Silence is the Enemy

It’s not often that I participate in memes, but this one is important.

I’ll let the founder of it, Sheril Kirschenbaum speak first:

Today begins a very important initiative called Silence Is The Enemy to help a generation of young women half a world away.Why? Because they are our sisters and children–the victims of sexual abuse who don’t have the means to ask for help. We have power in our words and influence. Along with our audience, we’re able to speak for them. I’m asking all of you–bloggers, writers, teachers, and concerned citizens–to use whatever platform you have to call for an end to the rape and abuse of women and girls in Liberia and around the world.

In regions where fighting has formally ended, rape continues to be used as a weapon. As Nicholas Kristof recently wrote from West Africa, ‘it has been easier to get men to relinquish their guns than their sense of sexual entitlement.’ The war has shattered norms, training some men to think that ‘when they want sex, they need simply to overpower a girl.’ An International Rescue Committee survey suggests 12 percent of girls aged 17 and under acknowledged having been sexually abused in some way over the previous 18 months. Further, of the 275 new sexual violence cases treated Jan-April by Doctors Without Borders, 28 percent involve children aged 4 or younger, and 33 percent involve children aged 5 through 12. That’s 61% age 12 or under. We read about their plight and see the figures, but it’s so easy to feel helpless to act in isolation. But these are not statistics, they are girls. Together we can do more. Mass rape persists because of inertia so let’s create momentum.

Here is the blogger coalition site.

There have been a multitude of other posts, each with their own focus and voice. I don’t have much to add that hasn’t been said, so I’ll highlight a few of the most interesting ones:

Greg Laden has an interesting post:

In a culture like the one described above, where rape of women by men is “normal” and “typical” and “happens all the time” one can certainly feel badly for the women, but can you, should you, actually intervene?

My own answer to the question is substantially different from that of the person who first told the story I relate above. The answer is: “You are asking a stupid question in a stupid way, and need to step back and think about what you are saying.”

Rape may well be a “normal” and “day to day” occurrence in this culture, simply by virtue of the fact (= tautology) that it happens all the time. But there are two reasons why one should not fail to intervene.

Tara Smith talks about the difference of rape in wartime and rape in peace and why we don’t talk about either.

Scicurious talks about feminism and rape.

Martin R. asks What is Wrong with those Men?

Jessica Palmer after providing some good resources says:

Can we change what is happening in Africa? I don’t know, but I do know that the internet is a pretty powerful tool for mobilizing a community of caring individuals. Think about your own loved ones who have been the victims of sexual violence (statistics indicate that most of us know a victim of rape or sexual abuse) and then imagine if the pain they went through were routine, even expected. Imagine that women in your country could not run daily errands without risking being raped. That prepubescent children were commonly raped multiple times, including by their schoolteachers. That the police charged with keeping order were themselves perpetrators of sexual violence. It’s hard to imagine, but I wish it were even harder – I wish it were unimaginable. Let’s do our best to make it so.

Janet D. Stemwedel is not giving up on making a difference

Zuska offers her perspective:

I was assaulted by someone I know. I would not call him a monster, though what he did is monstrous. Calling perpetrators of sexual assault monsters makes it seem like somehow we can cut them out of a crowd, easily identify them somehow, know them as in some way different from the more general group of average men. Yet this is not the case. The next time you are in a crowd, look around you. Can you tell who, in that crowd, are the men who have molested their daughters or sisters or cousins or nieces? Of course you can’t. They look like every other man. They come from every walk of life, every social class, every type of occupation.

Sciencewoman provides some concrete activities to help:

+ Call your congressperson. Congresspeople, in fact. Look up their contact information here. Tell them you have been compelled to contact them to find out what they can do to stop sexual violence against women and children in all forms, and abroad as well as in this country.

+ Donate money (or time, if you have the skills) to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders). They provide medical care to the children and women Kristof reported on, and to countless other women and children in war-torn countries across the world.

+ Donate money or time to your local women’s shelter or to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline ’cause as much as we want to think this is a furrin problem, it ain’t (although perhaps it’s not so grevious here).

+Spread the word about this blog effort – through telling your own stories to friends and family, or through getting involved in your community shelter projects.

+Join in (with your own story, or not) on your own blog. A bunch of bloggers far more eloquent than me (updated list here) are donating any blog traffic money collected in June to MSF, and more traffic means more donations. We’ll be joining in, although details are still fuzzy (as we really don’t make enough to make our traffic donation worth while – so need to figure out a multiplication factor) – I’ll post an update with the final plan. In the meantime, visit the list and read their posts on this topic, or look for their tweets with hashtag #silencehurts .

You can join the Facebook group.

Donate to Doctors without Borders.

And now, I’ll offer my voice to this.

One of my friends was raped. Her own father said she deserved it. Let me state firmly for the record: NO woman asks to be raped.

I have worked with women who turned to drugs and alcohol to cover the pain of sexual abuse.

Rape is by it’s very definition non-consenutal. It is not about sex, it is about power. And no child should ever have her own family turn thier back on her because of something out of her control. Rape is evil, insidious, dehumaizing, and scarring.

I never want another 3AM phone call from a friend in tears. You can help.

I urge you with every fiber of my being, do something. Even if it’s just spreading the word in your own blog.

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