Support Female Survivors

For females, being raised in and living among a society filled with porn and rape culture, constant male privilege over the subordination and objectification of us, male voices; government and big business, male desires, male wants, etc, creates a state of hyper vigilance in a lot of women. “When will I be confronted next, when will I have my safe-space invaded, when will I be reminded that i’m invisible, worthless, an object, powerless, disposable?” And it would be remiss not to mention the times people laugh, make jokes, or make harsh comments when we are triggered by what we are constantly inundated with.

This is just in mainstream culture, everywhere-everyday forms of media that wallpaper our lives. Where a safe space can’t even be found in our own house, if we choose, like the rest of the population, to relax in front of the TV or open some junk mail catalogues. As Julie Bindel states; “There is no such thing as a safe-space. Women walk around seeing images that tell them they are lesser than men on a regular basis. What is a safe-space for women? Our own bedroom with the door locked?”

“People don’t want to hear about how women think and feel. They don’t want to picture women as people whom others might actually have to negotiate with. They want “equality” insofar as they want the erasure of all measurable signs of women’s oppression (because let’s face it, these get a bit embarrassing). They do not, however, want this to come at the expense of being allowed to see women as whatever they want them to be at any given moment.

On top of this, from the age of puberty (and many before) females live with the prevalence of groping, street harassment and grooming by men (from teenage boys to older males). This all adds to this state of vigilance. Imagine many, many times in your life, having your penis, your bottom, your anus, touched and grabbed my men, known and unknown to you, purely with sexual predatory intent, being turned on by groping you sexually without your permission or want. Imagine men constantly reducing you and the men around you to sexual body parts, telling you what they’d like to do to you, trying to manipulate you to give them free sexual reign of your body.

Now, there are those of us who have also survived Rape and Physical Violence from men, on top of all this (above). Approximately 1 in 3 of us (One in six Australian women have been the victim of a sexual assault by a non-partner, these are only reported rapes. We also know approximately 28% of rapes happen within a relationship, and we are still only talking about the rapes that women have reported). We live with varying degrees of PTSD, anxiety and depression as a result of being raped and beaten by men from this society; (visit site below for full impacts on female survivors)

“Women who have experienced sexual violence may constitute the single largest group of people affected by PTSD (Calhoun & Resnick, 1993, cited in Astbury, 2006). For example:

  • a range of US studies have found that between 35% and 57% of community-based samples of rape victims suffer from PTSD at some point in their lifetime (Littleton & Breitkopf, 2006; Kilpatrick et al., 1987, and Kilpatrick & Resnick, 1993, both cited in Petrak, 2002); and
  • up to 16.5% of survivors meet PTSD criteria an average of 17 years post-assault (Kilpatrick et al., 1987, cited in Petrak, 2002).

PTSD “stresses the abnormal nature of the stressor that causes the mental health symptoms, not individual pathology” (Walker, 1991, p. 22, cited in Bennice, Resick, Mechanic, & Astin, 2003). In other words, PTSD symptoms are “normal” or typical responses to sexual assault (Valentiner, Foa, Riggs, & Gershuny, 1996).

Some authors are critical of PTSD as a concept for understanding victim/survivors (e.g., Wasco, 2003). The primary reason for this is that PTSD, as a psychiatric diagnosis, implies that the individual survivor suffers from a medical problem, and that her “symptoms” are signs of a disorder, rather than reasonable responses to a lived experience. Also, the symptoms included in the diagnosis of PTSD do not include all the effects of sexual assault on women’s lives.

PTSD is also criticised for seeing the event of rape as the cause of trauma, thereby not fully accounting for the gendered and cultured context in which rape occurs (Wasco, 2003).” The Impacts of Sexual Assault on Women

Yes some women are lucky, some women aren’t’ affected, but most of us, in some way, but more-so many ways, are.

Now we come to those of us who have survived being prostituted to and by men, raped daily by man after man after man, those of us who have survived being treated as receptacles for men’s penises, perversions and violence, who are noted to have comparable or higher rates of PTSD than troops who have weathered combat duty. “Trauma is not a mental illness, it is a healthy reaction to extreme abuse/torture and having no justice.” Rebecca Mott.

Men Take a Stand

We need men to have ongoing discussions about what being a ‘good man’ means in everyday life. This includes men checking your own daily perpetuations of and benefits from this sexist culture?

Most importantly, have understanding and support for us when we are triggered, and listen to what we, the women close to you, are saying.  You do not know what it is like for us, you only know how you benefit from things you think are harmless. So when we say they are not ‘harmless’ to us, actually step back and listen, and be prepared to give up these ‘things’ that instantly remove equal ground in your relationships with women.

And before you just move right along and continue on your way, think about this; 33 women have come out publicly over many many years accusing Bill Cosby of rape, and it only received media attention and outrage when a man pointed it out at the end of last year in a comedy routine. (But if it really only matters if a man speaks up about it, then go for your life HERE)

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This is happening to us, not men, so don’t wait for another man to point all this out to you. This is happening to us and we are telling you now. We are asking you to stop treating us this way and to start speaking up with us. You say you love the women in your lives, and women in general, Prove It.

“It is not enough to simply say that women and men should be equal, but those who believe this should try to make sure that within their relationships there is equality too. This means that women are treated with respect and dignity, that they are not put down, that things are organised so that they get there needs met too.” – Kate Hughes

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One thought on “Support Female Survivors

  1. Pingback: To the men who love us, are you really helping us? | REAL for women

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