Saturday, January 31, 2015

Challenging Rape Culture At It's Roots

Guest blog written by: Karmilla Kamy Pillay Siokos

I am going to start with a poem. A friend responded to it by saying, “Kam, I love your courage but I can’t read this to the end.” It may be just as difficult for you to read, so I will not be offended if you won't be able to. If you can make it through the hard bits, the end is strong and empowering.
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I said no
He heard maybe
I screamed no
He still took me

This shameful, painful secret
For years I kept
Life went on outside me
Silent tears I wept

I said no
He heard maybe
I screamed no
He still took me

My body was molested
I had no choice
My spirit is not broken
I have a voice

I said no
He heard maybe
I screamed no
He still took me

My body was violated
Nobody can take ME
My Power My Strength My Love

I wrote this in September 2011. Seeing the word “Slut” in a newspaper headline and reading Sass Schultz’s story made me realize that no matter how much my lifestyle changed, there would always be a part of me that identified with the word, “slut”. The reality of having been raped would always be a part of my personal history. The only thing I could control was my attitude.

I thought I had that sorted when the poem was done. Then I came to the first Slutwalk. Sass came up here in boys’ pyjamas.She talked about how relieved she was that she was wearing those shapeless, flannel pyjamas, in her own bed, when strangers broke into her house and raped her. That way nobody could blame her. Then she started unbuttoning her shirt and said, “But what if..?”

As she flung off the shirt, revealing a sexy little top underneath, she asked, “If I had been wearing this instead, would it give anyone the right to violate me?”

In that moment, for the first time I fully understood that I was not to blame for being raped. It didn’t matter that he was not a stranger in the bushes. It didn’t matter that I had been drinking. It didn’t matter that I didn’t fight hard enough. All that mattered was that I said, “NO”. I said “No” and he didn’t listen. That is what defined it as rape.

I had to forgive myself for being raped. It’s a strange concept so I’ll say it again. I had to forgive myself for being raped. It only sounds bizarre until you think about it more closely.

We are all taught that there are two kinds of women in the world. There are the good girls who dress modestly, don’t drink or smoke, barely speak to boys and sit around waiting to get married. If you behave in a certain way and maintain a certain reputation you will not get raped. If you don’t conform, if you are the other kind of woman, you deserve to get raped. Parents think that this conditioning protects their daughters from harm. The real effect is that when we are raped we blame ourselves just as much as society blames us. This is part of the reason so many rapes go unreported. We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want the confirmation of our complicity in the crime.

I was not a good girl so I believed that I deserved to be raped. I didn’t report it. I didn’t talk about it at all for many years.
This is why Slutwalk is so important. We are breaking the silence around the taboos that society takes for granted. We are challenging rape culture at its roots. We have already created the starting point for discussions that challenge stereotypes. This not only changes the perception of the crime in general. It also provides a space for victims to become survivors. I was a victim for nearly 20 years.

It doesn’t matter whether the victim is male, female, adult, child, straight, gay, transgender or a slut. The victim is never to blame. Reclaiming my power, my strength, my ability to love and trust, makes me a survivor. Until I realized that, I was still a victim without even knowing it.

Written by Karmilla Kamy Pillay Siokos
Country: South Africa
This article was originally a Slutwalk Speech
Karmilla is active within the Slutwalk movement in Johannesburg. For more information, see her facebook page.

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