It has to do with respect.
It has to do with pride.
It has to do with love.
It has to do with survival.
Above all, it has to do with justice.
On a day like Valentine’s, I reckon people don’t want to think about rape. I know I seldom want to think about rape.
It’s hard to make my fingers move on the keyboard.
Like many, many women across the country and the world, I don’t have a choice sometimes. For me, it’s because rape is something that exists in my memory. It’s because it is a reality for many of my closest friends. For people I love. Violence is even more common. Abuse.
As V-Day dawns again, I don’t have much to lend the movement. I don’t have the money to build shelters for women in Africa who flee genital mutilation or invading armies that mutilate entire generations — body and soul. I don’t have the money to stage an event. There aren’t many resources I have to lend to Eve Ensler‘s cause.
But I do have one thing.
I can raise my voice. I can break the silence. I can bring attention on this day to the plight of women — and men, because male survivors are often omitted from this discussion — across the globe. I can raise my voice to tell others like me that they are not alone.
You are not alone.
You aren’t. I’m here. There are a billion like us. I wish there were less of us, that we were somehow more alone than we are. Because this community is not one of peace. It’s one born of being made helpless. Of being violated. It’s born of someone saying to you that you have no say in what happens to your body.
No, you are not alone.
It isn’t pretty, and it isn’t okay. It isn’t okay that women around the world are still subjected to abuse and violence at the whims of people who think they are more human than we are — or that we are less. To invade a person’s body it takes a denial of the victim’s humanity, of their self, their sacredness and validity.
When it is over, it can be difficult (it can feel impossible) to get that validity and sacredness back. To call it, coax it from the depths to which it fled.
But I’m not only here to say you’re not alone.
I’ll say it again, though. You are not alone.
I’m here today to say that you can get your sacredness back. Your validity. You can get it back. It’s not impossible. It’s like climbing K2. Every step can freeze you to your core, and one false move can fling you into a chasm when you least expect it. But you can do it.
You see, gentle viewers, violence against women is real and wormlike. It threads its way into our lives. If you scratch the mere surface of many women’s memories, you’ll find it hovering there. Who do you know who has experienced it? You don’t have to answer, just think, imagine that person.
I remember after my rape how long it took for me to call it what it was. I knew him, I rationalized. When I finally told a couple close friends, the stories began to pour out. A woman raped by an acquaintance. One raped by her friend. Another by a date. Somehow the near totality of my friends had their own stories, stories that had sunk in silence for so long that they’d never told me about them.
Today is a day for women.
Today is a day for men.
Today is a day for humans to come together and say that violence against one another is wrong. That violating one another harms more than just bodies. Today is a day to give legitimacy to the stories that have been silent for so long and to celebrate the courage of survivors around the world to keep going, day after day.
Through pain. Through memories. Through the mountain that always tries to kick you back down its slopes.
Today is the day to take one another in hand. To help someone make that climb. Because if we climb together, it’s less likely for us to fall.
I want to close with a series of strung-together quotes from the documentary V-Day: Until the Violence Stops. This film documented the impact of “The Vagina Monologues” as they were performed all over the country and all over the world.
Read and take heed, gentle viewers. Go tell a woman she’s valuable today. Tell her she is worthy. Tell her she is valid and that her boundaries are built to be honored. If you hear someone insult her, if you hear someone make her uncomfortable, raise your voice.
Our female bodies are a mystery. We don’t know pleasure and how to talk about it, so we sure don’t talk about when we’re sexually assaulted.
One in three women are raped, mutilated or beaten.
FEAR and GUILT take away power and spirit. Most women feel like it is their fault that they were raped or assaulted. Instead of enjoying their bodies and creativity, they live in silent terror.
When you release your story it becomes the world’s story. Women who finally stop hiding their stories realize that they were not responsible for having bad things happen to them.
RESPECT goes to those who: EXPECT it, COMMAND it and REFUSE to live without it.
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