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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

More Voices Needed

In a recent article titled “How ‘Take Back the Night’ Keeps Some Victims Silent”, Good Magazine contributor and survivor Megan Greenwell writes that Take Back the Night events tend to present narratives of "uncomplicated rape". Although this hasn’t been my experience at the Take Back the Night events I have attended (I have heard voices from survivors of incest, friends, intimate partners, and even women who have come forward about rapes that were attempted, but which they were fortunate to have fought off), I think that Greenwell raises a good point: when any single narrative dominates, others are silenced. We need more voices, not fewer rallies.

  As she astutely points out, “putting the onus on victims is backwards and dangerous.”  Part of relieving this burden entails having others -- non-survivors and allies -- hear the calls of survivors who bravely share their stories, and respond to what they have heard by working to end the systems that perpetuate this violence in our communities. Trauma stories can be healing for survivors, both for those who tell them and for those who hear them, but it’s time that we, as allies, realize that trauma narratives are for us, too.

The trauma story isn’t just about the storyteller, but the listeners as well.  You needn’t be a survivor to get involved in the movement to end sexual violence.

From the perspective of a victims’ advocate, it has also not been my experience that survivors are pressured to report to police by advocates. Our role is to be that one voice in the survivor’s life that doesn’t pressure them, that only does what they want.  I think that most advocates are 100% in support of the survivor doing what he or she feels is best.  I have always felt that even the collection of forensic evidence during a medical rape kit is a secondary concern to getting one’s health and body looked over, attended to, and cared for.

Furthermore, as advocates, I think we all know how traumatizing the process of reporting to police and going through the justice system can be. Even when everyone is doing their best, it can be traumatizing to tell ones’ story over and over again, yet another reason why allies need to heed the brave calls of survivors when they hear them.  As an advocate, I know we want the best for survivors: we want a reformed system that is less traumatizing, with more options; but, most importantly, we want empowerment for trauma survivors, which begins with validating their voice, their story, and their choice.

WRITTEN BY: Nicole, a MedAd volunteer

Posted by stacey on 05/02 at 04:00 PM


I would say that no rape is uncomplicated and that the last thing we need to do to one another is rate our experiences in ways that pit us against one another. I would say this term is unhelpful although I am sure that is not the intention. Thanks for listening
Posted by Michelle  on  05/09  at  05:04 PM
Hi Michelle,

I completely agree - ranking our experiences of abuse and trauma is disempowering and silencing. I think that Megan Greenwell's use of the term "uncomplicated rape" speaks to her experience of feeling like her particular story wouldn't be welcomed because it didn't sound like all of the others she heard.
The voices of ALL survivors should indeed be welcomed in our movement!

Posted by Nicole  on  05/13  at  09:28 AM
I think you are missing Ms. Greenwell's central point: many, many rapes occur not on the street between strangers, but in the context of existing relationships between adults or between an adult and child in a home or institutional setting. I think it is fair to say that when a rape occurs in these latter contexts (especially when the target is a dependent child) a variety of complicated issues can ariset making reporting and prosecuting a much less straightforward matter than when a rape is perpetrated by a stranger. Calling rape by a family member or partner "complicated" is not about "ranking" the assaults, but instead it recognizes the complexity of familial and intimate relationships and the variety of forces at play. Ms. Greenwell wants the focus and concern of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and TBTN marches to reflect the reality of the diverse contexts in which rape occurs. Rather than simply "taking back the streets," her article would suggest that we take back our homes and our intimate relationships as well. To my mind, that is much more a challenging goal but it is of vital importance to all of us.
Posted by Emily  on  06/07  at  11:41 PM
Ms. Greenwell's article was fantastic! I'm delighted she spoke up and spoke out. And, I believe her views and experiences are way more accurate than many would like to believe.

Victims' advocacy is such a sticky wicket. While I applaud Nicole's sentiments regarding the role of victims' advocates, it just isn't factual. I can assure you most advocates aren't 100% in support of what the survivor doing what they think is best. Nobody can assure anybody else what someone's motives are. With all due respect, victims' advocates aren't mind readers. Let's not get all defensive -- and brush off a survivor's negative experience with advocacy.

And, I think that was Ms. Greenwell's point. Not all advocacy is helpful. This isn't about one size fits all. People have such varied experiences not only contextually but also in how they respond to the event emotionally. Their needs and wants shouldn't be reduced to the one size fits all buzzword "empowerment." I find that incredibly simplistic, paternalistic (how ironic) and disempowering.

Posted by binxxy1  on  07/11  at  07:09 AM

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