KaylaJo On Political Movements, Occupy, and Rape.

On Political Movements and Rape

Within the Occupy movement, multiple rapes and sexual assaults have been reported from both male and female survivors. Across the country, men and women have been attacked by rapists both within and out of the movement itself.  While the attacked live on dealing with the traumas inflicted on them, the media, after showing nothing but ridicule and disgust, has resorted to using the reports of rape to stain the Occupy movement. As a backfire method, many presences in the camps–large and small, have disregarded and ridiculed the reports of rape and the survivors themselves. Both the media and the occupiers have given lots of attention to the rapes that have occurred,  often for either groups own political gain.
As to the media, I’m tired of watching countless articles and news stories online and on television being thrown around, claiming that the Occupy movement is invalid or unsafe because of the rapes that occurred. The media, dominated by corporations whom obviously aren’t the biggest fans of Occupy, has long been rattling off charges of ridiculousness and frivolity when talking about the protesters. Now that rapes have been reported within the camps, Occupy has been deemed as a dangerous, seedy place for predators to roam free and protesters to abandon one another. Seemingly uncaring about the men and women who have been raped within the movement, the media has condemned occupy and all of it’s inhabitants as potential rapists, rather than people dedicated to a cause. What the media either fails to recognize or simply ignores is  a few simple facts.
The first is that because rapes have occurred at Occupy camps, the Occupy camps are not bad places. Rapes happen everywhere. In cities, in homes, in hotels, in the countryside, predators exist. Because someone is raped in a specific environment, it does not make the specific environment a bad place. It means that a rapist happened to be present at that geographic location and raped somebody.
Second, because rapes happened while other Occupiers were at the camps, it does not make the Occupiers bad people. They were people in the presence of a rapist, and some of their fellow protesters was raped in their midst. The only instance in which the Occupy protesters could be, or should be shamed or held accountable is if they knowingly ignored a rape.  Undertones of blaming the Occupiers have been spotted or outright stated in multiple articles I have seen on the issue.  The same kind of ploy was pulled in recent anti-teen drinking ads, which blamed friends of the attacked for not watching out for their friends enough. For some reason, the media has a long history of failing to understand this, and especially within the Occupy movement. Rapists will rape if they want to. Blaming fellow protesters if they had no knowledge that the attacks were occurring is not only cruel to their psyche but a far from subtle political scheme to paint the Occupiers as rape apologists with no concern for others.
These ideas being thrown around by the media as to the attitude of the Occupiers toward rape is obviously being used for their own political means. While I maintain that people are free to hold whatever opinions they wish on Occupy or similar movements, my problem lies with the media’s use of survivor’s bodies, experiences, and pain for their political gain. Rapists use the bodies of those they attack for their own gain by taking out their shame and aggression on another human being. What I am questioning is how the media finds it morally justifiable to use the rapes that have occurred to paint the movement as nothing more than a hotbed for rape and social degeneracy.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the Occupiers. For the same reasons as the media, many individual Occupiers have used the rapes that have occurred  for their own political gain.  Rather than using the rapes themselves; however, the Occupy movement has often used the term “alleged” with a tone of disregard, tried to ignore them, or done little to nothing. Some of the camps have made many measures to protect their fellow protesters, and I commend them for that, but even in my own interpersonal actions with those in Occupy Philly and in other cities, the rapes have been brushed off with an air of disdain for the attacked.
My biggest problem as far as interpersonal interactions go with Occupiers is the word “alleged.” When discussing rape, there is a good way and a bad way to use this term. The term “alleged” is meant to be used when someone is directly being called a rapist. If there is a reason to doubt that the person in question is a rapist, they are allegedly, a rapist. The point is to protect the identity of someone who possibly may not be a predator. However, when discussing the rape itself, “alleged,” is no the way to go, in my opinion. When people discuss an act that took place in their presence, or in the presence of something they believe in, they use the term to discredit the attacked and rid themselves of shame or guilt. That is not the proper way to handle rape, especially within Occupy, which claims to be so focused on protecting the rights of every single person involved. To try and brush off the fact that attacks have happened within the camps is to ignore the rights and experience of one of their fellow protesters. To ignore their rights  and experience is to alienate them, and other survivors, thus having the potential of dividing the movement and wrecking it’s goal. This policy toward the rapes that have occurred shows the same political reasoning the media has used, and makes a poor example of a movement fighting for the rights of all involved.
On top of that, the responses to rapists have been often nothing less than appalling. Rather than keeping the rapists out of the camps, many (but not all) cities have simply stopped giving them free supplies, or directed them to counseling within the camps. Whatever your beliefs on how rapists should be handled within society are, I feel that most people should agree that rapists should be kept out of the vicinity of the attacked by the community. Many Occupy camps have failed to  do this, much to my dismay, and rage.
At the end of the day, Occupy and the media have long been at war, but this war over rape that is occurring is unacceptable. The use of survivors bodies, experience, and trauma as a means for political gain is a step or two above rapist in my book. The same idea stands that rape  is something for the powerful to throw around to get rid of political movements that the media doesn’t like.
What should be done? First off, people should take a step back and take care of their community, and the survivors in the community. Occupy should not be alright with rapists running amuck within the camps when the attacked and their friends are still there. Measures should be taken to care for and give counseling to the attacked more than the rapist. Occupiers must accept that rapes have happened in the camps  and move forward to protect those already attacked and their other fellow protesters. The rapes must not be ignored, ridiculed, or looked at with disdain because of what the media is doing to the movement through the rapes. The media should stop using the rapes to paint Occupy camps as a place where everyone gets raped and predators are waiting in every tent. That is not the case. The media (though I doubt it will) must stop using he experiences of survivors as they wish so they can stain Occupy as a movement. The media must take Occupy seriously and take the rapes seriously. What both groups seem to be forgetting is that the rapists are the ones who are supposed to get the ridicule and disdain from both he media and the movement. It is entirely unacceptable for anyone to blame anyone but the rapists for the rapes, and while the battle between Occupy and the media continues, we all need to remember that.
As a quick reminder, I want to clarify a few things. I have not been as able to be involved with Occupy as I would have liked to have been.  I am not coming from the perspective of either an Occupier or someone in the media, I’m writing from the standpoint of an observer within politics. Also, these ideas do not just apply to the Occupy movement, but should be understood for all political movements that have and will emerge. As people get increasingly involved in politics that never would have been without Occupy and other movements, it’s important to remember the rights of survivors who stand along with the movement(s). Much like I have written about before, I continually notice the social and political rights of survivors being tossed out the window. This cannot continue, and should not happen for any group, if anyone wants  solidarity in a movement that fights for the interests of everyone involved.

