January 27, 2014

SAAM Blog Series: Let’s Start Talking about _____

We’re talking about the facts of sexual assault, the big picture of sexual assault, speaking up, and consent through online resources and campus events using myths, delving in from our general myth and facts page. This time, we will be looking at the myth that survivors of violence can and always recount the assault in a linear, intelligible way, otherwise they might be lying. This myth plays into how we support survivors of violence in our communities, shapes portrayal of survivors in media and in resource materials, and is one of the pillars of rape culture.

Let’s Start Talking about the myth that people must always be able to recount violence they have experienced in the way that outside people or forces deem acceptable or understandable. This myth is continually brought to bear if survivors decide to engage with the criminal legal system, they will continuously be retelling a narrative in a system that desires that consistency. In a culture that is already skeptical of survivors, those whose stories shift and whose possible trauma manifests differently than the ideal survivor are less likely to receive support professionally or interpersonally.  The complexity and multitude of ways folks survive and process trauma are erased for a sometimes forced coherency used to delegitimize survivors of sexual violence and survivors of other forms of violence. Often our lives are complicated, messy, and do not cohere.  This myth is a tool used to perpetuate a culture of skepticism and disbelief to folks who experience violence. Systems of power too positions stories and experiences of people more or less worthy of believe in situations of violence. Some people have to work harder to tell narratives that will be believed as coherent by people in positions of power, particularly those who are marginalized by systems of cissexism, heterosexism, racism, colonialism, ableism, sexism, and other dynamics. It once again positions certain people as more or less untrustworthy, deserving of skepticism in response to pain.

 If our communities and support systems only respond to coherency and ability to articulate, we have failed in centering survivors and interrogating rape culture and systems of power.

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