Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Writing our own narratives

This post and the essay that inspired it is something I think about a lot. There is a line between not wanting to identify as a victim and not blaming other victims, but often there's only one acceptable narrative, and its one of victimhood and irreparable damage:
In September, 2010, a federal judge in Minneapolis sentenced a man to 30 years in prison for taking sexual pictures of two teenage girls (he had also molested one of them and faced separate charges in state court). When asked if he would like to make a statement before sentencing, the offender expressed remorse, apologized, and said that he prayed for the girls; which prompted the judge to say: 

“These victims are never, ever, ever going to recover. No matter how much you want God to do that, no matter how much you pray, it is not going to happen.” 

How does the judge know that? And how dare he suggest it, labeling the young women crippled for life? This “never recover” outlook perhaps explains the 30 years — a sentence comparable to what a person gets for murder.
Exactly. I think of the recent scandal surrounding Chrissie Hynde's comments about rape. I understand it as Hynde wanting some semblance of control. Criticize it all you want, but she's allowed to define her own experience, even in the "wrong" ways. There should be more room for "wrong" ways.

Commenter Caiti made this salient comparison:
The point is that as a society we react with horror to any type of sexual offense and assume the victim will never recover. Like the judge who announced exactly that before sentencing a molester to a punishment comparable to a penalty for murder. Any time the crime is related to sex or sexuality, we act like the victim’s life is positively ruined in a way that is reminiscent of the idea that a girl who does not save herself for marriage is inherently defective.
Amy Alkon wrote about her own experience being groped and not feeling victimized enough. She adds:
I know it can be and is traumatic for some people to be groped or, of course, to have more serious stuff happen to them. The thing is, sometimes, maybe that's because they're told they should be traumatized more than their actually being traumatized