Sunday, February 5, 2012

Thank you, kind sirs

♫ Emilie Autumn – Gothic Lolita

I had hard time trying to decide whether I should ever write this blog post or not. After all, I'm not quite sure who I'm even writing to. I doubt my blog audience disagrees with me much on the issue...

However, certain incidents have made me ponder over the issue so much lately... And although my blog is not supposed to be for ranting let alone remarkably personal issues, I figured I could tie the topic to such things that are interesting in other ways... And more related to my blog. So well, now you'll get to read something very exceptional written by a person who is reluctant to comment on humane issues and who is not openly feminist.

"The kind of murder where nobody dies
But I don't suppose you'd understand"
– Emilie Autumn

Maybe a week or two ago I happened to come across a piece of news on an online news site; a 16-year-old girl had been raped in a bus. Not many details were available, but that's not relevant. Faceless pieces of news rarely stir up strong emotions in me after all, and I still wonder why I clicked the link in the first place.
However, I happened to read something else too. Readers' comments on the article. Only then did my blood begin to boil.
There were several, or let's say, a lot of similar comments, and I'm not citing any of them word for word, but the general style was:
"How is it possible to get raped in a bus?"
"That cannot possibly be true, not in a bus."
"Why didn't she scream or ask for help?"
"If she really didn't get her mouth open in a bus, she can only blame herself for what happened."

Little do they know.

Those people who have never experienced rape, abuse or sexual harassment should never give advice to those who have.

Those people whose sexuality has never been violated can barely imagine what such is like.

Those people who commented on the article were clearly thinking of violence in general, and typical reactions of a victim who's trying to run for their life, descriptively speaking. And well, although I'm not a psychologist, I guess protecting one's life is a very primitive reaction, driven by very primitive instincts. However, most cases of sexual violence are not threatening the victim's life. When people think of rape, they are often imagining a woman walking through a dark alley when a stranger violently attacks them and so on... But a minority of rapes are such.

Sexual violence can hardly be compared to physical violence in general. It rarely leaves victims as physically injured as a knife attack would. The worst injuries are mental.

Those who commented on the article kept wondering how come the girl did not fight back and indeed get alarmed enough to catch the attention of the other passengers or the bus driver. Again, they're trying to generalize sexual violence to be like any other type of violence. I wonder if they have ever heard the 'P' word, which is five letters long, has N in the middle and I following N. No, it's not what crossed your minds first. It's "panic".

"If I had been in that situation, I would have stood up immediately and screamed at the top of my lungs, telling the man to keep his dirty hands off me." A-ha, that would have been wise too. Good for you if you know how you would act in an unexpected situation. I mean, honestly, of course that would be a smart move. Of course no one should tolerate sexual harassment.

However, sexual violence can have the exactly opposite effect as well.
Have these people ever heard rape or abuse victims talking about their experience? Ever heard them saying things like "I was so ashamed", "I felt so dirty" etc?
I'm still no psychologist, haven't carried out research on the topic, but I still dare to claim that those are quite... common feelings. Shame, embarrassment, humiliation... Being dirty, being at fault.

Now, doesn't it make sense? If someone is violating your sexuality, humiliating you... Would you want to add to your humiliation by catching the attention of passers-by? We can say that in order to stop the criminal act, the shame should be ignored and the victim should at least try to get help at once. But do those people think it is easy?

I dare to say that very many cases of sexual violence could have been avoided, or their continuity halted, if the victim had spoken out, acted, defended themselves with violence etc... But the thing is, it is very difficult. Not just for children, but also for grown-ups. Anyone. Those experiences are potentially so humiliating to their victims that they would rather remain silent, hoping no one would ever find out. And even if the very crime happened in public... Well, panic doesn't always lead to fighting like a little animal. It affects people in different ways, totally freezing others, especially in situations which make them feel somehow exposed, vulnerable... "I wish he would stop, I wish this would be over soon, I wish those people wouldn't notice."

But, now, does sexual violence become less of a crime if the victim remains silent and refrains from actively defending themselves? Hell no. Sexual violence, no matter the type, is always solely up to the abuser. It's their choice whether to touch or not to touch. If the victim is drunk or dressed like a slut, it doesn't signify permission.

Never blame the victim. Not even for being unable to ask for help.
Lack of active opposition doesn't equal consent. However, a person with normal social skills should easily recognize reluctance. It means, "hands off".

I truly feel sorry for the girl. I can imagine how she keeps blaming herself for what happened, wondering what she did wrong and thinking how she's so very dirty now. And even though this one case could always have been a false denunciation, such things do happen for real. In private and in public.

"Thank you, kind sirs
You've made me what I am today
A bundle of broken nerves
A mouthful of words I'm still afraid to say"
– Emilie Autumn

Recovery processes after sexual violence are also individual. Maybe some can soon shrug it off, others are traumatized for years or lifetimes. However, common is the fact that they're all victims, not the ones to blame.

Inspired, I drew something the other day (or to be precise, I spent a few days on the drawing). I had wanted to practice digital drawing and especially coloring, and bare human skin was technically a good way to start. Yet I rarely draw anything – or make pictures of some other kind – without some kind of a background story or some emotions attached. Things going around in my head resulted in this drawing, made using Photoshop CS5:

Consequently, I named the drawing "Thank you kind sirs", with respect to Emilie Autumn's song "Gothic Lolita". The song itself is hardly my favorite EA song, not at all, but I truly like its lyrics – especially those lines I cited last. Emilie has sung about sexual violence with subtle hints here and there, having experienced it herself. I think she knows what she's talking about.

Honestly, I'm not sure why I'm writing about this in a blog which is supposed to be about creativity and lifestyle. Perhaps in order to give an introduction to my drawing? Well that's a lot of words when images are supposed to speak. I'm not sure if I said all the relevant points I had in mind... But like I said, I doubt my rant reaches the right audience here, but perhaps it doesn't matter. I'm not the type to speak out, really... Or indeed. Guess that's my fault.

"But ruffles and laces
And candy sweet faces
Directed your furtive hand
I perfectly understand
So it's my fault?"

Emilie Autumn's Fight Like a Girl tour is coming to my hometown in April. I already got a ticket, anyone else coming?

P.S: The drawing has a very subtle and unmentioned connection to Emilie Autumn. Can anyone guess what it is?
P.P.S: Although I spent several days working on this post, I finished and proof-read it at night, being tired, so please excuse me...

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