Content Warning(s): Sexual Assault, Survivorship, PTSD
Day seven! April is Sexual Assault Survivor Month! This post will contain sensitive material; please exercise caution if you see a topic that could be upsetting to you. We're all about respect here! A final caveat: these are written from my limited perspective as a bi woman who was raped. I don't have all the answers and I'm still working through my own journey. There are many other kinds of sexual assault and abuse that are relevant this month. Take time to consider the needs of your diverse fellow survivors. Speak up for them when they can't speak up for themselves, but don't speak over them. Thank you!
It was, as we say, ass-crack-of-dawn o'clock on the morning of October 7, 2016. I'd grabbed some form of dirt-tasting coffee and white, carby breakfast foods and tottered to one of the chairs in the Holiday Inn's eatery. While waiting for Niho and Tomoyo (my cosplay friends and honorary sisters), I looked up at the television.
"Grab them by the pussy."
Footage of Donald Trump was juxtaposed with this and other horrific phrases flashed on the screen. I remember thinking, "Oh my god, this is it! Hillary's absolutely going to win the election now. No presidential candidate has ever been so uncouth or forthcoming about his disrespect and, by definition, sexual assault of women!" (Or maybe I was thinking something more like, "AHHHHHHHHHHH," but I don't remember if I tweeted anything about it, so I can't know my exact thoughts.)
My next thought was, "Oh my god, this is it - this won't be enough for him to lose because I forgot that rape culture not only permitted that a sexual assaulter be a presidential candidate, but was a feature of his campaign." And my next thought? "If he can do it, than even MY rapist could be President of the United States."
Can you imagine being one of the women who was inappropriately grabbed by that man?
Can you imagine being a survivor around 11pm EST on election day when we realized this was what we were stuck with?
Politics are irrevocably tied to survivorship during this time in history, whether we like it or not. I'll never forget that moment I described above. The whole reason I was attending New York Comic Con was to cosplay the character Velvet Crowe, first solo female protagonist in the Tales Of series (which is over 21 years old, now). Even though the game hadn't yet been released in the U.S., I had known the narrative was about a survivor and how she copes with and rises above the circumstances she was placed in. I'll be speaking about Velvet later this month more in-depth, but the most important takeaway is that she's a survivor of trauma and exhibits classic and rarer signs of PTSD freely throughout the bulk of the game. So I, a survivor representing a character who was also a survivor, went to NYCC and watched as rape culture continued in every lewd smirk of a passerby, everyone who dismissed Trump's remarks earlier that morning. But I also fought back against anyone who came to my booth and attempted to objectify either myself or the character I was cosplaying, which was sadly a handful of visitors. I spoke to little kids who chose Velvet on their postcard at the photo booth and got to hear them say "she's so cool!" without even knowing all that she represents for me - I listened to them, told them how I felt the same about her, and hoped that they'd grow up and find her again, and take solace in her journey. And I also hoped that after four years (or less, or heaven forbid, more) of a rapist POTUS, these same children would have an opportunity to rise above that rape culture that they learn so early.
As survivors, we're not alone. Supporting each other and supporting the next generations is something we all hope for. One day, I hope that I never have to go to a convention and worry about not whether there'll be creepers, but how many. I hope I'll never be wearing a symbol of survivorship's clothing while I listen to my country supporting someone who would want both me and the character to suffer. The best I can do is keep speaking and being present.
Thanks for reading! Tomorrow's topic will be about "rape jokes" and the culture of women being unfunny.
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