What Does It Take?
A Performance Art Piece
One chilly evening in October 2011, I was raped by a frat brother behind the bricks Psi Upsilon. That night was not the first night he had been aggressive with me. There were other occasions where he would try to kiss me, slide his fingers up my dress and dig his nails into my thighs. Each time he was surrounded by a room full of people who watched and said nothing.
On September 8th, 2015 I reported my rapist to the university. At the time I had been a dedicated member of the Eclectic Society, a co-ed society on Wesleyan’s campus. I served as both Lawspeaker and Alumni Coordinator. I carried Eclectic on my back since I was initiated my freshman year. I cleaned the house, cared for members and alumni and worked incessantly to make it the incredible space I knew it had the potential to be. I considered that house with the colossal white pillars to be my home and those that resided within it to be my family. Yet my familial foundation shattered once the Eclectic Society learned I was a rape survivor.
During a house meeting, I proposed to ban my rapist from our home and what followed was one of the most traumatic experiences I have yet to experience. The people I considered to be family proceeded to victim blame me and attack me once they learned I was assaulted. I was asked questions such as:
“Why were you with him in the first place?” “How did he do it?” “What were you doing with him?”
Then one Eclectic member threatened to bring my rapist into our home and the whole room fell silent. A room full of people and no one seemed bothered with the fact that I, as well as every woman in the society, had been threatened with the presence of a man that had sexually assaulted multiple women on campus. The only person who said anything was a close friend of mine, everyone else fell silent.
After the meeting I was ostracized by Eclectic members. Members I had loved for years suddenly were too disgusted to look at me. I was ignored. I was violated. I was destroyed.
I began posting notes on the door of the member who threatened me, calling him a rape enabler. I told him that he had no right to stay in our home if he did not care for the safety of the women that lived within it. The Eclectic Society told me I was overreacting and rather than show me any form of support, they ostracized me and began supporting the man that desired to bring a serial rapist into our home. The anguish that bubbled inside of me twisted my insides to the point where it was impossible for me
to feel safe on this campus. I had picked these people to be my family and now that decision was rearing its venomous head in a way I never thought imaginable. I began screaming at them, wishing they could see the pain they caused, but instead I was pushed away. I was given apologies that only served to try and clear their names rather than actually show disdain over their actions. A few days after the meeting, the Eclectic House manager met with the administrative officials in charge of my rape case and told them I was “dangerous, unfit and had even threatened to kill and burn each Eclectic member alive.” He had lied and committed one of the oldest treacheries known to mankind: When a woman of color speaks her truth, you paint her as insane.
Our society IS rape culture. We are each participants, there is no escaping it. We each have a responsibility to be held accountable and to act when we see proponents of rape culture taking place. Victim blaming survivors of sexual assault is as convenient as it is horrific. If we blame her dress, her alcohol consumption, her walking home alone at night, we absolve ourselves of responsibility. We absolve ourselves of the way we turn our heads when we see him take what isn’t his. We absolve ourselves of guilt when we say “I just do not want to get involved.” Blaming her is easier because if we blame her, we need not look at ourselves and how we actively participate in a culture we claim to condemn.
What does it take to wake up someone who is passed out at a party?
What does it take to help them home safely?
What does it take to step in when you see someone’s boundaries being abused?
What does it take to say something?
In this performance piece I strip myself down to my most vulnerable and exposed state to mimic how I actually exist on this campus. You have no choice but to look at me, to experience my woes and to gaze upon my pain. I am then constrained in a fashion displaying how Greek and administrative institutions attack and compromise the well being of rape survivors on a consistent basis. I become a spectacle that we see much too often. You are forced to see me, and you are forced to see the choices that lie in your palms.
What will you do
Rape culture is us.
Ending the terrors of rape culture begins with each of us examining and changing the ways in which we actively participate in it.