Trigger warning: this post discusses and links to attacks on rape survivors who talk about their experiences
“I don’t believe you”. These words squat at the back of survivors’ minds, a little silencing gremlin. We fear not being believed, and it keeps us quiet and allows aggressors to go unchallenged. It allows rape culture to flourish and thrive.
It isn’t an unfounded fear. This vile little phrase drops like a guillotine blade wherever survivors dare to speak.
It lurks at every corner. Sometimes it seems small, like many tweeters declaring they disbelieved young vocal feminist journalist Laurie Penny’s account of misogynistic, aggressive bullying from a drunk David Starkey. Other times, it’s enormous with people telling a survivor that a horrific sexual attack she was brave enough to publicly talk about must not have happened. It’s all part of the same problem. It silences our voices.
It is due to this culture that the I Did Not Report twitter account had to deactivate and move to a more moderateable space. Twitter was not a safe space for survivors to share their experiences. Anonymous defenders of rape sprang up, uttering that despicable little phrase and far, far more.
They want us to shut up. They want us to stop talking about what happened to us. Those four seemingly-benign words are violence, coercion, a weapon. Hearing them is agony. The knowledge that they might be unsheathed is often enough to silence.
This is all so upside-down, arse-backwards fucked up.
Too often, it is only the voices of the defenders of rape and their powerful catchphrase that is heard. This is something that must change.
Where you see a survivor speaking out, commend them. Tell them you believe them. Make it known that for every mouthy little shit wanting to conserve a culture of rape and violence, there are hundreds who believe survivors. Drown out those ugly little voices. Do not be afraid to call out the apologists. They need to hear that they are wrong, dangerously so.
It is a sorry state of affairs when the three most gratifyingly beautiful words in the English language are currently “I believe you”. Yet they are, and these are words that must be shouted.