Musings Monday: 3 Lessons on Survivor Culture

Content warning: discussions on rape culture and sexual abuse

Image Description: Four hands are holding each other’s wrists in a square-like shape. Half the hands are dark-skinned, and the other lighter-skinned. In the background is a blurry field of pink flowers and green grass and greyish-blue sky. The text reads: “3 Lessons on Survivor Culture” and “ –”.

Every time there’s a media frenzy surrounding sexual predators, I inevitably get triggered and need to hide under a blanket cocoon with carefully catered books and Youtube videos and/or to visit a counselor. I toy with the possibility of spilling out my own stories of sexual assault, messaging my sexual abusers demanding an accountability process, naming my sexual abusers (one of which was a friend of a large number of people in my queer gamer polyamorous social circles in Ottawa/Odaawaa), or any number of things that, still, to this day, does not involve calling the police on anyone involved. I didn’t call the police before because of how the rape culture that surrounded me (and that I had internalized) insisted I was to blame and that I deserved it, and I don’t call the police now because of my prison abolitionist and transformative justice views (though no shame to folks that need to do it in dire circumstances). To this day, it isn’t the existence of sexual predators being highlighted in the media as the trigger for my flashbacks, but the rape-culture-fuelled reactions that send me spiraling into a world where I was taught my very dignity and safety was never mine to have.

Ultimately, I’m not interested in sharing with you my own story because I’m not convinced that it will be useful for me or for you. I think the only statistically concerning things from my experiences is that all of my perpetrators were white or white-passing, and possibly exotified me because of my “brownness” and/or “Asianness”. Many were cisgender men, and all had a relationship or identity with (toxic) masculinity. However, the reasons for violating me ranged from my perceived masculinity, my perceived femininity, or my perceived androgyny. I think discussing how whiteness, toxic masculinity, the objectification of transgender folks and/or femmes, and rape culture needs to be deconstructed is important work. But that’s not what I want to write about today, simply because I don’t have the energy or desire to, and I would rather see my white masculine allies who aren’t survivors doing this work among their social circles (though if my white masculine survivor friends feel this is part of their healing journey, I’d encourage them too).

What I, personally, find helpful, is talking about survivor culture, and how it saved and continues to save my life. The three lessons I want to share today is about how focusing on survivor culture itself instead of rape culture is healing, how “being on the side of the survivor(s)” is complicated –especially when there’s more than one involved or they’re accusing each other–, and how sometimes losing community is part of healing.

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