Wednesday, April 8, 2015

No More... Excuses... No More...

No More...
When I stumbled across the No More campaign, I felt my breath catch. I'd discovered Mariska Hargitay's Joyful Heart Foundation shortly before and was intrigued by the work the foundation does. Apparently, Mariska Hargitay's work on Law & Order: SVU inspired her to do something to help the many survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in the United States. Her foundation works to get rape kits off shelves and tested. They provide retreats for survivors to get support. The foundation pulls together resources to raise awareness and to actually take action.
I studied the website over several days and felt a sense of the foundation's commitment.
It reminded me how important fiction can be. Hargitay works on a fictional show - granted, the Law & Order franchise likes the "ripped from the headlines" concept, but it's still fiction. Yet, Hargitay was so moved she researched sexual assault and domestic violence and then decided to use her influence to do something about it. She turned her job into a purpose to better the world...
Fiction is often superfluous and entertaining, but fiction can also serve a purpose. It provides us the ability to start conversations, to create connections, and to encourage compassion. Fiction has the ability to be both entertaining and informative.
I thought about how I attempt to marry both social issues and entertainment into my own work, and I felt drawn even more strongly to Joyful Heart Foundation and to the No More Campaign. In addition, I thought about how my own life experience and observations of other people's lives inform my work and felt great respect for Mariska Hargitay.
I ordered a "No More" travel mug and a tote bag. The t-shirts only came in white, and I don't wear white, so no t-shirt for me. I read more about the campaign. I watched the PSAs. I saw something in the efforts. The message was simple... No More Excuses...
The No More... Campaign spoke to me in a way most campaigns don't. Perhaps because I'm so tired of the excuses and of making the survivors responsible for the attackers' actions. I am sick to my stomach of the stigma that comes with being a survivor. I am so tired of people who have no idea what being in an abusive relationship is like saying things like "Well, if it was me, I'd just leave." - If you've never been in that situation, you don't know what you'd do. Every situation is different, and you really don't know what you'd do. And, saying that to someone who has no options only makes the situation worse by heaping guilt on top of injury.
Saying things like "I'd never let myself be raped." inflicts guilt and lacks compassion while also being ridiculous on its face. No one ever, ever lets themselves be raped. By definition one cannot allow one's self to be raped. Rape is forcible and unwanted and not allowed.
Excuses for abusers strip survivors of any power they may still possess, the very power they may need to change their situations. Excuses for abusers perpetuate an environment that silences victims and forces them to stay in dangerous situations. Excuses for abusers send the message that it's okay to abuse but shameful to be abused. No more...
Excuses for rapists allow rapists to go free forcing survivors to live in fear. Excuses for rapists silence victims allowing rapists to pursue other victims. Excuses for rapists stop victims from seeking help. Excuses for rapists send the message that it's okay to rape but shameful to be raped. No more...
I've heard far too many excuses as have most of us. We've heard them from friends and family. We've heard them from people in authority. We've heard them from strangers. We've heard them from people who should know better.
We've heard excuses about people we love and directed toward people we love. We've heard them to excuse people we hate. We've heard them to excuse people we love. We've heard them to judge people we love. We've heard them to judge people we hate. We've heard them to dismiss and to silence and and to justify and to ignore behavior we don't want to see.
Abusers and rapists are responsible for their behavior and their choices. No one forces them to rape or to abuse. When their behavior is excused, they are simply absolved of guilt without ever needing to change or even acknowledge their behavior. The excuses must stop.
No more excuses for mental, physical, verbal, emotional violence... No more excuses... No more...