This is going to be one of those conversations...

And by those conversations, I mean I'm not sure how long of a discussion it's going to be in this post, but I hope it proves to be fruitful and give you guys food for thought.

 

I debated writing this post for a few days. Anguished over it even, because I didn't know how extensively to talk about this - whether from the vein of my knowledge and experiences, or from the angle of everything that's happening surrounding the people involved in this, or other measures - it's a serious topic with multiple levels that I could not even begin to touch all bases on in one single post.  But I think it's worth having the conversation.

 

Many of you guys have probably heard about the events surrounding the sexual abuse scandal involving two (and possibly other) popular YouTube personalities over the past several days, based under the recording company of Hank and John Green.  I first heard of it here on BL via Fangirl's articulate posts (see here, here, and here for reference), followed it to Tumblr, and my mind was respectively blown reading through it all.  I don't think the shock has completely left me on multiple levels over the past several days. 

 

It was Carrie Mesrobian's post that made me realize - I should probably speak up about this too.  I did try at one point to contribute to the conversation when Moonlight Reader had a great post about unwanted sexual contact, but BL ate my rather lengthy comment, I had to pick my heart up off the floor, and figure out yet again how the heck to talk about this from the ground up.

 

I'll start with personal so that I can get this out of the way - because if I linger too long on this account, it triggers me.  So definitely putting a TW on this even if the incidents themselves are not as graphic as other accounts. Some of you may not even think it's that big a deal.  (I almost hate saying that because these were enough where I suffered severe anxiety over it for years - it affected my quality of life and relationships for a while.)  Putting it under a spoiler tag just so that I cover my bases. Read if you so choose.

 

 

I will say I've had incidents (multiple, not the same person) where I've had unwanted sexual contact, and these were by people I knew and trusted and some encounters with strangers.  The youngest age that I was subject to this was at nine years old by someone who was no older than me.  I blocked this memory out of my head for over ten years.  At the time it happened, I was in a place where he sat beside me, there was no one on my right side, he was on my left, it wasn't easy to see what he was doing to me . The boy in question made several attempts to reach under my skirt, stroke my thigh and private parts.  I did pretty much what I had been taught to do in that situation if it ever arose - I fought back.  I shoved his hand, arm, body away, hissed at him to stop, but he wouldn't stop. The back and forth between us continued until an adult stepped in, saw we were making a display, punished both of us for misconduct. I'm being intentionally vague with details because if I get too specific it will trigger me and also because I'm paranoid about privacy - I honestly don't care to disclose who he is and it's been over 20 years since it happened.

 

If I knew any better (and I still regret this), I should've told the adult in that situation what happened then and there.  It was probably the first time ever in my life I experienced something of an emotional numbness/disconnect from the event itself for a little while after.  I wanted to cry, couldn't do it.  I thought if I spoke up about it that the adult in charge (female) wouldn't believe what he'd done to me, thought about what my parents would say, wondered if they'd be disappointed in me even though he'd been the one to hurt me. I thought that would prolong the whole ordeal so I stayed silent, decided to take what punishment was given (thankfully it was something of a timeout session and it was far enough away from him. I couldn't read or do anything so I just sat and stayed quiet.) He bothered me in other ways a few times after that but eventually he left me alone - never did anything like it again.  I was terrified of him for a while, and I wonder if in later times when we were in the same social circles if I wasn't nervous around him because of that event and I'd just completely disconnected from it in mind. The only reason I remembered it happened in later years was because 1.) It was one of the few times I got in trouble or acted out at that age - I was generally a quiet kid who kept to myself.  2.) Because it became a recurring nightmare of a memory that came back after subsequent events. And the nightmare didn't leave me for a while when it came back to me.

 

But this is the first time I've spoken about that incident - never told anyone until now - absolutely no one.

 

Fast forward through middle school, a few times when I was groped by boys who thought it was funny since I was short and stout with boobs.  Creeped me out because I did not like to be touched or approached from behind without knowing who was behind me (this is probably the reason why I don't like people coming in to hug me from behind to this day) . One of the boys who groped me back then in a series of incidents is now in prison for multiple counts of rape, but I wasn't the only person he'd done that to.  I was...12 or 13 at the time.  He was actually older, I think held back a couple of grades.

 

High school I never had any issues, at least for that measure.  College - there was an incident that happened with a family friend. I was 18-19 - home from school, had a rough first year there for various reasons.  My family was visiting the home of our friend that summer - she'd been a part of my life for so many years and I loved (and still love) her to tears.  At the time, her husband (much, much older than me) wasn't someone I interacted with much, but he seemed nice enough.  She'd been married to him a little while, I didn't really know him that well, but he made for respectful company.  He'd known my family and extended circles for years.  

 

That day it was pretty hot outside and she was having something of a garage sale.  Heat index was something like 110 F.  I have syncope issues, so extreme heat is not good for me - I wasn't feeling well at the time.  He helped me inside the house, told me he'd get me some water (that never happened).  Led me into the living room, my parents, sister, and his wife right in the adjacent garage area still talking.  

