Trigger Warning. This post is about sexual assault. Please exercise self-care and skip part or all of this post if you need to.
I’ve said it before. I will say it again, over and over until the day I die or until it no longer needs to be said. Whichever comes first.
Rape needs to stop.
One Day You & I Are Going To Die is a new blog founded by a group of survivors with the Vancouver Poetry Slam. The site is only days old, but it’s already dense with information and testimonials. It’s intensely powerful and potentially triggering. I’ve read several posts and I’ve felt everything – anger, sadness, fear, shame, inspiration, compassion, and a shit ton of admiration.
Some of these people are my friends. They’ve been through some ugly shit. To the survivors I know and to those I’ve never met, let me say first that I am sorry. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this.
Let me say next, that you people kick so much ass!
The authors at One Day have created a space where those affected can have a voice and find support. And the affected include not only the survivors themselves, but friends, partners, fellow artists in the community and even loved ones of the perpetrator.
There is compassion for the perpetrator.
Compassion does not mean absolving a perpetrator of responsibility for what they’ve. Nor does compassion diminish the experience of the survivors. Compassion does mean recognizing that the perpetrator is not a “monster” or an “asshole” or some other term meant to symbolize their exclusion from the community.
This is probably a familiar perspective to some. It’s feels radical for me but after reading this post and this one, it makes sense. Even as I struggle with it. Even as I search inside for the emotional sensation I identify as compassion. Even as I admit it isn’t there.
I’ll keep trying to to find it.
I’ll keep trying because rape isn’t just libidinous, animalistic men lurking in dark places waiting to pounce on the next scantily clad women who walks by without an escort. In fact, in most cases it’s not that at all.
More people are assaulted in their homes than anyhwere else. The majority (close to 70%) of survivors are were assaulted by a spouse, a date, a partner, a family member or a neighbour. Survivors know their perpetrators.
Which means that we know them too.
In her open letter to “those who love someone who has been named as perpetrator” Lisa Slater writes,
…one day someone tells you something that seems to turn your whole relationship with that person on its head.The idea that a person we love has sexually assaulted someone – it is foreign. It feels wrong. It feels like a lie. It feels impossible. This can’t be so, you think to yourself. There must be some mistake. Maybe she made it up. Maybe she wasn’t clear. Maybe she was a slut, maybe she was asking for it, maybe she just regretted it the next day.I want you to do me a favour: pretend, just for a moment, that it’s true. If it’s true, what could you do to support accountability and healing for perpetrator and survivor alike?I believe that people behave in fucked up ways for a lot of reasons. I also believe that, in certain cases, extending a perpetrator the support that they need in order to heal and stop hurting people can be revolutionary. Part of that support might mean unconditional love… love that says that you will support them to get better and heal. That their behaviour is wrong, but they are not monsters….
Your support could mean that they could take that terrifying step forward, and admit what they’ve done.
Compassion. Like I said…not there yet.But I’m willing to make the effort to find it within myself. I’ve seen repeatedly the tranformative power when good people communicate openly and act in love. To paraphrase John Lennon, I hope one day I will join them.
Love, so much love to the many voices at VanSlam and One Day You And I Going To Die. Thank you for your courage, your wisdom and your inspiring work. Moving forward, I look to your example because maybe it’s compassion, not condemnation that will bring us they day when rape stops.