Archive for June 1st, 2009

Silence Is The Enemy

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | June 1, 2009 8:52 am

In 2006 I was sexually assaulted.  I never expected to blog about it.

One evening in DC, a stranger grabbed me as I walked from the metro stop to my apartment after work.  I wish I could say I screamed or fought back, but I was too horrified. Instead I could only stare in disbelief at the jackass holding me down. This can’t be happening. In a desperate scramble I somehow managed to break away before it escalated to rape and ran inside my building. He winked and blew a kiss from behind the glass door, as if to say ‘oh well, next time‘. I was the third women in the neighborhood to report a similar story to police in two weeks–also the luckiest.  The experience forever shattered a false sense of security, knowing that to monsters like this man, I’m nothing more than conquest, having no identity beyond what I can potentially provide for them. The reward isn’t about sex–but subjugation and power. And I will not be a silent witness to rape.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Today begins a very important initiative called Silence Is The Enemy to help a generation of young women half a world away.Why?  Because they are our sisters and children–the victims of sexual abuse who don’t have the means to ask for help.  We have power in our words and influence. Along with our audience, we’re able to speak for them.  I’m asking all of you–bloggers, writers, teachers, and concerned citizens–to use whatever platform you have to call for an end to the rape and abuse of women and girls in Liberia and around the world.

rape_by_slytherin_prince.pngIn regions where fighting has formally ended, rape continues to be used as a weapon. As Nicholas Kristof recently wrote from West Africa, ‘it has been easier to get men to relinquish their guns than their sense of sexual entitlement.’ The war has shattered norms, training some men to think that ‘when they want sex, they need simply to overpower a girl.’ An International Rescue Committee survey suggests 12 percent of girls aged 17 and under acknowledged having been sexually abused in some way over the previous 18 months.  Further, of the 275 new sexual violence cases treated Jan-April by Doctors Without Borders, 28 percent involve children aged 4 or younger, and 33 percent involve children aged 5 through 12. That’s 61% age 12 or under.  We read about their plight and see the figures, but it’s so easy to feel helpless to act in isolation. But these are not statistics, they are girls.  Together we can do more.  Mass rape persists because of inertia so let’s create momentum.

The movement began a couple weeks ago after I was feeling particularly outraged after reading Kristof’s terrific NYTimes piece. I wondered aloud to Isis how we might draw attention to the mass rape taking place across the globe. Very soon we began coordinating a blogospheric awareness campaign to say 1) this is happening 2) it’s completely monstrous, and 3) we want change.  But acknowledgment isn’t enough–people have to be motivated to care and act. We want folks thinking about these girls beyond a single morning they read a few coordinated posts.

Silence Is The Enemy was born–so named because we will not be. All through June, I’ll continue posting information, details, benchmarks, and let everyone know about progress made, new initiatives, and stories from the region. I encourage others to do so as possible.  The Intersection, On Becoming A Laboratory And Domestic Goddess, AetiologyBioephemera, Neurotopia, The Questionable Authority, DrugMonkey, Adventure In Ethics And Science, and Sciencewomen will be donating all revenue this month to Doctors Without Borders. The goal is two-fold:  Raising funds and–arguably more importantly–awareness. Since blogging revenue increases with traffic, we hope to get people to keep coming back for more information about what’s going on and thinking about how to make a difference. Do not feel obligated to donate, but it’s one idea. There are many ways to contribute:  Write and email Members of Congress (Congressional Directory here), speak at community meetings, encourage others to get involved, or donate to our chosen charity (Doctors Without Borders). Help us maximize our donations by visiting Isis, Jessica, Tara, Neurotopia, Mike, DrugMonkey, Janet, Sciencewomen and returning here often because every click will help raise money. Spread the word.  We want to make sure elected officials at multiple levels realize this is a global issue that matters to a large voting constituency!

Aside from inaugural posts around the blogosphere, I will keep a growing coalition list linked on the sidebar (as soon as WordPress cooperates) to every blog involved, ways to contribute, helpful urls, examples of letters to Congress, and more. We encourage readers and bloggers to join us, publicize, and speak out in a growing collective voice for those who cannot. Already many science bloggers, social justice groups, writers, and others have agreed take up the call. If you compose a post, make sure to email me at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com with the link so I can add your blog to our growing membership.  Everyone is encouraged to get involved and dream up creative ways to participate.

Will you join us?

Update 1: The incredible Arikia Millikan of The Millikan Daily has volunteered to create a central hub for posts, news, progress, and more! Will post the site when it’s live…

Update 2: Join The Facebook group

Update 3: Check out all the new blogs now included above that will join us in donating June’s revenue to Doctors Without Borders!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Education, Personal
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