Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Guest Post: Choosing Visibility


Guest Post: Choosing Visibility
by Casey Lynn
4 minutes, 39 seconds.



In the wake of the political disaster we’re calling an election, I was, and still am, an emotional mess. I am confused, frustrated, saddened, angry, defeated, lost, and most of all, on November 9th I woke up afraid.

Looking back, I thought I had experienced fear before: in 7th grade when the beast of a forward on the opposing team came charging right at me, before every improv show I’ve ever done, the first time I said “I love you” to a partner, going away to college, traveling across the ocean to study abroad, leaving my life in Chicago behind to move to Atlanta for grad school. At those times, I thought I was afraid, but I realize now that nervous energy and fear are vastly different.

As a cisgender, white, upper middle-class female, I’ve always been very fortunate to be comfortable and proud of who I am without having to fight much for it.

But also, surprise! Hello everyone; I’m bisexual. Consider this my official coming out. Visibility level one: achieved!

Being a bi-sexual who has primarily dated men, I’ve always had the “privilege” of invisibility. Falling in love with men meant my sexuality was never publicly an issue, as long as this part of me was cached away. And I know, if I ever did fall in love with a woman, she would be welcomed by my family with open arms.

So, despite my sexual identity, the renewed fear I woke up with, and continue to live with now, stems from an event I’ve kept private for years. In 2012, just after my 24th birthday, I was raped.

I was at his apartment ready to go to sleep, so I curled up on his couch. He said, “no, please, take my bed,” so naturally I got in because beds are way more comfy than couches, thinking that he was going to relinquish his bedroom spot and sleep in the living room. When he started to get in bed with me I said, “what are you doing?” to which he replied, “don’t worry I’m not going to try anything,” and I trusted that. So, I got onto my side of the bed, still fully clothed, and fell asleep.

As I was drifting off, I felt him touching me, grabbing my breasts, trying to get his fingers inside my skirt and underwear. I told him to stop; he persisted. He tried to kiss me and again, I told him to stop. He apologized and told me he wouldn't keep trying since I was "clearly not into it." His ego was bruised and I was too exhausted to placate his fragile masculinity. Again, I trusted him and fell asleep.

This time when I woke up, my bra was unhooked, my skirt was around my waist, my top was hiked up to my neck, my breasts were exposed and he was on top of me. It took me a second to process what was happening. I would like to say that I punched him in the face, ran to the police station, took his ass to court and now he’s in prison, but that isn’t what happened. I, like many survivors, blamed myself.

The only thing I said to anyone about it, when I talked about it at all, for the next three years was “I was drugged.” Which was a lie. I didn’t want anyone to think that I let that happen, that I made bad choices, which “led” me to being raped while I lay sleeping, so I gave myself an out. It couldn’t possibly be my fault if I was drugged.

That is fucked up. It’s not my fault, it was never my fault, and yet I felt the stigma of victimization living inside me. Yes, I could have left his apartment instead of falling asleep, but that moment of potential indiscretion- and this is crucial- does not make his actions my fault. He betrayed my trust and touched my body without permission. That is not okay.

I am afraid because I feel that no one is advocating for this part of my experience as a survivor. What little semblance of understanding and support I felt has vanished overnight. I am afraid because a man who lives by the “if-you-want-it-take-it” philosophy, even when it comes to women, has been elected to be the next president. I am afraid because that man has inadvertently empowered men across the country to believe that women’s bodies are theirs for the taking. I am afraid because what happened to me was reduced to “locker room talk,” and years of hard fought efforts to end rape culture have been reversed.

I never thought I’d feel so obligated to come out as a survivor. In the same way I never thought I’d officially come out as bisexual, it seemed to be a non-issue. But now, I choose to be visible. And I hope that this will encourage others to be visible as well. I decided to make this disclosure because there is power in numbers. I want this because, when we stand together and share our stories of survival, we can bring awareness to this epidemic (and it is an epidemic). We can’t rely on leaders to advocate for us; we have to advocate for ourselves. In the context of sexual assault, silence does not equal consent. However, when it comes to allowing the perpetuators of rape culture, sexism, and bigotry to continue unchallenged, our silence is an accommodation. As allies, our silence means we consent to violence against women and I do not consent.  

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Casey is an aspiring novelist and copywriting novice. Read her blog about portfolio school and smashing the patriarchy at lifeinthecircusblog.wordpress.com .


#bisexual #sexualassault