|Photo by Grace Brown/Project Unbreakable|
All it takes is two letters that can keep a person from feeling safe sometimes: it is because I am a fe-male, a wo-man, that I was taught to not get raped, not get assaulted, not get abused. Because I am a fe-male, I need to watch what I wear and be careful not to drink "too much." As a wo-man, I have to make sure I don't give someone a reason to take advantage of me, because they will. As a wo-man, I should keep my lips closed and my knees together, or else live with the consequences of another person's actions.
Two letters. That's all that keeps me from the privilege of the other sex, but it's two letters that should also keep me safe: N. O.
No, I don't want your catcalls and your stares and your hands on my body when I walk down the street or ride the subway. No, I'm not "asking for it" if my jeans are too tight or my shirt reveals "too much cleavage." No, I don't like the degredation and the intimidation and the demands to fuck you, because I am a person. I am a real person. I am somebody's daughter and sister and cousin and friend. I am a real person with emotions and thoughts and a career and a future, and, no, you are not welcome to ruin it.
Society tells me not to get raped, but I am telling you now: don't rape. Don't attack. Don't hoot and holler with your loud, booming voice, because I am not here for you. My life is for me.
(Above: Safiya Washington and Kai Davis perform "Stares" - an incredible spoken word piece about both sides of receiving unwanted attention.)
Victims are not just fe-male; anyone can be a target, and we need to recognize that and not judge when anyone steps forward and says they've been attacked.
Assault, abuse, rape are all real. They all happen, and they happen to people you know, whether you know it or not. According to RAINN, somebody is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the U.S. Over half of these attacks are never reported and almost all rapists are never put in jail.
There is a desire in society to not talk about unpleasant matters, to not address the widespread existence of sexual violence. But we need to address this. We need to talk about it. No man or woman should have to ever feel scared to simply walk down a street.