of has made video games about punching her in the face, photoshopping pictures of her being raped by Mario, She’s not relenting because of the attacks, she’s standing up and telling everyone what is happening to her. But this doesn’t change the fact that this is what’s happening to her, and it’s scary. (Please follow the link. Anita has documented her harassment thoroughly, and as upsetting as the information is, I think it’s important for everyone to see it.)

This morning, I found out about yet another woman being attacked for speaking out against sexism – Rebecca Watson, a member of the skeptic community has been attacked for speaking out against feminism. In her own community. “It wasn’t until I started talking about feminism to skeptics that I realized I didn’t have a safe space.” she said to slate.com.

She had very good reason to say this, the paragon of atheist thought Richard Dawkins even spoke against her “whining” about female genital mutilation and sexism. But it was because of this that people said they’d like her to be raped and killed. And they laughed about it. But it’s when the tweets start getting personally threatening that I really begin to fear for her:

Wow. Okay. So now we’ve stepped away from creepy photos, and from obnoxious comments on blog posts and YouTube posts to actually threatening to grope a woman in an elevator. Ha. ha. That’s so funny.

Oh, wait. No it isn’t. And the conference mentioned in the tweet (which both Rebecca and Bill attended) took no mind of this threat and allowed Bill to attend, despite the sexual threat towards a woman in their community. Shouldn’t this be taken more seriously? Why is it that when women speak up against bad treatment, they are given no reason to think they’ll be protected by their communities?

Here’s the thing: I was afraid to write this article. I was afraid because I knew that I might be opening myself up to the kind of attacks that these women are receiving from the internet. That I might get dead body photos in my comments, that people may try to find me where I live. But here’s the thing – I believe down to the very fibres of my being that this behavior is wrong. I was bullied as a child and I refuse to be bullied now. If I see that something is wrong, if someone is being abused by society, or if they are being attacked because they speak truth about sexism, or feminism – I’m going to stick my neck out and stand with them. Because that’s the only way to beat the hordes of anti-feminists out there on the internet. The only way is to speak louder, rather than bury our heads in the sand.

So – what happened to Amanda Todd was cruel. What happened to Tyler Clementi was cruel. What is now happening to Anita Sarkeesian is unspeakable, and the fact that Rebecca Watson cannot feel protected by her own community is sickening. We have to stop allowing those who fear us to push us down, even if it means stepping a little closer to the flames of hatred.

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Filed under Feminism, Politics, War On Women

“Why Don’t You Just Take a Cab?” – Trigger Warning

I’m coming up on the one year anniversary of being groped three blocks from my home – and I’ve never really written about that experience publicly. Then I saw this article: And now I need to say something.

For the record – I see her assault as much more violent than my own, but groping is still sexual assault, and it’s still incredibly traumatizing.

I was walking home at 11pm on a Thursday. I’d been at a burlesque show, and for those who aren’t aware, I carry a white cane. I was carrying my camera on one shoulder, a purse on the other and had my phone out. I was getting a text message – and I tend to use my phone’s flashlight to get around in the dark – I was trying to navigate to the flashlight app…

That’s when someone grabbed my left breast. I turned and screamed to get the fuck away from me. He ran away, and then turned to look at me, assuming (correctly) that I would not chase after him. I then ran – from that spot, to my home. Sobbing. I can’t remember who I called, but i called someone (I think it was my mom) and I was freaking out. I got home, and my then fiance helped me calm down while we called 911.

The first thing you should realize is that while this is not my first brush with sexual assault, it is my first brush with letting the police in on it.

My determination? They aren’t very helpful. And while I encourage every woman to report any sexual assault they experience, whether it be a random groping, or a rape – I totally understand why people don’t want to deal with the cops.

First, the cops shined their flashlights into the windows of SOMEONE ELSE’S house. And then when they came into my home they were unhelpful.

The male cop asked me if I should drink my tea since clearly I was already upset and they wanted me to calm down. They continued to ask me questions about my blessedly brief, but very traumatic incident, and then came the line that pissed me off the most.
“You shouldn’t be walking out by yourself at night” The female cop said. “You should ask a friend to pick you up, or take a cab, or walk home with your friends.”

And they played the blind card. That maybe I wouldn’t have had this happen to me if I’d seen him. They were looking for a serial groper, and clearly I was of no help to them. They called me back to follow-up, but they had nothing, and they continued every time someone spoke with me, to chastise me for leading my life. The Lieutenant in charge specifically called to tell me that I needed to be “more careful” and that I should “always have someone with me” and shouldn’t “go out after dark”.

Everything they said to me – and everything they said to the woman who was assaulted – give markers that we are to blame for these incidents.

Both myself, and the young woman who was assaulted on the subway were treated as though our choices to use public transportation, or to be out in public, or for that matter – to just walk home – were the cause for our attacks.

Guess what? Calling the assaulter a “Gentleman” as the cops did in the article, is not okay. Asking a woman who is panicking if the guy is her boyfriend? Also not OK.

Society blames survivors of sexual assaults for what happens to them. We are told not to dress a certain way, walk a certain way, or get home  a certain way – when the truth is that the cops, and society, need to change to protect everyone.

And no. It was not my fault.

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