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Survivor Solidarity.

     KaylaJo O’Lone-Hahn: I’m tired of the isolation of survivors. Every day we hear how 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted, and 1 in 33 men are too. We hear the statistics: 73 precent of rapes are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows.  Numbers come in and out, numbers tell us what to fear. These statistics keep the real, breathing, heart-beating survivors trapped in obscurity. We know the numbers, but not the faces. Countless survivors share their stories in acts of bravery and others never can–the world doesn’t always want to know the real, down-in-the-dirt, cold hard facts of the matter. Rape exists, and survivors live on every day carrying what we’re told should be a secret.

Survivors are a group. Survivors are the people you see on the subway and walking down the road and you’d never know unless there was a sign on their forehead, or they told you. Unlike other rights groups such as women and people of color, you can’t just look at us and know what society says we are. There is nothing like “gay-dar,” for survivors. There is no stereotype on how we should act, because we are expected to assimilate from the start.  Many groups fight the assimilation of an oppressive culture, yet survivors, who have just as unique an experience as any other rights group, don’t have this option.

I’m tired of this isolation, assimilation, and shame. I’m tired of people looking the other way when they talk about sexual assault, sick of people tip-toeing around calling someone out as being a rapist. I’m tired of not telling people about being a survivor, and how proud all survivors should be of having survived in the first place. I’m tired of people being called victims. Victims are helpless and alone. We live in a society that creates victims rather than survivors. We create a society that makes survivors feel helpless after the fact, a society that doesn’t help. We create a world where we tell survivors that their experience is shameful, they should feel awful for this reason or that, rather than telling survivors that they can move on and that their attacker should and will experience the shame, not the survivor. I’m sick and tired of a world that allows for survivors to continue being attacked even after the instance.  I’m furious at this world that gives women rules on how to not get raped, rarely tells men to not rape, and then creates a stance that if the “rules” aren’t followed, it’s the  survivors fault.  I’m furious at a society that says men can’t be victimized and women can’t rape, I’m tired of this world creating a safe-haven for post-traumatic stress disorder to develop. I’m tired of a world allowing for traumas to be held in so long that the survivor eventually breaks.

Survivors are questioned by the cops and blamed for the acts committed against them. We are joked about, we are tip-toed around. The subject changes when a survivor tells their story,   the people in the room often don’t look at the survivor the same again. When we develop post-traumatic stress disorder, rape trauma syndrome, or a myriad of other mental difficulties due to the attack, we are discriminated against in the workforce, education, and social settings should these institutions discover these issues. Survivors are told that their experience is invalid for a myriad of reasons. Survivors are shamed, beaten, and abused by family members and friends who are too weak to deal with the subject. Survivors are told that they will never again have normal relationships, that they are homosexual if they’re attacked by someone of the same sex, and that they can never fully experience the joys  of consensual sex. Survivors are told how to deal with their problems without the survivors opinion having any matter.  Survivors are continually harassed or attacked by the perpetrator and live in a society that never quite gives a damn. Survivors are ignored because of their reputation, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, intoxication level, mental background and sex. Survivors are just ignored. Survivors watch the world around them perpetuate a system that creates sexual assault.

