Archives for posts with tag: sexual assault

1377579_10201302768305522_1507004579_nThe following letter to Marissa Alexander is my show of support in the #31forMARISSA campaign, a national month-long letter writing campaign by men in support of the freedom of Marissa Alexander.

“Alexander is the Florida mother who was sentenced to 20 years for aggravated assault after firing a warning shot in the air as her abusive husband — against whom she had an injunction — threatened her.”
alternet.org


Dear Marissa,

I’m writing to let you know that I’m on your side. I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. Nothing that happened to you was your fault. I believe you.

It must have taken a lot of strength and courage to stand up for yourself. I’m grateful that you decided your safety was that important, that you are absolutely worth fighting for. In that light, I’m heartbroken, angry and scared by how our system has mistreated you.

When I read about what happened to you, I’m filled with terror. I feel paralyzed. I recognize that it’s the same terror I felt when I witnessed violence as a child, which kept me frozen, stifled and silent. I’ve struggled in my adult life to not carry that terror with me all the time.

I’m a second child of Indian, Hindu immigrants who lived in a mostly-white suburb. My sister was raped by my uncle for 3 years, from before I was born until I was 1 year old. When I was 19 my sister confided in me what happened to her. She told me “you were there.” I don’t know any details beyond that and I don’t remember anything. I’m not sure knowing the details matter, because I’ve seen how sexual violence has devastated her life.

I saw my mom and my sister fight a lot when I was young. They called each other terrible things while filled with rage: bitch, whore, slut, you hate me, I never should have moved here, you’re killing me. They screamed, yelled, threw things, slapped each other and hit themselves. It was frightening to witness the two most important women in my life show so much hatred towards each other. I used to cry myself to sleep while they screamed right outside of my bedroom. I was always alone. Frozen and silent with my fear and my pain.

I try hard to recall where my dad was during all this. I have memories from when I was very young of him standing between my mom and my sister trying to get them to stop, but not taking a stand on either side. At some point, he disappears from those memories, and all I can recall is him sleeping on the couch in the hot summers. I think he got overwhelmed not knowing how to stop the violence, and never had a space to show his own struggles.

As I grew, I pushed my feelings further and further down. I started mediating between my mom and sister. They fought less and less. I started making friends and feeling welcomed at school. But I never dared to show anyone all the pain, fear and anger I carry with me. I compensated and learned to act joyful and positive, like everything was okay. But whenever I became witness to violence, all those old feelings would resurface, and I would again be paralyzed and voiceless.

I don’t want to be frozen silent when I witness violence. That’s not how I want to live.

In spite of my own struggles, I’m writing to let you know that I stand with you. I might not be able to show it fully, and it might be hard for you to tell sometimes. But I stand with you with all the strength I continue to muster, as I work on letting go of my fear and my pain. I stand with you, Marissa, hand-in-hand with other men in my life who haven’t found their voices yet, either.

In loving solidarity,
Feminist Bhai

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When news about Steubenville first started appearing on my Facebook feed, I was paralyzed and horrified. Likewise when news about the gang rape on a Delhi bus started coming out. How could men be capable of such vile acts? As a man, what does this say about me?

I wasn’t able to read the articles and analysis that my friends were posting. I never watched the Steubenville video. I never read about details of what happened on that bus. I couldn’t bring myself to bare witness to rape, however remotely. Just the thought of it creates a swell in my chest, a lump in my through. Paralyzed and horrified.

After the guilty verdict came out against the two boys in Steubenville, I wasn’t particularly relieved. I hoped the survivor finds some sense of closure as the judicial process ends and the national spotlight on her community fades. But how does a guilty verdict provide her space and resources to heal? How will prison help the boys heal from the hurts that caused them to rape an unconscious girl in the first place? How will their community heal?

I’ve been working on finding my voice in situations like this that are difficult to stomach, and this blog as a part of that. Over time, as I work through what gets hard for me to be a more fierce ally, I’ll find myself still just as horrified, but hopefully less and less paralyzed.