Friday, May 11, 2007

What Makes Sarah Cry: Part 2

It's somewhat ironic, given the content of this post, that the whole reason I had to split this into two was that I can't figure out how to use hide things behind a cut on blogger. Nonetheless, on I go.

The second thing that made me cry was that I finally came across a major blog with several posts on this issue and absolutely no comments that inferred that this broadcast (discussed in previous post) described anything other than rape. The blogger put a warning above the audio clip that it was extremely offensive, then went on to discuss the content behind the fold. That discussion included details on how the radio comments could never be "funny" to someone who was nearly "fucked to death" herself, and a horrifying, graphic description of the violent rape that she experienced at 16. When I first clicked on the audio, I did so with lots of warning that it was offensive, and I chose to do it anyway, fully aware of the probable content. I made that decision because I, personally, don't tend to find fantasy descriptions designed mainly to cause controversy to be triggering--they make me feel like vomiting, they make me cry or want to cry, and they make me angry, but they don't make me fearful and bring back actual memories. Others have different reactions, which is why the warnings are there on the audio links, and we each have to make our choices about the limits of what we can handle listening to and reading at a given time. Graphic descriptions of real stories are sometimes past my limits, and they were this morning, and I clicked through to the rest of the post expecting commentary on the offensive hypothetical, but not even remotely anticipating what was there and the feelings it brought up in me. Maybe that was naive, and maybe I'm asking people to be over-cautious about the nuances of reactions to discussions of sexual violence.

I posted a comment requesting that another trigger warning be put up before the cut. The response I got was that such a warning would be like saying she should be "ashamed of her experiences". I don't think it's like that at all, especially if it's worded as a "trigger warning" and not "potentially offensive content". I said in my comment that I have immense respect for her willingness to share that story and to relate it directly back to the kind of bullshit contained in that clip, because it relates, and people who don't think it does need to be told, possibly graphically, how wrong they are. I don't think she should refrain from posting it, nor that she should feel that she has to hide it from the world because she has something to be ashamed of. But I don't think it's respectful to other people who have experienced rape to leave them unprepared for the feelings that may come up. I think that's very different from attempting to shame her, and while I'm sure she wasn't accusing me of having those reasons, since I was very clear in my comment, I can't help but feel that my request was being equated with that intention. I'll read personal stories of sexual violence a lot of the time, and I really think that these personal stories are a vital part of raising awareness, and sometimes I choose to read them when it turns out that I'm not as prepared as I thought I might be, or end up reading one that is way too much like my own stories for me not to be triggered. But I make the decision of what I can handle on a day-to-day basis, and there are many days when that line is somewhere between "news and media portrayals of rape" and "personal experiences", and I appreciate the kinds of warnings that generally accompany these posts.

So I didn't actually cry when I first read the post. I shut down. I didn't stay that way for long because I hate feeling that way, and I'm familiar enough with my own patterns and needs to pull myself up to a place I'm more comfortable with. Then I submitted the request, which wasn't easy. Getting the response is what made me cry, because I feel like I should be ashamed of having these reactions to what I read, and that I'm part of the problem by thinking that we shouldn't have to hear about this stuff if we don't want to--the reality is this woman shouldn't have had to experience it, and my having to read it is on a different planet of impact.

As I said, maybe I am placing overly high expectations on others to consider a variety of feelings. Maybe I actually am part of the problem when sometimes I want to stick my head at least a little ways into the sand about what rape looks like, and I'm silencing this woman with this request. Maybe I have to rethink all that. But as it stands, the choice I'm making now is to stop reading that blog, which sucks, because it was one that I liked for a lot of reasons. If I don't know what to expect, I can't decide when I'm up for what I'll see--I've done this same with television shows, but this is the first time I've felt ashamed of myself for doing it.

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