 

He proceeded to grope/stroke me - breasts, nipples, back, shoulders. I froze - couldn't move, couldn't scream - even as my family was in the other room I was terrified.  He kissed me even, told me not to tell his wife or my family, so he was aware of what he was doing to me. Told me this repeatedly.  As soon as I could get out of there, I got out.  My head was a jumble of different emotions - confused, angry, numb, terrified.  I really wanted to go home.   My family stayed for maybe 30 more minutes.  I stayed quiet, still in something of shock because I couldn't talk about it right after it happened.  I later told my family that night because I couldn't sleep. I cried a long time, my sister holding me I was shaking so bad.

 

I later found out I wasn't the only person he did that to, and his wife was beyond angry at him when she found out.  I remember one of the other times that my family went to visit her, I couldn't get out of the car because I was terrified he might be in the house and the same thing would happen again, but she came out to the car to greet me, held my hand told me it was okay. I think that incident freaked me out the most because it was someone I thought I knew and trusted, didn't seem at all to me something he would do, and just...yeah.  I think the only reason I can talk about it now is because he's no longer living, and since it's been more than ten years now, I'm a little more comfortable talking about it, but I still can't dwell too much on it. It still hurts, but talking about it gives perspective and if recounting these experiences helps someone else come to terms with what they went through, then - I figure it's worth the recall.

(show spoiler)

 

 

So now you know some of the major personal experiences I've had with this. That's probably only part of why I'm so passionate about discussions of unwanted sexual contact and the people who come forward detailing their experiences and making sure that they have the support that they need.  We absolutely cannot discount the voices of the people who are victims to this, in multiple measures.  I've worked/volunteered in various measures promoting women's health and even did a brief shadowing/volunteer effort at a rape crisis center during my undergrad uni days.  I don't consider myself an expert the way that others may who directly work in those fields, but I am interested in continuing the dialogue and am willing to forward information from multiple sources to help others in this measure where I can.

 

Unwanted sexual contact, sexual assault, and rape can happen to anyone.  Regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, creed, or any other distinction one can think of.  It's a problem across a broad scale, and I try to focus the dialogue on multiple scales that are inclusive.

 

Now, i could talk about the Youtube Scandal specifically, but since Fangirl did such a good job with the rundown of what happened with that and the linkage provided, I'm just going to focus on a few reactions to this in the aftermath. I'm going to start with Hank Green's response.  Well meaning as he might have been, it was a video that offended me - made me even angry when I watched it back a couple of times through.

 

The approach that Green took in this video troubled me off the bat because of the disclaimer at the beginning of the video.  The fact that he chooses to dismiss the conversation, with the message in the beginning "This is a video about sex and sexual assault; if you do not want to watch a video about that, click here to see cats sleeping in weird positions."  Now I get this was made part in jest, but I couldn't help but feel the dismissal of the conversation.  

 

 

"It's not a pretty picture..."

 

This is not a conversation that comes without discomfort and sensitivity,  but this is a conversation that the lot of us need to have - not just across gender or certain lines of distinction, but all of us. I could understand if he said that this video would contain triggery topics or things that are difficult to discuss and if you trigger easily fair warning, but to say "if you do not want to watch a video about that?" No, dude.  No.  Many of us do not discuss these things because of social stigmas, fear, triggering recall, or a number of other factors already - but even in the vein of discomfort, it's serious and something that should be encouraged for enlightenment, education and/or even food for thought.  I love kittens, and kitten gifs and videos make my day after any rough discussions or events - but I want to say - please approach the issue with the seriousness it entails.  Please.  And if people are upset or angry about this issue, then that's something not to shield with distraction, but rather address and listen for the emotions and experiences entailed.

 

When the depiction of kittens and missiles came into the picture, my reaction was pretty much like Mesrobian's.  Even trying to use that image to portray the imbalance of power that occurs in situations of unwanted sexual contact, that's...not right.   Too simple, too abstract (and arguably those particular references Hank chose were ill fitting because it has underpinning meanings that include and are not limited to female and male sexual body parts - think about it a moment.  That is what really made me very uncomfortable when I heard that comparison), doesn't treat the matter with the seriousness it entails.  We can't afford to portray this in jest or without due focus on the complexities it has to multiple people and an understanding of why.  And we certainly can't afford imaging in this discussion that undermines consent, our bodies and experiences with grief and pain, and plays into arguably very sexist dialogues.

 

On another level, I did appreciate charlieissocoollike (a.k.a. Charlie McDonnell's) response as a way of not only addressing how difficult it was to realize his friends were people would engage in this kind of manipulation and control in their relationships, but also take ownership in his inaction with knowing that Alex Day was involved in cheating in several of his relationships, and also expressing sympathy for the victims in this situation.

 

I believe there's more discussions to be had of this as more of the details come to light, so this is far from over.  I'm probably going to contribute more dialogues as I have the time and energy to do so on this issue, but for now, I'll leave it at that, and if I find anything more that's helpful to this topic, I'll try to pass it along to you guys.  For those of you who have been affected by unwanted sexual contact/sexual assault/rape in your lives or in the lives of those that you love, take comfort in the fact that you are never alone and that your voice matters in this.  Don't be afraid to speak up about it no matter who you are, and never apologize for discussing something that concerns or hurts you - we all have such experiences and the support is there for you.  The support is there for you.

 

Much love,

~Rose