Have you ever seen your pain through other’s eyes? We have all experienced the relatable pull towards someone else’s truth whether that be represented in a scene of a movie, lyrics to a song, or perhaps an image or heart-string-pulling novel. That relatability often provokes personal emotions to arise, be it positive or negative. There is something to be said about experiencing trauma first-hand; then hearing someone else’s testimony closely relatable to your own.
Years after our experiences of sexual assault, we consider these truths to be self-evident, that our survival-hood is an ongoing process open to ushering in more stories of triumph; while healing from the repercussions of pain, anger, and loss felt by others. To speak more on her own reflections of media’s portrayal of sexual assault and it’s effects on survivors, is cofounder, Cristal Lowe.
A rapist doesn't have to be a stranger to be legitimate. Someone you never saw. A man with obvious problems. But if you been public with him, danced one dance, kissed him goodbye lightly with a closed mouth, pressing charges will be as hard as keeping your legs closed while five fools try and run a train on you. These men friends of ours, who smile nicely, take you out to dinner, then lock the door behind you...--For Colored Girls, 2018.
Speaking transparently, I am overwhelmed with a lot of emotions when exposed to other sexual assault stories in the media. Emotions range from anger to displaced pain I internalize from my own experiences of abuse. Much of my frustration is further amplified in a justice system that does very little to empathize with survivors like ourselves. Women of color are often marginalized from these discussions, making the topics we discuss here even more important for us to continue to share. When you strip away the victim-blaming, and get to the truly upsetting problem; the prevelance of sexual violence, the pain often becomes riddled in helplessness. However, years later, I’ve accepted that on the other side of pain and heartbreak from a broken system, is a passion to change our culture that influences such acts from happening.
Content that has influenced me to see the beauty beyond my triggers were movies like For COLORED GIRLS. Like any well-written film, I was rocked with emotion, being brought to tears. One particular scene drew me to an uncomfortable place, where I flash-blacked to my own experience of assault. My tears no longer belonged to the characters in the scene, but my own. They were tears I couldn’t afford to express openly in public, which made watching this with others I loved, even more profound. I recall my husband saying, “Lets just turn it off..." in response to my obvious emotions.
While I accept my healing has taken place, my passion to change the culture has only increased. I find it easier now to speak about my experience without breaking down or without mumbling my words. However, my discomfort when seeing such scenes in movies or TV shows forces me to understand my feelings about what I went through that much more. I hate watching someone going through a pain even more so, I hate that I know that pain so personally. These however, are our truths. As more and more testimonies are shared and portrayed throughout mass media (fiction or not), I am too, learning to exchange my pain for empowerment. Stories like the ones shared in For Colored Girls empower me as much as they do challenge my own sentiments of sexual assault. They keep pushing me to consistently grow with my sister through working on HERSTORY because these stories only reaffirm the statistics that report sexual assault in America afflicted upon "1 out of every 6 American women.” (www.RAIIN.org) (14.8% completed rape, and 2.8% attempted). If you ask me, 1 out of 6 is one too many.
My wish would be for there not to be another single soul affected by sexual violence or harassment of any kind. While we work on diminishing the rampant occurrences of sexual assault in our world, let us draw closer to the stories that are shared in the media. Let us critically analyze how these stories are portrayed and become more sensitive to the realities of characters and real people we interact with on a regular basis. The more we humanize the people afflicted, the more our culture grows in more empathy and less blame. We can actively empower ourselves and others by supporting media outlets and forms of entertainment that speak to the empowerment of survivors through real stories, as uncomfortable as they make us.—Cristal Lowe
Regardless if you share in similar stories expressed in the music you hear or the films you watch—these are stories that are speaking to someone’s truth; a truth, we hope we can all gain a bit more empathy from however we second-handidly experience them.
With love and solidarity,
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