I’m tired of watching this silence whir around me and other survivors. I’m tired of meeting loved ones too ashamed to tell anyone  but me, tired of watching loved ones cry, waiting for the right time to come out. When will we stop telling survivors to be ashamed of being attacked, but to be beaming with pride that they survived? When will we stop pretending assault never happens? When will we band with survivors to get rapists out of the picture? When will we stop telling survivors how helpless they are, when we can actually help? When will be stop being so afraid to call attackers out for exactly what they are? When will we stop being afraid to defend our loved ones, the survivors in our community, the people we see on the street? When will we stop telling survivors to keep in their secrets, or stop saying that they may never find love, or that they can never have a functional life after the fact?

I can’t watch this world go on around me anymore. Because of this, I’m making a call for survivor solidarity. I am asking myself and fellow survivors to not be ashamed of being attacked, but to be proud of having lived on. I am asking myself and my fellow survivors to not be afraid to say exactly what happened, to not be afraid to call out their attacked, to not be afraid to stand up and call out sexism, sexual assault, and abuse when we see it. I’m asking myself and my fellow survivors to shout down every stereotype, to live on, to heal, to exist as we have always wanted, forgetting what society says. I’m asking myself and my fellow survivors to call out survivor-blaming and experience shaming. I am asking myself and my fellow survivors to create a support base between each and every one of us. I am asking for a world in which survivors can unite and through that, stop being so afraid. I am asking for a world in which survivors know they can do anything, and through that, they can survive.
 Zach: I am a male survivor of sexual assault. I was raped. I am a man who was once raped. My name is Zach.  I cringe and shudder with shame and pain as I re-read the words I just wrote, and that makes it only more evident to me that I have to go on. Because there are guys who face the same reality as me.  I’m writing because I don’t think it’s doing me any good to keep this terrible secret hidden anymore. A man shouldn’t feel ashamed, or like less of a man because someone hurt him. He shouldn’t feel weak because he wasn’t Superman. He shouldn’t feel like he’s lost his “man-card” because something beyond his control happened. That’s like feeling weak because a hurricane destroyed your house. It’s absurd.  Yet, it’s reality. Male survivors of sexual assault are often considered broken in a way that can’t be fixed. They are called faggots and are assumed weak. This sort of discrimination isn’t just an issue with men.  Women face similar coldness. They are asked what they were wearing, or if they were flirting with the guy, as if that makes it okay for anyone to hurt someone else and force them to do sexual things against their will. Most survivors are aware of this paradigm, we are afraid of people seeing us differently, of our friends judging us, of not being believed by our loved ones.  So our voices are silenced, and we carry this burden alone. We deal with the pain and haunting memories every day of our lives, we dwell on what happened and try to make sense of it all. Alone.  I think this is a terrible reality,  but one that can be changed. I know that survivors of sexual abuse are strong and courageous. We somehow find the courage to love again, we find the courage to keep living, to try to make our way in a world that doesn’t seem to want us or the ugly truth we hold inside. We find the strength to get up in the morning and live our lives, trying to move past the trauma. Each of us who survived rape, has strength. Some of us are stronger than others, but I sincerely believe that if we all come together as a group and help one another, we can all heal faster. Together our voices won’t be stifled, and there will be no reason to be ashamed or afraid.
KaylaJo and Zach: So go out into the streets and don’t be afraid to call out your attacker. Don’t be afraid to tell others about your experience, your valid, meaningful experience that reflects a society that has created such atrocities. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help, and to help yourself. Don’t be afraid to confront your attacker, and don’t be afraid to  make them know that they are a sexual abuser. Don’t be afraid to be open, don’t be afraid to let others tell you of their experiences. and don’t be afraid to help them heal, to grow, to live on. Don’t be afraid to dance, to sing, to shout your anger in the streets. Don’t be afraid to live exactly as you have always wanted to. Don’t be afraid to fight back against this world. We are calling for a new scenario in which survivors can be open, proud, and free. A new system where survivors band together to heal themselves and one another, a system that eradicates sexual assault. We are calling for a new system of action which fights for the rights of survivors, and for non-survivors to stand with us and do the same. We have rights to ourselves and our bodies, we are a group of the strong and the brave. Just by living another day, you are showing the world what you are capable of. It’s time to take this to the next level and create survivor solidarity.
–Zach and KaylaJo O’Lone-Hahn

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