Sometimes, during scary movies or the gruesome moments in Breaking Bad, I plant my palm between me and the TV screen and just listen. I want to know what happens, but I know myself well enough to know that I don’t need certain images in my head. You can’t unsee things.
Have you visited Project Unbreakable [Trigger Warning]?
Most days I can’t read it; I put my metaphorical internet hand over the screen and skip it in favor of less intense content. I can read about sexual violence in the military, or the Cleveland, TX rape case, or politicians who think that transvaginal probes are fine because “she already consented to putting stuff up there.” But photo after photo of astoundingly brave people holding signs with the words their rapists said to them? Nope, can’t do it. Don’t want it in my brain.
Last Friday, comedian Daniel Tosh performed at the Laugh Factory. After a rape joke, a woman in the crowd called out, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny.” Allegedly (her account here, HuffPo account here, ), Tosh responded, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, five guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…”
In Roxane Gay’s Salon piece on the incident, she writes:
“Qui tacet consentire” is Latin for, “Silence gives consent.” When we say nothing, when we do nothing, we are saying we consent to these trespasses against us. When that woman stood up and said, “No, rape is not funny,” she did not consent to participating in a culture that encourages lax attitudes toward sexual violence and the concerns of women.
Protecting myself from Project Unbreakable is about creating barriers between myself and the survivors of sexual assault and rape. I can know it exists without actually imagining what it would feel like to be one of those people. But thinking about what it would feel like–isn’t that what they call empathy?–is the beginning of where silence ends. I’m going to tweet the link to Project Unbreakable to Daniel Tosh today, and I recommend you do too. If he can read the stories, see the pictures, practice empathy and still make that joke, well, he has bigger problems than I thought.
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