Being believed — the new normal.
A massive scandal involving celebrities, newsmen, artists and politicians and has shoved rape, domestic violence, molestation and sexual harassment into the spotlight. Women accusers, whose stories had been met with everything from hushed skepticism to bald-faced doubt just a short time ago, are now being listened to and believed.
Speech will be the business of men, wrote Homer in the Odyssey in the 8th century. Indeed, the lack of female narratives in the media, in the arts, in politics, and in history today is not because these narratives do not exist, it is because they have been smothered under layers of repression and white, male privilege.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in every 4 women in the United States have been victims of domestic violence and 1 in 5 women have been raped. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime including assault or murder — about $127 billion dollars a year.
While these stats prove that violence against women is a problem of epidemic proportions, it is also true that this is a story that has never dominated the news cycle for very long. Society has long looked the other way as women who dared to share details of sexual assault were blamed for what happened to them and/or tossed aside because they took too long to speak up. Women lie about abuse is a myth the patriarchal world holds up as true in order to maintain power and control.
There are many theories about why women are being believed at this moment in time from the suggestion that mainstream feminism has finally taken a foothold to the fact that we have a sexual predator for a president. I think it is because there are so many lies — from the daily propaganda tweeted by Trump to the GOP’s tall tales of tax reform — that the truth became a reckoning. Survivors, by continuing to speak out, have created a new world.
As a survivor of sexual assault, I felt as if my assailant had stolen my true identity. To release my experiences of violence, abuse, and sexual assault at his hands, was to peel aside a façade of protection. The very act of admitting the shame, guilt and pain of my past was transformative and reclaiming. What we have experienced as a nation for the past few months, are women taking back who they are by sharing stories of humiliation. By exposing our humanness and our frailty, victims have turned our lives into powerful testimonies of survival.
Revolution is a sudden, radical and complete change. Revolution happens when a paradigm can no longer hold. There had to have come a point when women’s stories and the truth of our lives could not be held under water to drown like the unwanted runt of a liter. That time is now.
This is the beginning. Now we must make room for all the stories. Not just from the well off, the well known, the white women. We must listen for the stories from the black and the brown women, from the queer people, from transgender folk, from those with disabilities, from Native Americans, from all survivors who have been marginalized in this conversation. We must mourn all the women’s stories that will never came out. Women who died at the hands of violence. Women, who, for whatever reason, cannot speak out.
If being believed is this country’s new normal, it is because women got us here. The very act of never letting up on our narrative; of telling our stories day after day; of standing up for our own integrity has transformed the nation. We did it. Our vulnerability has proven to be our greatest strength.
Top photo: Pexels Creative Commons/Lumen
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Donna Kaz is a multi-genre writer, speaker and the author of UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour. Along with her alter ego, Guerrilla Girl and Guerrilla Girl On Tour, Aphra Behn, she creates visual art and performance to attack sexism and prove feminists are funny at the same time. donnakaz.com @donnakaz